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Your Views: Firsthand view from Afghanistan is clearly pro-US
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In rebuttal to Darrell D. Newton's letter Wednesday regarding U.S. presence in Afghanistan: I spent a year in Afghanistan in Kabul and several rural provinces and can only assume his opinion is formed out of ignorance.

In his letter, he assumes President Karzai is a "puppet" leader installed by the U.S. I was in Swrobi, a small village between Kabul and Jalalabad on the morning of the presidential election. I witnessed the large turnout of the villagers who had to travel by foot to the polling locations because of security concerns that kept vehicles at a distance. I know there were United Nations monitors at the election sites.

I challenge Mr. Newton to share his insider information on some sort of secret plot to rig that election. Yes, Karzai was considered a U.S. ally, but that doesn't mean he was installed. In talking to residents prior to the election, it was evident Karzai was a popular candidate. It was not uncommon to see his picture posted in cabs and buses throughout the country.

As someone who worked with then-new Afghan National Army, I saw that we were not looked on as occupiers but as enablers. They saw the Soviets as occupiers. The children would actually come out to greet our convoys. During the Soviet invasion, they ran away. If a Soviet convoy was ambushed near a village, the Soviet army would sometimes exact revenge on the village by attacking the ambushers and destroying crops and livestock. We provided school supplies, medical care and veterinarian assistance.

Bottom line is that it was the rare exception that I did not feel welcome in any village. I had countless productive conversations over a cup of chai with village elders, policemen and local officials. Maybe I am biased, but I can only think that these conversations strengthened the bonds between our countries. Incidentally, one of the most often asked questions from locals was not "when are you leaving?" but "how long can you stay?"

I visited the soccer stadium in Kabul, now a place of national pride. I was told firsthand how prior to U.S. presence it was a killing field where executions and dismemberments were held by the Taliban. I was also told by interpreters of the sheer joy in the streets after the Taliban was evicted from the city.

Regarding another assertion that we have no national interest, I will point out that the seeds of the 9/11 attacks were nourished in Afghanistan. If anything, we probably should have shown more support for Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal. The resulting vacuum created an environment ripe for someone like Osama bin Laden to consolidate power. Incidentally, bin Laden is a Saudi, which I believe qualifies him as a foreign occupier.

I wish people like Mr. Newton would try to dig a little deeper into a complex issue like the war in Afghanistan before making such sweeping generalities. I would like to add that yes, I was prepared to die for what we were doing in Afghanistan, and I would be proud of my children serving in such a noble cause as freedom for an oppressed people. There are some things worth fighting and, if necessary, dying for.

Richard Watts

Gainesville and Hall County should settle over Midtown
For months now, we have witnessed the continuing struggle between the commissioners of the city of Gainesville and the commissioners of Hall County concerning several issues of great importance to the growth and development of the Midtown area of Gainesville.

I would like to address the issue of the old jail property in Midtown. It is my understanding that this property has been leased to a private company that will house foreign detainees for 20 years. This means that our SPLOST-funded jail will have to compete with a private company for this type of prisoner at a time when federal detention dollars have been cut and budgets are being slashed.

Plans are under way for a major project in Midtown that meets the Vision 2030 goal of redevelopment of this area. How does a jail and concertina wire fit into this picture?

I am sure there are good points to be made on both sides of this issue. It is my hope that our elected officials will work together to solve theses issues. Sometimes it takes a mediator to help work through tough problems.

I suggest that Rep. Nathan Deal be asked to broker an agreement that takes all our interests to heart. Will you help us Rep. Deal?

Kathleen Carter