Schiff Returns From Visit To Troops in Iraq
Sees military progress; political stalemate
Rep. Adam Schiff recently returned from his fourth visit to Iraq - a three day trip during which he visited Baghdad, Haditha, Al Anbar and Al Asad. While in Iraq, he visited with troops and diplomatic personnel and handed out holiday cards he collected from constituents in the 29th District. Rep. Schiff was encouraged by the improved security he observed in the region, but was disappointed by the continued lack of political progress. In Baghdad, Rep. Schiff and the three other Members of Congress traveling with him met with General David Petraeus who outlined the improved military picture but also expressed concerns about the pace of political progress as well as the destructive role Iran has played in Iraq.
"There is no substitute for an on-the-ground perspective of the situation in Iraq," said Schiff. "This was a very valuable trip, and it allowed me to see personally the improvements in security and the outstanding work being performed by our courageous and dedicated servicemen and servicewomen. I remain deeply concerned, however, that the Iraqi government is not capitalizing on the improved military situation to achieve any notable political reconciliation."
Rep. Schiff took the opportunity while visiting Iraq to spread some holiday cheer on behalf of the constituents of the 29th District. Rep. Schiff brought with him hundreds of holiday cards from constituents, mostly from kids in the district, who had made them by hand. He also handed out a music CD that was compiled for the troops, which featured a variety popular songs, and was provided to him by John Ondrasik, lead vocalist of Five for Fighting.
"I was happy to hand out so many holiday cards and CDs and everyone was very grateful to receive them," said Schiff. "They appreciated the holiday cheer being so far away from home during this time of year. One Marine told me that getting the card and CD really made his day, which of course really made my day too."
One of the highlights of Rep. Schiff's trip, originated from a conversation he had with an Indiana National Guardsman. While in Baghdad, Rep. Schiff met a soldier who had also served in Vietnam. The guardsman told Rep. Schiff how he chose to enlist to serve with his son after his son had been called upon to deploy to Iraq. This father proudly enlisted, even accepting a lower rank, just to serve with his son. Before being deployed, his son broke his leg and was unable to go to Iraq, but his dad was still sent. This great patriot and father expressed no regrets, telling Rep. Schiff of his decision and deployment: "It's all good."
"My conversation with this particular Indiana Guardsman and father is one I will not soon forget," said Schiff. "He exemplifies the dedication, commitment, and patriotism of our brave military personal. It was a treat to meet so many incredible men and women like this on the trip."
Two of the most promising changes Rep. Schiff witnessed in Iraq were evidence of the so-called "awakening" of the Sunni tribal chiefs and an improvement in defeating improvised explosive devises (IED). Many of the Sunni tribal chiefs have, in recent months, decided that al Qaeda is their greatest threat and are now working with our military to help them. Additionally, for the first time our armed forces are defeating IEDs faster than they are being planted, and we are seeing a decrease in the number of overall attacks and the number of successful attacks on our troops.
While there has been measurable military progress, a political stalemate continues. General Petraeus said he remained concerned about the overall military and political situation, and was especially wary about Iran's capacity to interfere in Iraq. Rep. Schiff believes that we need to capitalize on our recent military progress by stimulating political progress. Unfortunately, the pace of progress in Iraq's National Assembly remains halting and unacceptable.
"Overall, while I was heartened by the improvements in security and the reconstruction effort, I remain concerned about the inability of the Iraqis to come together to make the necessary political compromises that are key to a more peaceful future for the Iraqi people. While I remain as impressed as ever with General Petraeus and our troops, I heard nothing that would indicate that our commitment to Iraq should remain open-ended. At a time when our military is stretched too thin and with the situation in Afghanistan deteriorating, we must find a way to accelerate the end of the conflict and draw down our massive troop presence there."