McConnell says he has "genuine optimism" about Afghanistan's future -- with U.S. help

01/14/2013 02:26 PM

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell said he is optimistic that Afghanistan will be able to govern itself after U.S troop drawbacks, as long as the United States maintains a residual military force there.

McConnell and fellow Republican Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Ted Cruz of Texas and Deb Fischer of Nebraska traveled to Afghanistan and Israel to meet with U.S. military personnel, military officials and political leaders to discuss political, economic and security issues affecting bilateral and regional relations.

On his way back from his seventh trip to Afghanistan in the past 10 years, McConnell held a conference call with reporters, and said this was the first time he has come back from Afghanistan with a feeling of genuine optimism.

“Throughout the military leadership is a widely held view that the Afghans will be able to maintain their own security after 2014 with one proviso, a very important proviso, that we can have a residual force here that can be involved in training and counter terrorism” McConnell said on the call.

McConnell said that the number of troops for a residual force was not mentioned in his talks with military leaders. They know it is a decision to be made by the White House, he said. But McConnell said he feels there will need to be a minimum of 10,000 troops to provide adequate training and counter terrorism efforts.

And in terms of his trip to Israel, McConnell said that the potential nuclear threat from Iran remains at the top of the list of issues for the country.

“You know the view of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the government which is that this is a very very serious threat, an existential threat to the state of Israel and we heard a good deal about that,” he said.

Jacqueline Pitts

Jacqueline Pitts joined the cn|2 political team in June 2012. A graduate of WKU, Jacqueline grew up in Nashville, TN and is looking forward to having a front row seat to Kentucky politics. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqueline_cn2. She can be reached at 502-792-1114 or jacqueline.pitts@twcnews.com.

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