U.S. Rep. Jim Banks said today that war-torn Afghanistan "feels like a more dangerous place" than when he was stationed there in 2014 and 2015 as an officer in the Navy Reserve.
Banks, R-3rd, led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Afghanistan this week to receive briefings and show support for U.S. troops deployed there. The freshman lawmaker is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
"I learned a lot and saw a lot that I didn't anticipate. The rise of ISIS-K is potentially a greater threat at this point than the Taliban, and that's a new development there," he said in a telephone interview.
Banks and his six colleagues in the House arrived in Afghanistan Sunday and left on Tuesday about the time they learned of a suicide bombing in the Afghan capital Kabul that killed at least 55 people. The Taliban rebel movement denied involvement, and ISIS-K – also called ISIS-Khorasan, the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State terrorist organization – is suspected in the attack.
Banks lived at a military base in Kabul or several months in 2014-15, when the Columbia City resident was an Indiana state senator.
"The base where I resided is very much the same," he said. "The security situation is different, though. Now they fly everywhere by Blackhawk (helicopter). When I was there, we traveled almost everywhere by vehicles and convoys, and it's too dangerous to do that any more.
"It feels like a more dangerous place," Banks said. He called ISIS-K "a serious, imminent threat" to the south-central Asian nation.
Banks called on President Donald Trump to visit Afghanistan, something Trump indicated this week that he might do.
For more on this story, see Thursday's print edition of The Journal Gazette or return to www.journalgazette.net after 1 a.m.