November 11, 2008

Whitehouse Travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan

Senate Intelligence Committee Member Meets with Afghan President, Pakistani Prime Minister, Military Leaders

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan over the weekend to assess local and U.S. security efforts, meet with military and government officials, and visit American troops serving there.

“This is, and has been, a key battleground of the war on terror,” said Whitehouse. “While the Bush Administration waged war in Iraq, al Qaeda and the Taliban grew stronger in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and we became less secure. As America prepares for a new administration and the Senate prepares for the work ahead of us, I wanted to hear directly from our military leaders and from Afghan and Pakistani officials about what now must be done to improve security here, and what we can do to support that mission.”

A member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Whitehouse traveled as part of an official congressional delegation visit led by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Over three days in the two countries, the group stopped in Kabul, Bagram, Jalalabad, and Asadabad, Afghanistan, and Islamabad, Pakistan.

On Sunday morning, November 9, Whitehouse, Snowe, and the delegation flew by C-20 from Dubai into Kabul, Afghanistan, where they took part in a working lunch with William Wood, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, and General David McKiernan, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. They later met with a group of key Afghan security officials, including General Abdul Rahim Wardak, Afghanistan’s Minister of Defense, Amrullah Saleh, National Directorate of Security, and Valmai Rassoul, National Security Advisor; and with Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan. On Sunday afternoon, Whitehouse and the delegation flew to Bagram Air Base, where they were briefed by leaders of Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF)-101 and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A), and had dinner with troops serving there.

Monday, November 10, Whitehouse, Snowe, and the delegation had breakfast with troops at Camp Eggers and were briefed by leaders of Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan, whose members work with the ISAF and Afghan government to help train and equip the Afghan National Army and Police. That afternoon, the delegation flew to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, where they held roundtable discussions with regional commanders. The CODEL then flew via Blackhawk helicopter to a Forward Operating Base near Asadabad, about five miles from the Pakistani border, where they met with U.S. officials serving at the base. The delegation returned to Kabul via helicopter later that evening.

This morning, Whitehouse and Snowe traveled by C-130 to Chaklala Airport in Islamabad. The delegation met with Anne W. Patterson, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan and received briefings from State and Defense Department officials. They met in the early evening with Yousaf Raza Gilani, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor, Mahmud Ali Durrani, Defense Minister Ch. Ahmed Mukhtar, Interior Advisor Rahman Malik, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Nawabzada Malik Amad Khan, and separately with Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Director General of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. They left for Doha, Qatar, this evening.

“On this Veterans Day, I especially want to acknowledge the men and women who serve under America’s flag in Afghanistan and around the world,” Whitehouse added. “I will continue working in the next Congress to ensure our support for our service members remains strong, whether they are on the battlefield, back at base, or in retirement.”


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