This week, Congressman Larry Kissell (NC-08) returned from an official House Armed Services Committee trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he met with U.S. troops, military leaders, and national and provincial officials to survey efforts being made in the region. Kissell met with North Carolina service members, including many Eighth District residents, as well as soldiers from Ft. Bragg.
"There is so much to be said of the utter professionalism and dedication of the men and women of the United States Military," said Kissell. "The honor with which they serve our nation is evident in all that they do, even in the face of the many ongoing challenges of the region. Those on the ground understand our mission of fighting terrorism and establishing and maintaining a sustained peace in Afghanistan and throughout the region. To speak with so many of our troops who call North Carolina home is a testament to just how rich our area is with those who serve. The sacrifice of our troops and their families remain with me in every decision I make on behalf of our district."
While in Afghanistan, Kissell met with Gen. David Petraeus and other military commanders to discuss Operation Enduring Freedom and the efforts being made in the region. The delegation traveled to provinces outside of Kabul, including meeting with members of the Afghan Supreme Court, which had not been previously visited by a congressional delegation within the country. Kissell last visited the Afghanistan in November of 2010.
"Through the leadership of our commanders and the hard work of our troops, we are continuing to see signs of progress in Afghanistan," said Kissell. "Even since my last visit to the region, we're seeing more and more responsibility shifting to the Afghan people as the transition of responsibility continues. Our troops are working closely with the Afghan Army and police to provide order throughout all levels of society, maintaining the safety and security of the nation, and helping to make the necessary steps to ensure long term stability as we withdraw our troops."
The delegation saw first-hand the reconstruction efforts led by U.S. officials, as well as the training of members of the Afghan National Police, including a great increase in the number of female officers.
"Ensuring that the rule of law remains established and enforced is an important part of our effort," Kissell said. "Meeting members of the newly-established Afghan Supreme Court and learning about their responsibilities has helped me to understand the direct results of our effort. The increased presence of female officers within the Afghan National Police force is a great step toward democracy, and will allow them the ability to stand side-by-side with other members of the force regardless of gender, a step we have not seen taken in the past. The responsibilities of a free nation fall on every member of that nation, and this is such a great sign of progress for the Afghan people."
Before arriving in Afghanistan, the delegation spent two days traveling through Pakistan, where Kissell met with President Asif Ali Zardari and U.S. defense and intelligence officials.
"The security and stability of Pakistan is critical for our own national security here at home," added Kissell. "We must ensure that Pakistan does not become a haven for Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group whose intent is to harm America. The men and women of our military understand the importance of this mission, and they are doing everything in their ability to establish and secure stability in the region."
The bipartisan delegation was lead by Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia, and included Reps. Scott Rigell, also of Virginia, David Loebsack of Iowa and Todd Young of Indiana.