WASHINGTON -- Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) has long been a solid supporter of keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan, having visited the war zone seven times and believing that a quicker withdrawal of troops would be detrimental. But Lynch is now shifting his position, calling for a faster withdrawal than President Barack Obama's administration has laid out.
Lynch, who now says he is frustrated with the lack of progress in Afghanistan, made his new position clear in an interview with the Boston Globe, which was published on Saturday.
"I don't think we are going to get there in 2014," said Lynch, speaking about the administration's timeline for withdrawal. "The pace of progress is so slow that the law of diminishing returns will apply. I don't think there will be any added measure of benefit that is worth the sacrifice to stay an extra year."
Lynch said he changed his mind on Afghanistan policy after talking to servicemembers and visiting the country. He also cited the recent killing of Afghan civilians by Sgt. Robert Bales and the burning of Korans by U.S. troops.
"We are going to have to do a reset on our expectations and try something different in terms of helping them get to where they need to be," he added. "But I don't think it involves a massive military presence."
Lynch's new position is far different from what he was campaigning on in 2010. Under the "Afghanistan" portion of his website then, it said that Lynch supported President Obama's plan. "Having been to Afghanistan five times, where he has met with Afghan political leaders and U.S. military leaders and soldiers, he has a keen understanding of the conditions on the ground and the risks of a premature withdrawal of troops," read the site.
Lynch also told WBUR that he is worried about the Afghan's public's questionable support for the U.S. presence there and Taliban safe havens along the border with Pakistan. He says he is also troubled by the problem of illiteracy among Afghan forces, which makes it tougher to train them and get them ready to take over security efforts.
"That's a situation that will just cause more and more sacrifice for our troops in that region,” Lynch said. "And I think they're taking advantage of the United States in terms of asking us to do the hard work and at the same time giving some support to these Taliban forces."
Obama and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron met last month and reaffirmed that recent events will not change the strategy in Afghanistan, where all combat forces are scheduled to leave by 2014. Ten thousand U.S. troops have already left the country in the last year, and 23,000 more are scheduled to withdraw by September.
CORRECTION: A headline elsewhere on the site incorrectly referred to Lynch as a senator.
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