A Republican congressman who has long been a staunch supporter of sticking with the war in Afghanistan is now changing course, arguing that the United States needs to pull out as quickly as possible.
"I think we should remove ourselves from Afghanistan as quickly as we can," Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday. "I just think we're killing kids that don't need to die."
Young has consistently opposed even setting a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan. In May 2011, an amendment requiring the president to present Congress "with a timeframe and completion date" for the war failed by just 12 votes, garnering the support of 26 Republicans. Young, however, was one of the ones who voted to kill it.
Young, who is chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, also told the Times that he believes many of his GOP colleagues now feel the same way he does, but "they tend not to want to go public." He added that when he's talked to military leaders about his views, he doesn't "get a lot of reaction."
The congressman said he came to his new position after talking with veterans over the past three months and hearing about what a "real mess" Afghanistan is in.
According to the Times, Young was particularly affected by the death last month of 26-year-old Staff Sgt. Matthew S. Sitton, who attended the Christian school run by the church Young attends.
Before he passed away, Sitton wrote Young a letter about the problems in Afghanistan, including with the command structure and the fact that they were "being forced to go on patrol on foot through fields that they knew were mined with no explanation for why they were patrolling on foot."
Sitton died after stepping on an improvised explosive device.
One Republican who doesn't seem to agree with Young's position on Afghanistan is presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has said he agrees with President Obama's timeline to withdraw troops by 2014 but has also criticized the president for announcing that timeline.
UPDATE: 2:03 p.m. -- Statement from Democrat Jessica Ehrlich, who is challenging Young:
I support the safe return of our troops but unlike Bill Young I would have voted in support of the Jobs for Vets bill and GI Bill 2.0 to support our troops in the field and back home. While I’m glad that Bill Young has admitted his mistake and wants to bring our troops home now, unfortunately after 42 years in Congress he’s lost touch with the needs of our troops when they do come home. Why else would he ignore the inhumane conditions at Walter Reed Veterans Hospital as Chair of the Appropriations Committee or receive an F rating from the non-partisan Veterans group, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
Also on HuffPost:
Start of War: Oct. 7, 2001
<em>American soldiers hide behind a barricade during an explosion, prior to fighting with Taliban forces November 26, 2001 at the fortress near Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan. (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)</em>
Number of U.S. Troops in Afghanistan: 88,000
<em>US Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed from the USS Bataan's Amphibious Ready Group arrive December 14, 2001 at an undisclosed location with field gear and weapons. (Photo by Johnny Bivera/Getty Images)</em>
Number of Troops at War's Peak
<em>U.S. Marines begin to form up their convoy at a staging area near Kandahar, Afghanistan, as they await orders to begin their trek to Kandahar to take control of the airfield 13 December, 2001. (DAVE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the war's peak: About 101,000 in 2010. Allies provided about 40,000.
<em>U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a televised address from the East Room of the White House on June 22, 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais-Pool/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Withdrawal plans: 23,000 U.S. troops expected to come home by the end of the summer, leaving about 68,000 in Afghanistan. Most U.S. troops expected to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, though the U.S. is expected to maintain a sizeable force of military trainers and a civilian diplomatic corps.
Number of U.S. Casualties
<em>American flags, each one representing the 4,454 American soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, move in the breeze at The Christ Congregational United Church March 17, 2008 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Number of U.S. casualties: At least 1,828 members of the U.S. military killed as of Tuesday, according to an Associated Press count. According to the Defense Department, 15,786 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action.
Afghan Civilian Casualties
<em>Asan Bibi, 9, sits on a bench as burn cream is applied to her at Mirwais hospital October 13, 2009 Kandahar, Afghanistan. She, her sister and mother were badly burned when a helicopter fired into their tent in the middle of the night on October 3rd, according to their father. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Afghan civilian casualties: According to the United Nations, 11,864 civilians were killed in the conflict between 2007, when the U.N. began reporting statistics, and the end of 2011.
Cost of the War
<em>An Iraqi man counts money behind a pile of American dollars in his currency exchange bureau in Baghdad on April 11, 2012. (ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Cost of the war: $443 billion from fiscal year 2001 through fiscal year 2011, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Number of Times Obama Has Visited Afghanistan
<em>US President Barack Obama speaks to troops during a visit to Bagram Air Field on May 1, 2012 in Afghanistan. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images) </em><br><br> Number of times Obama has visited Afghanistan: 3 as president, including Tuesday, and 1 as a presidential candidate.