News Section: National Government
Congressman Buchanan in Afghanistan During Weekend Attacks
BRADENTON – Members of Congress visiting soldiers in Afghanistan this weekend, including Representative Vern Buchanan (R-Longboat Key), narrowly avoided being in Kabul during an intense 18-hour battle. The delegation had left Kabul for Kandahar by helicopter two hours before the attacks occurred that killed at least 35 people. It was Buchanan's third trip to the country since his election in 2006.
|Rep. Vern Buchanan and LTC Michael Vail of Panama City
Buchanan was among five members of Congress who made the trip. He was joined by U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe and John Boozman and Reps. Jeff Miller and Steven Pearce. Reuters reported that the fighting finally ended early Monday morning when insurgents, holed up in two buildings, were overpowered by Afghan-led forces and air assaults from U.S.-led coalition helicopters.
“Certainly today’s attacks serve as a stark reminder that the fight against radical terrorism is an ongoing battle,” said Buchanan in a release Monday, as he was set to return home. "Having met with troops and commanders serving in Afghanistan I can attest that morale is high. I am especially proud of the soldiers I met with from Florida. They are courageous, trained professionals and focused on their mission."
Buchanan spoke with Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, about the mission, specifically asking about the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan. He said that the General felt that Pakistan is critical to stability in the region. Following Sunday’s assault, Gen. Allen praised the Afghan National Security Forces for beating back the insurgents, saying “they were on scene immediately, well-led and well-coordinated.”
Initial reports had attributed the attacks to the Taliban, but then more outlets began to report that the Afghan insurgent group Haqqani (Taliban allies based on the Pakistan/Afghan border) had claimed credit and were believed to be behind the attacks, which was echoed by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that the raid showed an "intelligence failure" by Afghan intelligence and "especially" NATO. The United States has spent over half a trillion dollars since going to war in Afghanistan, and just under 2,000 U.S. troops have died there.
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