Congressman Dave Reichert (WA-08) returned yesterday from a bipartisan congressional delegation (CODEL) trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Vienna, Austria. He was joined by Representatives Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Nancy Boyda (D-KS), Thomas Petri (R-WI), and Jon Porter (R-NV). The trip focused on two issues: bringing the focus of America's military efforts back to defeating Al Qaeda and other terrorists in Afghanistan and enacting policies to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
Members released the following statement:
"After visiting these nations, we came away in agreement that it is in the strategic interests of the United States to continue working with our NATO allies and the Afghan people to develop and strengthen their own capabilities to defeat terrorists in that region.
"Our NATO allies must show a serious commitment to fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda, without limitations that undermine the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission. The Afghan government must also demonstrate an ability to help sustain the security gains achieved by our men and women in uniform and provide both national and personal security to the Afghan people.
"We saw the impacts on Afghanistan of violence in Pakistan's northwest border areas and came away united in believing the U.S. should continue to work with Pakistan to defeat the growing insurgency in that region.
"Security in this region is critical to global security and to U.S. strategic interests. While remote, Afghanistan and Pakistan are strategically positioned between Iran, Russia, and China, who are ready to leverage their influence if we and our allies fail to lead.
"We must work with our allies to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), because there is no greater danger than the potential spread of nuclear weapons technology. We cannot tackle the challenges of tomorrow with yesterday's tools. Reducing the threat of nuclear proliferation is a global imperative that requires U.S. leadership, and we are committed to acting to achieve that."
In Afghanistan, the CODEL met with President Hamid Karzai, General David McKiernan, Commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and Major General Robert Cone, Commanding General of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A). The group also visited a Regional Training Center in Jalalabad for developing the Afghan National Police force.
In Pakistan the CODEL met with Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of the Army Staff, and Lieutenant General Khalid Kidwai, Director General of Pakistan's Strategic Plans Division, which maintains responsibility for the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
In Vienna the CODEL met with the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Tiber Toth, and the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammed El Baradei.