- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

Dec. 17

Fayetteville (North Carolina) Observer on U.S. forces preparing Afghans for success:

The long war in Afghanistan is winding down, with American forces gradually pulling out and turning over control of security to Afghan forces.

Green Berets from Fort Bragg have seen other conflicts reach this point, only for reversals to erase those gains. But they and their commanders believe what they have accomplished in Afghanistan is unprecedented and can endure.

No one was really surprised when South Vietnam collapsed after the U.S. withdrawal. The Saigon regime’s ill-equipped, badly led and poorly motivated military never measured up.

Iraq is a more recent event. Many of those who have served in Afghanistan also did tours in Iraq. The rise of the Islamic State leaves Iraq’s future unclear. U.S. special operation forces coordinated anti-insurgency efforts with Iraqis and helped train them to take charge. But the total removal of U.S. forces left a void.

Worse, the utter incompetence of the political leaders there, an Iraqi military organization that made absenteeism and corruption profitable and a discriminatory religious policy that undermined loyalty resulted in a total collapse under pressure from the terrorists.

Who knows what role American troops will have to play as the situation develops.

But those events are lessons learned. And Afghanistan is different, say those working at Kabul’s Fort Commando today.

Through years of cooperation and trust, the U.S. special and conventional forces have forged bonds with the new Afghan military that will persist after most Americans have gone home.

U.S. forces continue to advise, but they’ve trained the Afghan instructors who prepare new Afghan commandos. Afghan Special Mission Wing units have also been developed that allow them to conduct their own insertions into difficult terrain and their own remote aerial surveillance.

The Green Berets and other special operations forces are justly proud of these achievements. No other foreign force working with Americans has been trained to this level. These new Afghan special forces are being compared, not to those of other small countries but to the elite forces of the world’s top militaries.

Just as Americans’ hopes have been with U.S. troops, they will now focus on those who continue their work.




Dec. 13

Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Journal on the Northern Beltway:

Being stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire is analogous to the way we’ve felt about Winston-Salem’s status these last few years on state highway construction. But with new developments in Raleigh and a bond effort from Gov. Pat McCrory, the flat may be fixed and we could soon be cruising down the road again.

Construction on the Northern Beltway has finally started and will be on an ongoing project over the next several years, the Journal’s Wesley Young reported recently. If all goes well and other pieces come into place, the money should finally be there to complete this crucial project. But the money remains a big challenge.

That’s what we discern from a draft statewide transportation plan released earlier this month in Raleigh. The beltway is only part of a raft of road projects to be initiated in Forsyth County alone - up to 29 between 2016 to 2025.

On top of that, the governor is pushing hard for the legislature to approve more than $1 billion in loans for transportation projects statewide. He’s emphasizing development in rural areas, but there really seems to be something in his 25-year plan for everybody, including Forsyth County.

The state transportation draft plan released recently includes three segments of the Northern Beltway: a segment between U.S. 158 and U.S. 311 in the Walkertown area that would begin in 2018; and two segments that would extend the freeway south from Business 40 to U.S. 311 on the southeast side of Winston-Salem, to begin in 2022. Money would still be needed for the three segments from U.S. 311 north to U.S. 52.

The plan also covers the closing and reconstruction of the downtown section of Business 40 in 2016 - an event we’re both dreading and anticipating - and improvements for surrounding communities such as Lewisville, Clemmons and Kernersville.

Gov. McCrory’s plan includes repairing bridges, expanding public transport systems and strengthening interstate links to economic centers in neighboring states. It sounds comprehensive and well-thought-out. Our legislators must work with him to find the money for these projects. Transportation is essential to tourism and commerce, especially in more rural areas. And a roads program like this would create many new jobs in the state.




Dec. 16

Charlotte Observer on GOP pushing to expand Medicaid:

The Republican governor is no big fan of President Obama and opposes Obamacare. And the Republican-led legislature he works with has opposed the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion in the past.

Yet on Monday the governor proposed partnering with the feds to expand the state’s health insurance system for the poor. He even said he would call a special session of the legislature to consider his plan. He said it would bring tax dollars back to the state while providing health insurance to hundreds of thousands of residents who are currently uninsured.

This is not N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory. It’s his neighbor, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who is showing political courage to do what’s right - and to attract millions in federal dollars for his state’s struggling hospitals. It’s the kind of path McCrory has indicated he might be willing to take, and Haslam’s example should help McCrory stay open-minded amid pressure from his right.

Haslam has been negotiating with the Obama administration for months to craft a Tennessee-specific Medicaid expansion proposal. It includes some co-pays and some premiums not typically required under Medicaid. Such alterations to Obamacare’s approach has turned past opponents - such as Tennessee Lt. Gov. and Senate speaker Ron Ramsey - into potential supporters. The state’s two Republican U.S. senators also support Haslam’s proposal.

Tennessee would join 27 states, including nine led by Republican governors, that have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, is expected to present his Medicaid-expansion plan Wednesday. Republican governors in Utah, Wyoming and Alabama are among those also considering ways to expand Medicaid with state-specific approaches.

Call those improvements or call them political cover; either way they are a nod to the fact that states that don’t expand are sending billions of dollars to states that are. Those states are also incurring the costs of hundreds of thousands of residents declining to get preventative care or ending up in emergency rooms at state taxpayer expense.



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