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St. Petersburg Times: Bilirakis Finds Tough, Winnable Afghanistan War

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Location: Washington, DC

St. Petersburg Times: Bilirakis Finds Tough, Winnable Afghanistan War

By Alex Leary, Times Staff Writer

The war wreckage littered the road to Kabul, and some of it was strikingly fresh — a reminder to U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis of the challenges in Afghanistan.

"It's going to be very, very difficult, tough. It's very serious," the Palm Harbor Republican said Wednesday after returning from a trip to the country.

In the early morning as Bilirakis arrived there last week, the Taliban had launched eight rockets into Kabul in an apparent attempt at unsettling the capital before the Aug. 20 presidential election.

"They create these spectacular events and it scares the heck out of the people," Bilirakis said.

But amid the fear, Bilirakis said he found signs that the renewed U.S. effort in Afghanistan is having some effect. He saw locals being trained and was impressed with the morale of U.S. troops.

Then there is the election, which he views as "critical" to the stability of the country.

"I think we have the right strategy in place and the right people in place," said Bilirakis. He met with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who has called for a revamped strategy in Afghanistan that includes more U.S. troops.

Bilirakis said success hinges just as heavily on the Afghan people. "They have to be committed to winning this thing. I think we can, but it's going to be very difficult."

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