Michigan's Senior U-S Senator, Carl Levin, recently returned from a congressional visit to Afghanistan.
The senator said real progress is being made on the ground...
As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Levin is no stranger to Afghanistan. He's been closely monitoring the situation there since the beginning of the war, and he said things are improving...
"Militarily, they're getting better. Progress is being made there. The Afghan Army is taking more and more territory under its control. It's got over half now, another big chunk will be turned over in terms of major responsibility to them in the next few weeks, and the Taliban is losing ground. But the problem is still real, mainly because of the threat from Pakistan, where you've got a terrorist group, particularly called the Haqqanis. There's a number of them, but this is the major one that has safe harbor in Pakistan, next door. And they come across to do the suicide bombing, or put on the road explosives, and then those that survive run back across the border. And that's an ongoing problem. But in terms of overall security in Afghanistan, it is improving."
"Senator, it seems like Pakistan is a major cause of the instability within Afghanistan. Is there anything we can do to better control the border between those two countries?"
"There's going to be a much closer relationship between the border patrol and the Afghan Army. There's going to be a greater coordination, and, I hope, a greater number of troops. But you can't stop that border totally, because it's a very very mountainous, long border. And there are going to be people slipping through. What's needed here is for Pakistan to crack down inside Pakistan on these terrorist groups that live there, that everyone knows where they are and who the leaders are."
We're speaking with US Senator Carl Levin, just back from a congressional visit to Afghanistan. Senator, you were in Afghanistan at the same time as President Obama. He was there to sign an agreement outlining U-S involvement in that country after the war. Was the president's visit a surprise to you?
"Oh yeah. We were there on a pre-arranged visit, Jack Reed, the senator from Rhode Island and myself. We'd been there many times, as chairman of the Armed Services Committee and he's a member of the committee. We had this trip that was planned. It worked out just by chance that the president was coming to sign this agreement. We knew about it about three or four hours before it happened."
Senator, what is the significance of that agreement?
"It's a strong message to the Afghan people, that although we're bringing out our troops, that we are going to support the continuing operations of their army and their police force. And that we're not going to be abandoning them, even though we're going to be bringing out all but a small fraction of our troops. They were abandoned after they kicked the Soviets out, and the Taliban took over. It's a very small commitment to keep their army funded. It has to have outside support because they don't have an economy which can support the size of the army that they need. But compared to our current costs, it's a tiny fraction, worthwhile doing. And the signature on that document where the Afghan president welcomed, very much this kind of support to his own public, even though we're foreigners and strangers, that the ongoing relationship which that agreement reflects is very much welcomed by the president."
Carl Levin is Michigan's senior U-S Senator. He's also chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He joined us from a radio studio in the U-S Capital Building in Washington, D-C.
Photo of Senator Carl Levin and Senator Jack Reed of Rode Island on their trip to Afghanistan, courtesy of Senator Carl Levin's office.
The Michigan House of Representatives is urging the U-S Department of Defense to award Purple Hearts to soldiers suffering from traumatic brain injuries.
State Representative Kurt Damrow said all branches of the armed forces need to be consistent in awarding the Purple Heart.
"We now see that the Army has picked up on this, and we want to make sure that all branches of service do award the Purple Heart in the same manner. Now this is nothing that the State of Michigan is going to award, that is a federal honor. But we can make our presence known and our point known, that the State of Michigan supports our veterans in this awarding of the Purple Heart."
A Concurrent Resolution urging the Department of Defense to award the Purple Heart in cases of traumatic brain injuries has been approved by the state house.
It still must be approved by the state senate.