WASHINGTON — Michele Bachmann is returning home from the Middle East today, having spent the weekend in Afghanistan meeting with diplomats, military leaders and service members from Minnesota.
Bachmann travelled to the region as part of a congressional delegation there to meet with Gen. John Allen and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. In a conference call with the media, she said Allen had invited her to the region after testifying before Congress last year.
The trip comes the same weekend as the United States and the Afghan government agreed to a long-term deal on American commitments in the country beyond 2014, the deadline for troop withdrawal from the region.
Specifics of the deal have not been released, but generally, it has Americans providing financial and ancillary military support to the Afghan government and its fighting force for at least 10 years after 2014. Whatever American presence is left in the country beyond 2014 will play a supporting role to the Afghan forces, Bachmann said.
In the past, especially during her presidential run, Bachman has accused President Obama of playing politics in the region, making decisions based on their political, rather than military, ramifications. But Bachmann was more diplomatic on Monday, and though she didn’t embrace the 2014 drawdown plan, she called the situation “very, very fluid” and said that long-term success in the region depends on the ability of the Afghan forces to beat back the lingering Taliban threat on their own, without the United States taking the lead.
“I am supportive that we see this effort come to an end as quickly as we can and as successfully as we can,” she said. “We don’t want to walk away prematurely, but at the same time, we don’t wish to extend our stay here one hour longer than we need to.”
The question is, “what will be the right amount of time?” she said.
Bachmann spoke in generally positive terms about Sunday’s agreement: “It won’t be that we are completely leaving … Our role in combat will cease, but we will remain there in a support position.”
Beyond the diplomatic reasons for the trip, Bachmann said she spent a lot of her time meeting with troops from Minnesota, stationed at Camp Leatherneck in the Helmand Province of southern Afghanistan. She ate most of her meals with the troops, she said, a group hailing from all over Minnesota and not just Bachmann’s 6th Congressional District (though one woman she met is a former staffer from her district office).
“They are very committed to their mission,” she said. “You will not believe the level of dedication that they have.”
Devin Henry can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry