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McNerney in talks with Afghanistan president about war effort, political corruption

Back home, Pleasanton Congressman seeks combat pay raises for soldiers

Afghanistan must end its corruption, and U.S. troops need to gain the trust of the people so they will not follow the Taliban out of fear, said U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) in a phone interview with reporters about his trip Dec. 28-29 to the war-torn country.

McNerney said he focused on corruption issues during a meeting with President Hamid Karzai on the first day.

"He is a warm and gracious person with a good understanding of American culture," said McNerney, noting that Karzai speaks good English. "I focused on the corruption issue, and he would not accept the fact that he is responsible for some of these problems."

He also met with a task force on major crimes to discuss how to crack down on corruption and how to prosecute. One of the big corruption issues is extortion.

"In Kandahar, there are two syndicates that run the town," McNerney explained. "Every business has to make payments to those syndicates. No wonder people turn from government."

He was encouraged by the condition of Kabul although the air quality was poor and most of the buildings had been damaged by years of conflict.

"But it was very clear to me that the local markets were bustling," said McNerney. "I didn't see any fear or anything like that in the street."

He was also positive about his meeting with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

"He was unassuming and has a good knowledge and understanding of history and America's place in the region and what it's going to take to make our effort work over there," said McNerney. "His biggest mission is to protect citizens from the Taliban. That's critical. We have to show people we can protect them from extremists and the Taliban, and then they will support us in that effort."

"Gen. McChrystal acknowledged that there's a long slog ahead of us," he added. "Nonetheless the fact that we changed our tactics from seek and destroy have made a big difference."

The poppy fields still are a main source of income, McNerney said, and if the U.S. poisons or bombs them it would only turn the people to the Taliban. To combat the problem, the U.S. is building roads.

"One challenge with the poppy is the bad guys take care of the transportation for the farmers," said McNerney. "We want to put the infrastructure in place for them to take their produce to market."

McNerney was also pleased to see the coordinated efforts by many nations.

"The Canadians, civilian agencies, they were integrated at every level, in the field working with people, delivering electricity to Kandahar for example," he observed. "They have a clear idea of what needs to be done. If we continue to move in that direction, we have a good chance to stabilize."

McNerney traveled with three other Democrat congressmen and four Republicans.

"It was a great opportunity for us to work on bipartisanship," said McNerney, who was the only one from west of the Mississippi. "It was a good chance to get to know the other guys. It was good for that reason alone."

On his trip to a forward operating base, McNerney met a paratrooper who told him that he hadn't had a pay increase in a long time. To this end, McNerney reintroduced the Combat Operations and Medical Benefit Authorization for our Troops (COMBAT) Act.

"I introduced it today to make sure these soldiers over there don't have to worry about their families back home," said McNerney.

He put forward a similar bill last year and surmises it did not succeed because it was late in the session.

"I'm going to push hard on this bill," he said.

The new bill increases eight types of military specialty pay, many of which have not been increased for several years.

1. Hostile Fire and Imminent Danger

Hostile Fire Pay is for service members exposed to hostile fire or explosion of hostile mines. Increases from $225 to $600 per month.

Imminent Danger Pay for service members serving in specifically designated places deemed to pose a threat of physical harm or imminent danger due to insurrection, war, or terrorism. Increases from $225 to $350 per month.

Note: Hostile Fire and Imminent Danger pay cannot be collected simultaneously.

2. Family Separation Pay

Partial reimbursement for those involuntarily separated from their dependents for extra expenses that result from such separation. Increases from $250 to $450 per month.

3. Special Warfare Officer Continuation Pay

A service member may be paid a retention bonus of up to $20,000, an increase from $15,000, for each year of retention of that service member.

4. Hazardous duty pay

This specialty pay is available to service members who encounter particularly hazardous types of duty, including: frequent and regular participation in aerial flight as a crew member; parachute jumping as an essential part of military duty; explosive demolition as a primary duty, including training for that duty; the testing of aircraft or missile systems (or components of such systems) during which highly toxic fuels or propellants are used, or the handling of chemical munitions (or components of such munitions).

Hazardous duty pays range from $150 to $450 per month of which service members can receive up to three per month. McNerney's legislation raises each type of hazardous duty pay by $50.

5. Combat-Related Injury & Rehabilitation Pay

Service members who were medically evacuated out of a combat zone and considered "hospitalized" are entitled this type of pay. Increases from $430 to $600 per month.

6. Psychologists and Non-physician health care provider specialty pay

Pay for psychologists and other types of medical professionals who treat members of the military. A RAND study found that Department of Defense salaries for civilian psychologists and social workers are not competitive with rates provided in the civilian market, or the VA system, which increases the "likelihood that DoD will lose civilian providers to the VA system as they learn that they can earn substantially higher salaries for performing essentially the same job." Given the concern about retention of psychologists and medical professionals, McNerney's bill doubles the amount of psychologist and non-physician health care provider specialty pay. Current pay in this category ranges from $2,000 to $5,000 per year.

7. Service as member of Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team

The term "Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team" means a team of members of the reserve components of the Armed Forces in support of emergency preparedness programs to prepare for or to respond to any emergency involving the use of a weapon of mass destruction. Increases from $150 to $300 per month.

8. Members extending duty at designated locations overseas

Pay for a service member who has completed a tour of duty at a location outside the continental United States who, at the end of that tour of duty, executes an agreement to extend that tour for a period of not less than one year. Increased from $80 month or $2,000 lump sum per year to $200 per month or $3,000 lump sum yearly payment.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Hal
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 15, 2010 at 8:32 am

Keep up the great work Jerry! You have my vote in November.


