Roskam: Taliban 'Like a Virus That's Been Dormant'
The Taliban is trying to make a resurgence in Afghanistan, and recurring violence still plagues the country.
Those were the observations of U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, who visited Afghanistan Jan. 18 to 22 as part of a bipartisan delegation along with representatives of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee.
Many people believe that the conflict in Afghanistan has become a forgotten war because so much of the spotlight has been on Iraq.
"I asked to go to Afghanistan," he said in a phone interview. "I wanted to see firsthand what was happening there. It's an important place to go because of the challenges to American resources. The Taliban has been aggressive recently. It's like a virus that has been dormant. The Taliban is trying to reassert itself, while the Afghan nationals are trying to stem the tide."
Roskam found security heavy in Afghanistan. He and his contingent traveled in an armored convoy and in Blackhawk helicopters. The congressman visited Panjshir Province in the north part of the country, as well as a coalition-led reconstruction team south of Kabur.
"Afghanistan is a very poor country," Roskam said. "If the gross domestic product doubled in the next 10 years, it would still have the economic strength of Bangladesh. Much of the economy is still driven by the opium trade."
The primary goals of the U.S. military and its allies are to bring security, governance and economic development to the country.
According to Roskam, 3,200 additional Marines will be deployed to Afghanistan in the spring. There are about 40,000 U.S. soldiers, Marines and sailors now in Afghanistan.
Thirty-nine countries besides the U.S. have a military presence in Afghanistan.
"I came away with the impression that it's going to be a long haul," Roskam said. "Key to success is a long-term international commitment to Afghanistan. The U.S. can't do it alone."