Helena Independent Record: Troops need to return on time

After visiting Afghanistan last month, Sen. Jon Tester more firmly believes a July deadline to start withdrawing troops is the right thing to do. We agree — though we hope that’s enough time for the nascent Afghan government and military to be trained enough to stand on their own.

In an interview with a member of the Independent Record editorial board last week, Tester, a Democrat, said he feels better about the United States’ nearly decade-long involvement in Afghanistan than he did before he went. It’s an effort that began in earnest shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, and has now lasted longer than the invasion by the former Soviet Union. Efforts like this can be disheartening, costly and seemingly endless — but on the flip side, it’s critical that Afghanistan is stable before U.S. troops withdraw.

“The real rub is going to be, after this is over, after we move out, after all we have is a diplomatic presence there, if in fact Afghanistan, and Iraq for that matter, are stable and move forward in a way that provides stability in the Middle East, because that’s really critically important in this part of the world,” Tester said.

But having said that, putting a deadline in place puts the onus on the Afghan people to start tending their own house. Tester said he saw examples of Afghan troops, and not Americans, confronting the Taliban, which is important for political reasons now and provides some hope that the country can stand on its own when every American soldier is home.

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