Like this comment
Posted by bob 123
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2010 at 8:37 am

I applaud his efforts with regard to increasing pay and benefits for service members but have a very difficult time understanding how this or any Congessperson feels entitled to explore or feels qualified to tell others to correct corruption in another country when his own party has set a new record buying and selling votes on thehealthcare program here at home. Seems hypocritical to me but then I am not a Democrat.


Like this comment
Posted by jimf01
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2010 at 9:34 am

jimf01 is a registered user.

Excellent observation Bob. Campaign via press release. Interesting to note that the same story with some of the same lines appeared in another newspaper this week, with the same photo sent over from the McNerney campaign. Web Link


Mcnerney is trying to look like a patriot and a moderate after voting with Nancy Pelosi 94% of the time.

The Pelosi puppet will be sent home from DC for good in November 2010. -

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Ike
a resident of Foxborough Estates
on Jan 15, 2010 at 9:39 am

When I hear about a Congressperson talking to a foreign dignatary about corruption, I wonder if it is a mentoring session on maximizing corruption. This is especially true for someone like Jerry McNerny, who is so closely allied with Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein. They have mastered the art of writing legislation that benefits their zillionaire husbands, and hence themselves. Then of course there is the routine acceptance of "campaign contributions", buying properties for pennies on the dollar from "friends" (e.g. Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, Charles Rangel, Maxine Waters), mortgages for at drastically reduced rates, making zillions on scams (e.g. Al Gore on global warming, cap and trade), and getting caught with chest freezers full of $100 bills. Why is it that MOST Congresspeople start the job with average financials and come out being worth tens to hundreds of millions of dollars?

BTW, what do you think the chances are that the Government will ever release an uncleansed version of the list of Americans that avoided taxes through foreign bank accounts? It would be great to see how many from Congress are on the original list, but it will never happen.


Like this comment
Posted by Bruce
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jan 15, 2010 at 10:12 am

Once again he holds a phone interview because he has to read his spokesman prepared answers so the electorate can't see how uninformed he is on all the issues. Put him in front of a live audience and watch him squirm. He already knows he is in trouble come election so he is trying to appear moderately conservative. But Nancy's boy can't fool me.


Like this comment
Posted by rs
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 15, 2010 at 10:34 am

ITS THE KETTLE CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK! WHEN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS TELLING THEM NOT TO BE CORRUPT, WHAT ABOUT THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY TAKING TAXPAYERS MONEY FOR UNIONS, SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS AND TAKING BRIBES


Like this comment
Posted by Susie
a resident of Country Fair
on Jan 15, 2010 at 4:45 pm

I am so glad to read the preceding comments and know that my neighbors in Pleasanton are not hood-winked by this congressman. I don't care how many veterans he visits--I will not forget how he refused to talk with me or to hold an open town meeting to understand my concerns on health care last summer. The editor can put McNenery's picture on front of the paper, he can write long stories about McNenery's visit to Afghanistan and wherever else--but we will be heard next November.


Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Jan 15, 2010 at 7:33 pm

I'm thinking about heading over to the corner of Hopyard and Valley this weekend to let everyone know how I feel about McNerney's record of hypocrisy and failure. Any one want to join me with a sign or two?


Like this comment
Posted by Rachael
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2010 at 8:27 pm

What a supreme waste of General McChrystal's and Karzi's time, to spend it with Nancy McNerney.

And I am quite frankly surprised that McNerney took time out of his busy schedule of destroying America...planning more job-killing legislation...to go to visit Afghanistan. But hey, it was a free trip on the taxpayer's dime!


Like this comment
Posted by dublinmike
a resident of Dublin
on Jan 15, 2010 at 11:30 pm

dublinmike is a registered user.

Hey, Steve and Rachael, where were you two when Pombo was our Rep? I don't recall seeing your comments when he was not representing us? All he cared about was Tracy. At least Rep McNerney is out there amongst his constituents and traveling to Afghanistan. I would rather have "Nancy McNerney" than missing-in-action Pombo.

You have no idea what our representatives do when your use terms like "Nancy McNerney"


Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Jan 17, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Pombo was far from perfect. However, I would always rather have someone who protects the Constitution of the United States first and then works on his personality. The fact is that the legislation being proposed does much more harm than good to the long term health of the United States. Bottom line: McNerney votes for bad legislation. Pombo would not have and I suspect that the host of well-qualified challengers to McNerney will argue that they would not have voted "Yes" either. This is the great thing about democracy. When someone like McNerney votes "Yes" time and time again we get to hold him accountable in November.


Like this comment
Posted by Doug Miller
a resident of Country Fair
on Jan 19, 2010 at 10:29 am

Did anyone notice this part of the article and think about what the Congressman is saying?!!!

"The poppy fields still are a main source of income, McNerney said, and if the U.S. poisons or bombs them it would only turn the people to the Taliban. To combat the problem, the U.S. is building roads.

"One challenge with the poppy is the bad guys take care of the transportation for the farmers," said McNerney. "We want to put the infrastructure in place for them to take their produce to market."

Here is what the congressman is saying:
1. Destroying the poppy business would turn the Afghan farmers against us.
2. The US should build roads to help these farmers get their crop to market and make them less reliant on the Taliban.

An interesting perspective!


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