Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA), a member of the Defense Appropriations Committee, recently joined senior Senate Armed Services Committee member Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) on a security mission to Iraq. In meetings with troops from Georgia, military leadership and Iraqi political leaders, Kingston saw much progress since his last visit.
"I've been to Iraq several times -- from the initial exuberance after the invasion to the darkest days of terrorist insurgency," said Kingston. "While challenges remain, the drawdown of forces is leaving a more stable and secure Iraq in its trail. Commerce has taken root and progress is being made at healing the political and cultural divisions which once threatened tear apart the country."
While in Baghdad, Kingston met with senior U.S. military officials regarding security, terrorism and the U.S. military's effort to reposition equipment for use in Afghanistan including Lieutentant General Robert Cone, the Deputy Commanding General for Operations of US Forces - Iraq, and Lieutentant General Kenneth Hunzeker, the Deputy Commanding General for Support.
The delegation also met with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki regarding the Iraqi government formation process following Iraqi parliamentary elections that were held in March.
Following their meetings in Baghdad, the mission flew to As-Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for a meeting with Kurdish Prime Minister Baram Salih to discuss issues including Iraq's economic stability and development of the country's oil and gas resources.
A sign of progress in Kingston's eyes is the budding oil industry which, while still below the production level of the 1980s, presents an opportunity to increase international involvement in the country while also increasing wealth. At present, Kingston says 12 countries -- including Russia and China -- are operating oil rigs there.
"Having these countries in Iraq isn't all bad," he said. "While they might not have been involved in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, now they've got an interest in lasting stability -- they've got some skin in the game."
While in Iraq, Kingston also met with several soldiers from Georgia including troops from Fort Stewart and had the opportunity to present Brigadier General Patrick J. Donahue, the 3rd Infantry Divisions Deputy Commanding General, with a flag flown over the United States Capitol.
"I'm always impressed by the professionalism and determination of our troops in the field," Kingston said. "It just makes it all the better to know the cream of the crop are from Georgia."