PROGRESS IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
January 20, 2006
This past week I was privileged to once again lead a congressional delegation to the Middle East to see firsthand the effort being made in the war on terrorism, to meet with members of the U.S. Armed Services serving in that troubled part of the world, and to ask tough questions of our military and civilian leaders about the progress being made. I returned with an even greater appreciation for the job they are doing and with optimism about our prospects for success.
In a span of eight days we visited six countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq. During our visit to Afghanistan, we met with President Hamid Karzai, who has been a tremendous ally of the U.S. in the war against international terrorism. We had an informative and straightforward discussion about the current situation in Afghanistan.
Since the defeat of the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan has held free and fair elections for the presidency and parliament. This is tremendous progress for a country that was governed by terrorists and extremists and has experienced so much violence in recent years. And yet while the Taliban has been largely defeated, it has not been totally eliminated. The U.S. military still has an important role to play in eliminating the Taliban and bringing further stability to the now free and democratic Afghanistan. It is in the interest of the United States to do so. While in Afghanistan, we also meet with many U.S. troops at military bases in Kabul and Kandahar.
Our next stop was Baghdad, Iraq, where we had meetings with General George Casey, Commander of the U.S. and Multinational Force, and other military officials, and many of our troops. The situation in Iraq is very serious, as any glance at the daily news will tell you, and yet progress is being made there as well. Members of the Iraqi military are taking on more responsibility in fighting the small but dangerous remaining supporters of Saddam Hussein and the Al Qaeda terrorists. There are now over 200,000 trained and equipped Iraqi security forces across all of the provinces within Iraq. In addition, there are currently 130 Iraqi combat battalions taking on an increasing role in conducting combat operations. We are making discernible progress and the people of Iraq are optimistic about their future.
I cannot say enough about the tremendous job being done by the men and women of the U.S. Armed Services who are working hard day in and day out to preserve our security and promote peace. I was privileged to meet with troops from across the nation, including many from the great Commonwealth of Virginia. Their morale is high and they are doing an outstanding job combating terrorism, far from the comforts of home. We can all take pride in their service.