WASHINGTON — On his first trip to Afghanistan, freshman Rep. James Lankford finally got a clear explanation of the U.S. mission in the country, he learned about squandered humanitarian aid and he talked to homesick Oklahomans.
The trip was, he said, “extremely helpful in many ways.”
Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, spent the weekend in central and southwest Afghanistan with five other U.S. House members, including some freshmen and fellow members of the Budget Committee.
Though the war has been going on for 10 years, Lankford said he had yet to hear administration officials “clearly articulate the mission in Afghanistan.''
What he learned over the weekend, he said, is that the mission is to “kill the Taliban that are trying to kill us or civilians” and to train security forces in Afghanistan so they can fight the battles themselves.
The nation's history of corruption is a key impediment, he said; people don't trust local or national police. Moreover, many of the people who join the security forces can't read or count, Lankford said, and must be taught to do both at a third-grade level before they can even fill out reports.
Lankford and his colleagues met with U.S. military officials and some from the State Department and Drug Enforcement Agency, along with national and local political and military leaders of Afghanistan.
He learned that the U.S. Agency for International Development had built schools and hospitals in remote parts of Afghanistan, even though there were no teachers for the schools or physicians for the hospitals. There also were no people with the training or expertise to operate or maintain the schools or hospitals, he said.
After wasting millions of dollars, Lankford said, the agency “is in damage control mode,” focusing on training, rather than building.
Lankford said he met Oklahomans in all branches of the service. However, he could not, because of tightened security, travel to the southeastern part of the country, where members of Oklahoma's 45
Lankford said he tried to talk to the Oklahomans about the fighting but that they consistently steered the conversation toward home. They wanted to talk about the Bedlam game, construction in downtown Oklahoma City and how much they missed Sonic, he said.