CARSON CITY — Gov. Brian Sandoval talked by phone Sunday from Kabul about his surprise trip to Afghanistan, saying it is a momentous time in the country’s history as a new president is inaugurated today to move the troubled country forward.
Sandoval said that despite the progress the country has made in educating its children and improving literacy, the U.S. needs to maintain an advisory presence in Afghanistan to ensure that gains made over the past 13 years are not lost.
It was Sandoval’s second trip to the country. He also visited in 2011.
“I was very impressed in terms of the progress that has been made in the last three years with regard to education, health, infrastructure, public safety,” he said.
“One of the messages that became very clear to me today as a result of the briefings is that although we have made those gains, we have to remain vigilant. And that it is important that the United States maintain a presence here in Afghanistan to continue to ensure security in the homeland.”
Nevadans and all Americans should know that the U.S. has been successful in helping the people of Afghanistan get to the point where they can carry forward, Sandoval said.
But the U.S. doesn’t want to see what has happened in Iraq happen in Afghanistan as well. The Taliban cannot be allowed to gain a foothold in the country as they had historically, he said.
“A safer and more secure Afghanistan will transfer into a more safe and secure U.S.,” Sandoval said.
Sandoval took the trip as part of a contingent from the National Governor’s Association that also included Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee and Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri. The governors are traveling with officials from the U.S. Department of Defense and have visited U.S. bases during their brief trip to the country.
Sandoval said the group will leave Afghanistan today to return to the U.S., so he would not be present to see the inauguration of the country’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, who is taking over from outgoing President Hamid Karzai.
Sandoval said he was especially pleased to be able to meet with about 20 Nevadans who are on active duty serving in the country at Bagram Airfield. They are happy to be able to serve despite the sacrifices they are making, he said.
The Nevada National Guard also has had an ongoing presence in the country. Earlier this month, the 72nd Military Police Company, a well-traveled, well-trained Nevada Army Guard unit that has deployed four times since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, mobilized for another tour of duty in the country.
“These are men and women who are moms and dads and tell me about their kids back home and their spouses that are back home that are looking forward to them coming back,” Sandoval said. “But here they are halfway around the world and are true heroes.”
Sandoval also visited Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where wounded soldiers recover before returning to the U.S. Sandoval said the hospital had only a fraction of the patients it had in his visit three years ago because of the winding down of military involvement in the region.