Syria and the nations deficit were among the topics discussed during U.S. Sen. Mark Udalls visit to The Durango Herald on Sunday to speak with the newspapers editorial board.
Udall, D-Colo., spent the weekend in the area meeting with county commissioners and elected officials, and chairing a hearing on the preservation of cultural resources in national parks.
After a weeklong visit to Afghanistan last month, Udall, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, expressed mixed feelings about the Iraq, Afghanistan and the broader Middle East.
We are on track to withdrawing military forces, said Udall, who not only supports the plan to withdraw from Iraq in 2014, but also would like to see the process accelerated.
Udall also is optimistic about the militarys success training Afghanistans armed forces, which includes the countrys police force and Army.
Pakistan, however, is a problem area. Udall criticized the country for providing a safe haven for Taliban members, calling the practice very concerning.
The situation in Pakistan is as much of a challenge as the one in Afghanistan, he said.
The editorial board also was curious about the deteriorating situation in Syria, where a seven-month uprising that has led to an estimated 3,000 deaths continues against Syrian President Bashar Assad. On Sunday, residents of Homs reported 11 people were killed in the city, which is at the heart of the uprising.
The reports I hear, and I think I can share this, is that its not if, its when al Assad falls, and how messy it is, Udall said.
The Turks, who are very unhappy with whats happening, as well as the Iranians, and to some extent the Iraqis, will play a really key role as events concerning Assad and Syria unfold, he said.
The United States, he said, can continue to push in some diplomatic ways China and Russia, which both have alliances with Syria, to continue to pressure Assad to allow more freedom.
But Udall condemned Assad, saying, I dont see any way that he can reverse his behavior.
He also expressed concerns about the troubled nations future: I dont know what happens when his government falls because thats a very diverse country.
On the other hand, the fall of Assad would impact Iran, Udall said.
As Irans only one real ally it would be positive, in a geopolitical sense, Udall said, if Assad were to fall and be replaced with a more Western-leaning leader.
Another current priority of the senator is the support of an ambitious deficit-reduction package.
A bipartisan group of 36 senators, Udall included, has been pushing the 12-member congressional super committee in charge of identifying $1.5 trillion in budget savings over 10 years to go bigger.
The deficit-reduction package, based on a framework laid out by the Simpson-Bowles commission, supported by Udall, calls for about $4 trillion in savings through some tax increases and entitlement reform.
Im pessimistic about the super committee, but I hope they go big, Udall said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. email@example.com