Schock impressed by soldiers serving in Afghanistan
U.S. troops in Afghanistan appear bolstered that more troops and support, including equipment and funding, are on the way, said U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, who is on his way back from visiting the war-torn country.
"I could not have been more impressed by their ambition, their desire to continue the effort here," Schock told reporters via conference call Tuesday. "Despite many of them being here three and four times, they did not seem fatigued in the least bit."
Specifically, Schock mentioned a woman he met from Illinois who extended her tour of duty an additional four months "simply because she believes so much in what she's doing. They believe so much in the mission they are on."
Schock was one of eight members of the delegation that met with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal and some Illinois troops the past two days; he will return later this week. They discussed government corruption, ground strategies and President Obama's recent decision to deploy 30,000 additional troops that will increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to about 100,000.
On Tuesday, the delegation met with troops at a forward operating base near Kandahar, one of two key southern provinces where the bulk of the new U.S. troops are headed to try and secure the area. Kandahar Province is largely controlled by the Taliban, and the U.S. has few troops in the province's largest city, Kandahar.
Many efforts thus far have centered around securing that region and reassuring locals that the Taliban will be removed and that they will be kept safe from retaliation.
"It's extremely important that the people of Afghanistan have the faith and trust of their government in order for our military efforts there to be successful," Schock said.
The delegation visited with troops at the base and the commander and generals overseeing operations who outlined their strategy to help build a government, Schock said. He also discussed efforts to rebuild Kandahar, including electricity, infrastructure "and other needs that will improve the lives and create trust in Afghan government and local government."
He said troops believe they've been limited in their ability to provide necessary security to the people of Afghanistan. On Monday, McChrystal discussed the importance of providing ongoing security for the Afghan people and villages and humanitarian efforts through nongovernmental organizations.
"(There's been) some frustration up until this point they haven't had the resources, the numbers in order to do that and the additional troop levels are going to allow that to take place," Schock said.
A rewarding part of the trip, Schock said, was being able to express appreciation in person to the troops who won't have an opportunity to share the holidays with their families.
Karen McDonald can be reached at email@example.com.