Congressman Stephen F. Lynch recently returned from a Congressional Delegation (CODEL) to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Djibouti and Egypt. Joining Congressman Lynch were Representatives Todd Platts (R-PA), Jack Kingston (R-GA), Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Tom Marino (R-PA), and John Fleming (R-LA). A member of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Congressman Lynch regularly conducts official travel to the Middle East region as part of his Congressional oversight duties. This was Lynch's 8th trip to Afghanistan.
In Kabul, Afghanistan, Congressman Lynch and the Delegation met with General John Allen, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker to discuss the current security and political environment in the region. In particular, the meeting examined the impact of Pakistan's ongoing closure of key ground NATO supply routes to Afghanistan as well as the progress of the withdrawal of U.S. and international forces.
While in Afghanistan, Congressman Lynch also conducted a site visit to the Craig Joint Theater Hospital in Bagram. This military hospital specializes in traumatic brain injury treatment and concussive care for wounded soldiers and has treated approximately 4,000 patients a month since opening in 2007.
In addition, the Delegation traveled to several regional command and combat outposts in southwestern Afghanistan in order to examine tactical and training operations and meet with service men and women. Specifically, the CODEL visited Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province as well as COP (Combat Outpost) Deysie and COP Wilderness in Paktiya Province, a key area of coordinated action efforts between U.S. troops and the Afghan Army.
During the CODEL's visit to Islamabad, Pakistan, Congressman Lynch and the Delegation held a series of coordinated meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Staff for the Pakistan Army, and various members of the Pakistani Parliament to discuss the progress of U.S.- Pakistani relations as well as chief regional and international security issues. In particular, the Delegation highlighted the importance of continued and successful negotiations between the U.S. and the Government of Pakistan regarding the reopening of ground supply routes for NATO forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan has closed these vital supply routes, key to NATO's mission in Afghanistan, and negotiations have recently reached a stalemate.
Accompanied by the 6th Aviation Squadron of the Pakistan Army, the Delegation also conducted oversight of Tarbela Dam, poppy eradication along the Indus River and several USAID projects.
Following its departure from Pakistan, Congressman Lynch and the Delegation spent a night aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, a member of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and the flagship of the Carrier Strike Group 9. During its visit to the Lincoln, the Delegation surveyed flight operations and crew exercises and met with constituent crew men and women deployed in support of the carrier's tactical and support operations mission.
"I cannot say enough in support of our brave men and women fighting overseas," Congressman Stephen F. Lynch said. "I really value the chance to listen to the concerns of these fighter pilots, Sailors and Marines. It helps me get a real sense of conditions on the ground and that informs my decisions in Washington."
The CODEL subsequently traveled to Sana'a, Yemen, where Congressman Lynch met with President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi whose military is fighting an ongoing rebellion led by about 2000 Al Qaeda insurgents in Southern Yemen.
Before the final stop in Cairo, Egypt, delegation members visited Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti, Africa, to receive an operational and intelligence briefing from the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and meet with service men and women stationed in Djibouti. Notably, the CJTF-HOA seeks to combat and counter violent extremism in East Africa and promote regional security efforts.
Delegation members arrived in Cairo, Egypt on the first day of the country's historic presidential election. Accordingly, Congressman Lynch and the Delegation conducted oversight visits at two separate polling stations and also visited Tahrir square which continues to be a center of political unrest and violence in Cairo.