January 13, 2006
Senator Visits Troops, Meets with Intelligence, Defense, Government Officials
On Thursday, U.S. Senator Kit Bond returned from a week-long trip to the Middle East where he saw first-hand the political and military situation on the central front in the War on Terror.
Bond visited Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation to the region. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bond met with intelligence and defense officials, key leaders and visited with troops on the frontlines.
"The recent and historic elections in Iraq were fair and marked a very promising step forward for Iraq. We have made great progress towards the establishment of a new government," said Bond, who met with members of the Independent Election Commission in Iraq during his visit. "American officials told us that with the improved readiness of Iraqi military forces they are now optimistic about the prospects for stability in Iraq."
Bond also met with Iraq President Jalal Talabani, who stressed to him the need for a national unity government that includes all of the country's groups: Sunnis, Kurds, and Shiites. Bond visited Baghdad, Sunni areas in western Iraq and Kirkuk in northern Iraq.
After meeting with military officials in Iraq, Bond said there has been significant progress combating the insurgency. He said the United States and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have been successful in cleaning out insurgents, turning the areas over to the ISF to prevent the return of extremists and using funds to create new jobs, particularly in Sunni areas. Plans are to focus on training more Iraqi police forces in the coming year, said Bond.
Bond also met with Missouri troops and touched on recent disclosures in the press on body armor shortages in Iraq. Bond, whose son is a 1st Lieutenant stationed in Iraq, spoke with Marines on the news reports, which Bond said the Marines called "unduly hyped."
In Afghanistan, Bond met with President Karzai, who said that while the dangers of insurgency are not completely over, the terrorists have been defeated. Dealing with the country's drug problem is the current challenge, said Bond. Afghanistan needs help in creating jobs and agricultural opportunities, including roads to transport goods to market and the technological know-how to replant good crops and build agricultural facilities.
Bond highlighted the significant role intelligence is playing in the war. He said he was concerned about the recent discussion of highly-classified intelligence actions in the press. In addition to severely restricting the United States' ability to recruit new sources, Bond said recent revelations put a number of current sources at risk and have put significant pressure on U.S. allies who have cooperated in the war on terror, but are less likely to do so now.
Bond traveled with Senators Bayh and Obama and Rep. Harold Ford. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, Bond was warmed by the gratitude expressed towards Americans for their contributions and sacrifices.
Bond visited with his son Sam, and other Marines in Sam's unit during his trip to the Middle East.