Violent extremists continue to bring new challenges to our Armed Forces and diplomatic corps around the world. Ongoing efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as growing instability in Pakistan, Lebanon, Gaza and West Bank, reinforce the need for continued involvement throughout East Asia and the Middle East. The U.S. must work with allied countries to bring the necessary resources to this region in order to achieve lasting peace and stability.
The President announced in early 2007 that additional troops would be deployed to Iraq as part of a new strategy. Despite much skepticism, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker have worked tirelessly to bring increased security to Baghdad and the rest of the country. Their plan called for more troops in the neighborhoods throughout the capitol in order to bring down the violence and to be able to gather better intelligence from locals.
While Iraq continues to present extraordinary challenges for our troops and our allies, significant improvements were made in 2007. Last year there was a nearly fifty percent decrease in suicide bombings in Iraq, and U.S. combat deaths declined in the months following the implementation of the new strategy. We have also witnessed the transfer of control take place in more provinces, and tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers are being trained, equipped, and deployed across the country. Iraqi forces continue to take on more and more of the internal security responsibilities and relieve the need for American forces.
My position is not an open-ended commitment to leaving our troops in Iraq. Nevertheless, it is important to understand what the long-term commitment of the U.S. Armed Forces will be in Iraq. Even under the Democrat's proposals to immediately withdraw American troops, there are exemptions for troops to remain in Iraq to protect the Embassy, serve as trainers and advisors for the Iraqi Army, and to pursue terrorists throughout the county. These exemptions will force tens of thousands of troops to remain in Iraq for many years to come. Knowing thousands of soldiers and marines will remain in Iraq, I want to make sure the actions taken by Congress do not make their job more difficult.
During the 2008 State of the Union address, President Bush announced that 20,000 American troops would be returning home from Iraq without being replaced. I am encouraged by this development; and as the security environment improves, I expect more of our soldiers and Marines to be coming home. Their chances of achieving success and coming home are dependent upon Congress giving the U.S. Armed Forces the resources they need to complete their mission. I will not play politics with the lives of our military men and women and I will continue to support them during these difficult times.
Congress continues to debate how to adequately reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. The focus of the negotiations remains on the need to update FISA in order to make the law technology neutral. Additionally, protections for recent allegations against telecommunication companies have been added to the Senate version of the reform bill.
The Protect America Act (S. 1927) was enacted in order to provide a temporary solution to the problem and to clear-up the backlog of unnecessary warrant requests that were before the FIS Court. S. 1927 expired on February 1, 2008, and Congress passed another short-term (15-day) extension so that a compromise could be reached. We must protect American lives, our civil liberties, and U.S. companies that responded to the call from our government in the days and months following the 9/11 attacks. I am confident that we can achieve the necessary balance between freedom and security. I will continue to be involved in this process.
I am always eager to hear from my constituents. If you would like to speak with my staff about international relations or defense legislation, please contact my Washington, D.C. office at 202-225-2031.