Afghanistan visit was worthwhile experience

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Last week, I returned from a House Armed Services Committee fact-finding trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan. My fellow members of Congress and I examined civil, military and political counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism initiatives in the countries.

We also received a briefing from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, and met with the Pakistani Prime Minister, Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani. This was my second trip to the region in less than nine months since being sworn into office.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are two of the most important countries from an American foreign-policy perspective. We have been actively engaged in Afghanistan for nearly eight years, and Pakistan’s cooperation is vital for success in the greater global war on terror. It is essential for me to get a first-hand perspective on the situations on the ground in each country and to better understand our goals and challenges in the region as a whole.

In Afghanistan, our group received briefings on counter-narcotics, police training, and the recent Afghani elections. We were updated on the status and effectiveness of existing aid programs to the region by the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry. In Pakistan, I met with Prime Minister Gilani and Army Chief of Staff General Kayani, as well as U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson.

Given the increased role of the military and the national elections, visiting Afghanistan was especially timely. Moreover, Gen. McChrystal, who is in charge of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently gave President Obama an assessment of our operations in the region and is widely expected to ask for more troops in the near future. In the meeting, General McChrystal reiterated to us what he told to the president: the situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is possible with the right strategy and commitment.

The trip also presented me with a great opportunity to speak with soldiers on the ground to find out what Congress can do to help them fulfill their missions. In fact, I was approached by some of our servicemen who thanked me for an amendment I offered to the Defense Authorization bill earlier this year. The specific amendment, which is part of a bill that gives our soldiers the resources they need to be successful, will help speed up the procurement process for specialized military equipment. Hearing that information first-hand is invaluable to my duty as an elected official, especially as a member of the Armed Services Committee.

As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call our offices in Montgomery at 334-277-9113 or Opp at 334-493-9253. You can also visit the Web site at to sign up for the e-newsletter. It is my great pleasure to serve you and the entire 2nd District of Alabama.