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Isle residents split over strategy to pull soldiers from Afghanistan

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Some Hawaii residents said Wednesday they support President Barack Obama’s plan to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan, while others disagreed and some are skeptical that Obama will be able to stick to the timetable.

“That country can’t stand on its own, so I don’t see how our troops can come home,” said Vera Anduha, 70, a Wahiawa resident whose husband was killed while serving in the Air Force in Vietnam. “We should have never got involved.
 
It’s the same situation as Vietnam, we’re losing a lot of people for no reason.”
 
The Star-Advertiser interviewed a sampling of residents Wednesday in Wahiawa, near Schofield Barracks, which has about 3,500 soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team on a yearlong deployment to eastern Kunar, Nuristan and Nangarhar provinces on the border with Pakistan.
 
About 1,750 Marines and sailors from Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay are on a seven-month deployment in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
 
Ashley Hassinger, 23, whose husband, Michael, has served a seven-month tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan with the Marine Corps, said she constantly worried about him when he was away. “I wish we could have done it sooner,” the downtown resident said of the withdrawal, “so we could have lost fewer of our fellow Americans.”
 
James Cui, 71, of Wahiawa said his son Aaron is an Air Force staff sergeant who served three deployments to Iraq.
 
“I just hope it’s not premature,” Cui said of the planned withdrawal. “After all the blood, sweat and treasure it would be a shame. The only people who should be making (the call of withdrawal) should be the senior officials in the military in Afghanistan.”
 
Joseph Merseburg, a 40-year-old Wahiawa resident and contract laborer, supports Obama’s plan.
“Yeah, it’s time,” Merseburg said. “The mission is done there.”
 
Stephen Biddinger, 25, an Air Force staff sergeant and Wahiawa resident, said of the plan, “I don’t support it. If they withdraw that amount of troops they won’t be able to sustain the mission there.”
 
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