U. S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young has seen it all, and when he changes his mind about a war, the president and Congress should listen. The Indian Shores Republican told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board this week that the United States should leave Afghanistan as soon as possible and called it a no-win situation. Given the deteriorating conditions and the continued loss of American lives, it is a discussion worth having.
Young's judgment comes with a remarkable sweep of history, knowledge of the military and admiration for those who serve. He is the longest-serving Republican member of Congress and was first elected when Richard Nixon was in the White House. He is the chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, and he has supported wars from Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan. The regular visits with wounded soldiers that Young and his wife, Beverly, make without fanfare and their efforts to help those families are extraordinary acts of kindness.
So when Young concludes it's time to leave Afghanistan, it's time to listen. He said his opinion changed in recent months as he spoke with veterans and as soldiers were killed by Afghans they were training with guns they had given them. He was particularly touched by the death last month of Staff Sgt. Matthew S. Sitton of Largo. Sitton wrote to Young about some command problems before he was killed when he stepped on an improvised explosive device.
Young did not come to his conclusion lightly. He said he already had shared it with top military officers and some of his Republican colleagues in Congress. The plan now is to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and Young isn't sure how much faster the withdrawal could be accomplished. But President Barack Obama and Congress should hear him out and re-evaluate whether it is still wise to risk so much American treasure in a country that too often fails to appreciate that sacrifice.