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Kind returns from trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind met with western Wisconsin troops during a stop in Afghanistan this past weekend.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisconsin's Third District) agrees with military experts that more troops need to be assigned to the task of rooting out terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Kind returned from his first trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of an official congressional fact-finding mission on Tuesday night.

Kind conducted a conference call with reporters Wednesday to talk about his experience.

The congressional delegation left on Jan. 28, arriving in Kuwait on Thursday. They then traveled to Qatar on Friday, Afghanistan on Saturday and Sunday, and Pakistan on Monday.

During the trip, the delegation met with leadership, U.S. military commanders, diplomats, and senior foreign officials in order to discuss anti-terror efforts, reconstruction, and the democratization efforts in each country.

In Pakistan, the group met with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson.

In Afghanistan, the delegation met with President Hamid Karzai and General David McKiernan, Commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, among others.

While in Afghanistan, Kind was also able to meet with U.S. troops from western Wisconsin who are stationed there.

"It was a very good, very helpful trip," he said.

During his press conference, Kind said he expected to talk briefly with President Barack Obama on Wednesday afternoon concerning his trip.

He expected to tell Obama that it will be important for the U.S. to commit 30,000 more soldiers to the region in the near future.

Without a ramped up military presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Kind said, terrorists will continue to train for violent strikes around the world.

"I think it's too dangerous to ignore," he said.

While few Americans want to see more troops in harm's way, Kind said a troop surge in Afghanistan and Pakistan is necessary to improve our nation's security.

"I think there's a little fatigue," Kind said of people's frustrations over prolonged wars. "I feel it too. But I fear the alternative."

If the U.S. pulls out of these regions too soon, Kind warned, extreme factions will swoop in and take control.

Kind admits that U.S. military personnel, and their families, have been "stretched to the limit," but if anyone can help stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan it's the world's best military.

On a positive note, Kind said, progress in Iraq is promising. By the end of the summer, most American soldiers could be off the front lines of that war, he predicted.

"Given the reduction in the violence, I believe that's doable," he said.

If that's the case, Wisconsin National Guard and Army Reserve troops who are in the process of deploying overseas in the next few months could see a change in their mission.

Right now, Kind said, they are training as if they are headed to Iraq. But if more troops are needed in Afghanistan, some Wisconsin soldiers could possibly end up there.

Such a change in plans, however, is up to President Obama.

"President Obama hasn't signed off on anything yet," Kind said. "Right now, it's just a proposal. President Obama is considering various options."