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McKeon talks troop withdrawal

Republican representative discusses strategy in visit with Santa Clarita Valley constituency

Posted: February 26, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 26, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Buck McKeon

 

Learning what our troops need and watching schools being built were just a couple of the observations U.S. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, shared with reporters Friday about his recent visit to Afghanistan.

McKeon stopped by The Signal in the morning, and speaking as chair of the House Armed Services Committee, provided an update on the war effort in Afghanistan.

“I was able to walk down the street in Afghanistan and meet with merchants,” he said. “We opened a school while we were there. ... They’re excited about the opportunity to learn.”

Conversation quickly turned to talk about troops returning home and about life in Afghanistan after the U.S. military leaves.

“My feeling is we turn it over to the tribal leaders,” McKeon said. “We’re not going to make it America over there.”
After McKeon left the newspaper, he sat down with SCVTV host Leon Worden for the 300th episode of “Newsmaker of the Week.”

Worden, who also sat in on The Signal meeting, wasted no time bringing McKeon back to the issue of troop withdrawal.

“Will we be out of Iraq in December and out of Afghanistan by 2014?” Worden asked.

McKeon responded: “There was an agreement worked out with the leaders from Iraq and (former) President (George W.) Bush before he left office that said we would have our ground forces — the fighting forces — out by last July, and all of the forces out by December of 2011. All of the nonfighters are out.

“We have about (48,000) to 50,000 troops left that are in training capacity, in a serving capacity, scheduled to be out in December of this year.”

McKeon said it was one of the many things he discussed with U.S. military officers on his visit.

“I met with the commanding general and the ambassador a month or so ago, and they say they’re on schedule,” he said, regarding the situation in Iraq. “The plans are all in place, the equipment is being pulled out and they’re all on schedule.

“I’m not too sure they’re totally happy with that because the concern is if they leave and the Iraqis take several months to get a government organized after their election.”

McKeon noted, however, that: “Violence is down, I mean greatly down.

“The military has done their role, so now it’s up to the civilians,” he said. “But we still may need — if they request it — some of our military to stay. Thus far, they haven’t, and if they wait until December, it’s too late, because they will be on the way out.”

Target dates for troop withdrawal in Afghanistan are also going according to plan, he said.

“As for Afghanistan, the president has already set the date of July 2011 to begin the withdrawal.

“They probably will have some withdrawal in July depending on how the fight is going,” McKeon said. “Right now, it’s pretty calm. But in the spring when they come back — that’s generally when they fight.

“We’re doing a great job of training and building up the Afghan military to where they can take care of their own security,” McKeon noted. “And, we’ll transition in the next month or two, four to six provinces to their control.

“The idea is to get it all ready for transition by the end of 2014.”

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