Afghanistan War Questioned in Congress and Bagram

Cong. Bill Young greets veterans From previous wars returning from an Honor Flight to visit memorials in Washington D.C. on Sept. 18, 2012. Photo courtesy of Bill Young’s Office.

Congressman Bill Young, a Republican who has represented Pinellas County Florida for 42 years, publicly said last week that the U.S. should pull out of Afghanistan.

As chairman of the Defense Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, Young’s 180 degree shift on the war got noticed.

Young’s change of mind on the Afghanistan War, now more than 10 years old, was reported in his local newspaper, The Tampa Bay Times.

“I think we should remove ourselves from Afghanistan as quickly as we can,” Young, R-Indian Shores, said during a meeting with the Times editorial board Monday. “I just think we’re killing kids that don’t need to die.”

Now, it’s in Time Magazine.

Young’s change of heart is due to a message from one of his constituents, a Staff Sergeant Matthew Sitton. The email was sent to Young in June. Sitton and 1st Sgt. Russell R. Bell of Tyler, Texas, were killed by an IED blast on August 2, 2012.

Young had the email read into the Congressional Record at a subcommittee hearing last week.

I am all for getting on the ground and fighting for my country when I know there is a desired end state and we have clear guidance of what needs to be done. But when we are told basically to just go walk around for a certain amount of time is not sitting well with me. As a brigade, we are averaging at a minimum an amputee a day from our soldiers because we are walking around aimlessly through grape rows and compounds that are littered with explosives, not to mention that the operating tempo that every soldier is on leaves little to no time for rest and refit. The morale and alertness levels on our patrols are low, and it is causing casualties left and right.

After the story of Sitton’s email made it into Stars and Stripes, I received an email of my own. It came from a Florida resident currently at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The writer simply asked why I had not reported on Young’s change of heart?

There is no good answer. His initial shift in position came while in a private meeting with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board. I don’t have access to their information.

When Young made his change of heart public at a subcommittee hearing in Washington D.C., I was in Tampa without direct access to the hearing. But, that’s just logistics.

My thanks to both email writers for keeping me aware and open to all.

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