Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler has just returned from Afghanistan. She represents West Central Missouri, which contains the state’s major military bases — Whiteman Airforce Base and Fort Leonard Wood. She visited troops and saw first-hand their day-to-day operations.

Hartzler meets with William B. Caldwell, IV LTG, USA Commander, NATO Training Mission Afghanistan and Commanding General, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan.

Hartzler says the progress American troops have made there to build schools (even for girls), infrastucture, agricultural practices and other systems to make Afghanistan self sustainable and independent was inspiring. She was also impressed by their courage, pride, sacrifice and commitment.

Hartzler says their efforts are paying off. And she says the recent slaying of Osama bin Laden has made a major impact on morale, both for the American military in the Middle East, as well as those in Afghanistan who have been under the oppressive thumb of terrorists.

AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports [Mp3, 1:19]

Hartzler says military officials there say “they’ve improved security and are working to prevent the country from being used as a safe haven for al Qaeda and the Taliban.” She says it would be “a mistake to withdraw from Afghanistan before the job is done.”

President Obama and General Patraus have said they’ll start scaling back operations in Afghanistan this July, but she says that might be too soon. She says pulling out too early might result in undoing all the hard work the troops have put in to give Afghanistan independence.

“Our withdrawal should be based on achievements-not political calculations,” she says.

Joining Congresswoman Hartzler as part of the congressional delegation were Congresswomen Susan Davis (D-CA), Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Martha Roby (R-AL), Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA), and Donna Edwards (D-MD).

Hartzler is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Agriculture Committee.

AUDIO: Jessica Machetta interviews Vicky Hartzler [Mp3, 9:12 min.]