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DURBIN DISCUSSES HIS RECENT VISIT TO IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN & PAKISTAN

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Returning from an official visit to Iraq and Afghanistan, Sen. Dick Durbin called the situation in Iraq “grim evidence of a poorly planned strategy.”

“America has the best military in the world and the brave soldiers that I met over the last week are a source of pride for all of us. But our military and the billions of dollars we continue to spend are no match for a devastating civil war and an Iraqi government bitterly divided by age-old hatreds.”

“Our troops have done a tremendous job securing government centers and travel routes within the Green Zone. Insurgent attacks against our troops within the Green Zone have decreased since I visited last year, but the civil war outside those fortified enclaves threatens to wipe away much of the progress we have made.”

“The danger to our troops grows by the day. I am still haunted by the knowledge that while I was meeting with our commanding generals two of our soldiers lost their lives to a roadside bomb just blocks away. During the week that I traveled to Iraq 27 American soldiers died.”

“Four years into this war there are few pockets of safety in a country where every road, every street corner and every market in Baghdad is a lethal target. Over the weekend that I was in Baghdad the bodies of sixty victims of sectarian gangland slayings were recovered.”

“The Bush Administration went into this war without a plan and now stubbornly clings to a political slogan to define its strategy.”

“I will not forget the soldier who pulled me aside and told me ‘Senator, staying the course will not win this war’.”

“Even the most determined General told us we have six months to determine whether our efforts will be successful.”

“It is time for us to serve notice on the Iraqi government that unless they meet clearly defined goals in a timely fashion we will begin the redeployment of our troops. Those goals include an Iraqi military and police force prepared to stand and defend its own country; improvement in the basics of life like electricity and safe drinking water; reconstruction of oil and gas facilities; providing basic government services based on need rather than political or religious favoritism and an end to the militias.”

“We owe it to our soldiers and the people of this country to reject political slogans and accept the reality of the grim situation we face. America has deposed a dictator, liberated a nation and given the Iraqis their first free elections. Now it is up to the Iraqi people and their elected government to take the lead and allow our troops to come home. If the Iraqis do not have the political will to create and defend their own nation, we cannot do it for them.”

“In stark contrast Afghanistan has the potential to become a stable and secure nation. Meeting with President Karzai, NATO commanders and American military and civil leaders, I left with a belief that we can prove in Afghanistan that the forces of terror can be conquered.”

“At the core of my hope is a country which has a fierce pride and a strong national identity which has endured for centuries. They have driven the British and the Soviets from their soil and take pride in calling themselves Afghans. They have a strong leader in President Karzai and have forced the Al Quaida and Taliban forces into a desperate position.

“There are three imperatives for success in Afghanistan. We must continue to support the international effort headed by NATO. We must make reconstruction and the eradication of the poppy cultivation high priorities. And we must create stronger border protection between Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

“Pakistan has been a key ally in our effort but their recent decision to declare Wazuristan as an off-limits province is creating a safe haven for Taliban terrorists and illicit border crossings. The planned summit of Afghan and Pakistani civil and religious leaders is an opportunity for new dialogue and a more effective effort to contain the terrorists.”

“America would have been wiser to focus on Afghanistan and our original goal of defeating the perpetrators of 9-11, but it is not too late to recalibrate and finish the job.”

 

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