Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled to Afghanistan on Saturday to learn more about counterorrism and global threats that affect security in New York, according to the governor’s office.
The visit was two days ahead of the planned inauguration of Afghanistan’s President-Elect, Ashraf Ghani.
Cuomo was invited by the Department of Defense, and joined governors from Tennessee, Missouri and Nevada, as well as Under Secretary of the Army Brad Carson and other officials.
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The trip was not announced in advance because of security concerns, the governor’s office said, and Cuomo started his trip Friday with a briefing in D.C. He visited hospitalized troops during a stopover at Ramstein Air Base in Germany Saturday before arriving at Andrews Air Force base in Afghanistan in the evening.
Cuomo met with troops from New York, including New York’s 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, which has about 900 members stationed in Afghanistan. Cuomo also met with New York National Guard members, and said he “recognized many of them” from Hurricane Sandy and other storm relief work in the state. Cuomo's office said there are about 270 members from New York's National Guard in Afghanistan.
On a conference call, Cuomo said he spent the majority of his time in classified briefings on the Kabul base, and that the talks were on how to “handle” the seemingly “sudden growth spurt in terrorism.”
“Because Afghanistan in some ways poses what we believed was the problem. 9/11 happens, it’s al Qaeda, we’re going to get al Qaeda and it takes us to Afghanistan and in Afghanistan we basically have done what we set out to do. Certainly not perfectly, but we’ve made real progress in Afghanistan,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo also said his “goal” for New York is to “have the most sophisticated homeland defense system ever designed by any state, period.”
Also this weekend, Cuomo's campaign said the governor was planning to participate in two debates before election day, a New York City radio debate with Republican candidateRob Astorino, and a televised debate in Buffalo with Green and Libertarian party candidates. Astorino's campaign office has since criticized the governor for not agreeing to a televised debate. Cuomo faced scrutiny during the primary election for declining to debate Democratic challengerZephyr Teachout.