Reps. Saxton and LoBiondo in Afghanistan
January 10, 2005
Congressional Delegation Travels to World's Newest Democracy; Greets New President, Visits U.S. Troops, Tours Girls School
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - Congressmen Jim Saxton (NJ-3) and Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-2) left Kabul today as part of a bipartisan House delegation on a fact-finding mission. The delegation met with the newly-elected Afghani President, U.S. troops and education officials at an all-girls school that re-opened after the fall of the Taliban.
"We are here to visit President Hamid Karzai and our troops and show them that Congress supports their hard work and sacrifices to build and strengthen the world's newest democracy," Saxton said. "Our troops are deployed halfway around the world. But I want them to know they are not forgotten. They are helping to stabilize Afghanistan and foster its young democracy, and that's in the best interests of the Middle East and of the United States."
"This trip is an important opportunity to visit with President Karzai and see one of the world's newest democracies up close, as well as talk to the men and women of our military," said Rep. LoBiondo. "Our brave servicemembers are working hard to strengthen the freedoms and liberties there that we value in America."
President Karzai, the first elected President in Afghan history, talked about how determined the Afghan people are to make this democracy work, Rep. LoBiondo said.
"President Karzai said his people are tired of war and instability," said Rep. LoBiondo. "The people of Afghanistan understand the unique opportunity before them, to experience democracy first hand. I was pleased to hear President Karzai's pledge to step up his government's efforts to help Afghan farmers wean themselves from the poppy as a money crop, and develop a more sustainable living through new crops and other natural resources."
Saxton is leading a delegation of the Armed Services Committee that also includes Rep. LoBiondo, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), ranking minority member Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) and Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.). The group visited with U.S. Special Forces deployed to Afghanistan. Saxton oversees the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in Congress.
The delegation also visited an all-girls school that had been ordered closed under the Taliban and had recently reopened. Saxton, LoBiondo and the other members met with the Afghan Minister of Education, Principal and about 70 teachers of the Zarghona School for Girls that serves over 6,000 students, grades 1 - 12.
"Once again, girls and young women can become part of the social fabric of Afghan society, and that starts with education," said Saxton, a former school teacher.
LoBiondo said that the school visit was one of the highlights of the trip.
"These students finally have the opportunity to learn without fear from a repressive regime," Rep. LoBiondo said. "This school was open prior to the Taliban's iron grip on this country, and once again it has become a place of knowledge and wonder. I was thrilled to see the students so excited to have this new opportunity to expand their minds and their futures."
Saxton and LoBiondo are both members of the House Armed Services Committee, and Saxton is the fourth-highest senior member of the sixty person Committee. He is also the Chairman of the House Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee.