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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio makes trip to Pakistan, Afghanistan

16

January

rubioana.jpgUPDATE 8:50 a.m: Speaking from Kabul, Sen. Marco Rubio said 2011 would be a "critical" year for Afghan military forces to "step up," but dismissed plans for the U.S. to begin withdrawing troops this summer.

"I think we are on the timeline this year to have some real good news and make some significant progress but I think if you attach a date to it, that you talk about openly in the press especially, you are really creating a difficult situation. The bad guys, the Taliban and even Al Qaeda, must know all they have to do is wait."

He said the benchmark should be what territories are turned over to the Afghanistan government, and said it appeared there was progress in that area. "There is a long ways to go  ... but we are headed in the right direction."

Photo: Rubio visits with members of the Afghan National Army on Sunday in Kabul.

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Sen. Marco Rubio spent the weekend in Afghanistan as part of a trip with other senators, including Mitch McConnell.

The trip, disclosed by a NATO website, is Rubio's first overseas visit as a senator (he went to Israel after the election but before being sworn in) and gave him an up-close look as the debate picks up over what to do with the war.

Seven Republican senators -- McConnell, Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Richard Burr, Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson and Kelly Ayotte -- watched a training exercise by the Afghan army.

img00042-20110117-1429.jpg

Photos provided by Rubio's office.

[Last modified: Monday, January 17, 2011 11:15am]

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