Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (MA-09) recently returned from a Congressional Delegation to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Joining Congressman Lynch were Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA), Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), and Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY).
The Delegation met with various military and government officials regarding the fight against terrorism and continued ongoing oversight efforts into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Co-Chair of the bipartisan on Task Force on Terrorism and Proliferation Financing, Congressman Lynch specifically focused on efforts to block terrorist financing in the Middle East.
While in Kabul, Delegation Members discussed military operations and efforts to train Afghan soldiers with Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and met with the Afghan Interior Minister, General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi. In addition, Congressman Lynch met with several Afghan officials concerning the ongoing investigation into Kabul Bank, which nearly collapsed in September due to widespread fraud and corruption.
"The allegations of corruption in the Karzai government continue to be extremely troubling. Our committee, the FBI and the Justice Department are continuing our investigation. I have come to believe that the endemic corruption at the highest levels of the Afghan government is a larger threat to democracy than the Taliban," Congressman Lynch said.
Congressman Lynch also attended a naturalization ceremony in Kabul for 97 Marines and service members and met with Massachusetts-based armed forces units and Embassy staff.
"Once again, I cannot say or do enough to thank our brave men and women serving overseas," Lynch added. "I am continually struck and humbled by their amazing work on behalf of our country."
In Pakistan, the Delegation held separate meetings with Pakistani Prime Minister, Syed Yousaf Taza Gilani, President Asif Ali Zadari and Army Chief of Staff, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Discussions included U.S.-Pakistani relations and the war on terrorism. Congressman Lynch also personally appealed to the Pakistani President and Prime Minister for the release of Raymond Davis, a U.S. embassy worker who is accused of killing two Pakistani men who were trying to rob him at gunpoint and is being held in Lahore in violation of international law governing diplomatic immunity.
Congressman Lynch and other members of the Delegation also travelled to Iraq where they met with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which heads oversight of Iraqi reconstruction, and toured the NATO Training Mission for Iraq. Lynch took time to meet with service men and women stationed in Iraq as well as Embassy staff. Current troop levels are now at about 48,000, down from a peak deployment of over 165,000 in 2008. By December 2011, troop levels are expected to be down to 25,000.
Lynch added, "The security situation in Iraq continues to improve. Since my first trip to Iraq in 2003, conditions on the ground have changed dramatically. The continual drawdown of our troops is very encouraging."