American presence in Afghanistan critical |

American presence in Afghanistan critical

by Susie Vasquez, Appeal Staff Writer
Represenative Jim Gibbons talks with local residents at the legislature building about terrorism on a local level and how we can prevent terrorism. Photo by Brian Corley

U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nevada, said nothing he had been told about Afghanistan prepared him for what he saw on a trip to the war-torn country early this month.

With many different tribes, the political situation is complex, and Gibbons said America’s presence is key to the country’s restoration.

“If we left this country in six months, it may stand for awhile, but at the first sign of stress, it will collapse,” he said. “If we allow it to collapse, the Taliban will move back in and the trouble will migrate to neighboring countries, destabilizing their governments.”

About a dozen people heard Gibbons talk of his recent trip to Afghanistan, part of a presentation at a town hall meeting Saturday at the Legislative Building.

“After 23 years of war, Afghanistan looks like Berlin after WWII,” he said. “There is no infrastructure, no electricity, water, sewer or roads and there are no hospital capabilities — it’s pretty desperate right now.”

He said the weather was cold and visibility extended just three miles in populated areas due to the dust. Land mines left by the Russians riddle many of the roads, their locations marked by rocks that have been painted red.

He said Afghan people hold dear things that would be thrown away in the United States. Anything of value has been sold for food and people survive using a barter system. There is little agriculture and few small animals, like dogs or cats. Their carcasses often hang in outdoor markets, sold to the highest bidder. He said the Taliban has done nothing but brutalize Afghan people and having Americans in their country means hope.

“Those few who have houses are living with no roofs, windows or doors, but the people are remarkably resilient,” he said. “They were lining the roads, waving and cheering. They feel America is coming to their rescue.

“These people have pride,” he said. “They only ask that Americans not walk away from them now that the Taliban has pulled out. They will be happy to do the work on roads by hand, but they need the luxury of political stability to rebuild.”

Afghanistan is a complex mix of factions and separate tribes staunchly loyal to to their cultural backgrounds. These factions have their own military, sometimes up to 20,000 troops and it will be difficult to unify these groups, according to Gibbons.