Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) returned to Washington Tuesday after a four-day bi-partisan trip to Iraq, Qatar and Israel where he met with U.S. troops from the Bay Area -- including Pittsburg, Vallejo, and Suisun City - and with military commanders and foreign leaders. Miller said the trip was important to give him first-hand information on activities in Iraq and the Middle East.
"I get a lot of good information in Washington, but when it comes to making tough decisions about our troops and our nation's security it is also essential to get a first-hand view in critical parts of the world like Iraq and the Middle East," Miller said. "The opportunity to meet face-to-face with U.S. military commanders and American troops on the ground to better understand the conditions there is invaluable.
"The troops we met with expressed a huge sense of pride over the daring mission that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden. Clearly, even the troops that were not directly involved in the raid were proud to be members of the military forces that accomplished it. And they have every right to feel that way. The mission was a huge victory for our country's security efforts and for President Obama, U.S. military forces and the American intelligence community. And hopefully the death of bin Laden will hasten the return of American troops from the war in Afghanistan.
"Regardless of one's position on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the men and women who serve this country day in and day out are to be commended. Their sacrifice and the sacrifices made by their families and friends is something that we must always keep in mind."
Miller and his colleagues first visited with members of the U.S. military at Al Udeid airbase and other facilities in Qatar, a U.S. ally in the Middle East. These facilities serve as logistics, command and basing hubs for CENTCOM operations, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan. The delegation then traveled to Iraq to meet with Iraqi and U.S. officials in Baghdad.
"During our meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki, he made it pretty clear that he was going to stick with President Obama's planned December 31 timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and that he was not planning to go back to his Parliament to ask for an extension of that deadline," Miller said. "I think this a good indication that our troops will leave Iraq on the current schedule. That's great news."
The delegation also met with Four Star General Lloyd Austin, the commanding officer of U.S. troops in Iraq.
The delegation traveled to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and later met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, opposition leader Tzipi Livni and Lt. General Michael Moeller, U.S. Security Coordinator, Israel--Palestinian Authority. Miller traveled separately to Ramallah, the West Bank, to meet with a leader of the Palestinian Authority.
"In Israel, as you can imagine, conversations turned to the Arab Spring and the political and security change that it brings to the Middle East, North Africa and the impact on Israel," Miller said. "During our stay, our delegation met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who will be coming to Washington in less than two weeks, and with President Peres and Opposition Leader Livni. All of them had much to say about the new proposed Reconciliation Agreement signed in Egypt by both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas -- and all had a different take on the opportunities and dangers presented by this Reconciliation Agreement for Israel and the Peace Process."
Miller continued, "I was also able to go to Ramallah to meet with PLA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to hear his thoughts on why the agreement was signed at this time and what he thought it meant to the future of the peace process and the role of Hamas. All of this was fascinating and very timely in trying to assess what the change in the region means for Israel and the peace process."
The bipartisan delegation also attended an Israel Memorial Day Ceremony and a Torch Lighting Ceremony at Mount Herzl before returning to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday in time for votes Tuesday night. The Congressional work week is scheduled to end this Friday afternoon, at which time Miller will return to California to attend meetings and events around the district next week.
The other members of the bipartisan delegation included Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Rep. Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA), Rep. Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA).