August 31, 2011

Whitehouse Travels to Pakistan and Afghanistan to Meet with Troops

RI Senator Briefed on Efforts to Crack Down on Roadside Bombs

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has concluded a trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan to hear from top U.S. officials about our progress and challenges, and to urge foreign officials to reduce the risk to our troops posed by improvised explosive devices (IED’s).  Whitehouse travelled first to Pakistan where he met with Prime Minister Gilani, Defense Minister Mukhtar, Chief of Army Staff General Kayani, President Zardari, and leaders of parliament to discuss a wide range of bilateral issues, but particularly to urge them to cooperate in disrupting the terrorist networks based in Pakistan that are responsible for the IEDs that have claimed the lives of hundreds of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, Whitehouse met with Rhode Island troops and received a briefing on U.S. efforts from General John Allen, Commander of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and US Forces in Afghanistan, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Whitehouse also visited three Regional Command headquarters, the NATO training mission for the Afghan Police and Army, an IED detection training facility in Helmand, and a Forward Operating Base in Spin Boldak.  He met Rhode Islanders serving in Kabul, Bagram Air Force Base, and Helmand and Kandahar Provinces.

“It was an honor to meet with our troops serving overseas and to urge officials in Pakistan and Afghanistan to step up efforts to prevent IED’s from harming those brave men and women,” said Whitehouse.  “Roadside bombs are the leading cause of injury to our troops in Afghanistan, and are often built with materials smuggled over the border from Pakistan.  We need to put a stop to this, and I will continue to urge better cooperation on this important issue.”

In 2010, 268 U.S. service members were killed by IED’s in Afghanistan.  125 U.S. service members have been killed by IED’s since the beginning of 2011.

“Our aircraft from Kabul to Helmand was a Rhode Island National Guard C-130 rigged to medevac two young Marines out of Helmand who lost their legs to IED blasts,” Whitehouse continued.  “That demonstrated the importance of disrupting these IED networks.”

Whitehouse was joined on the trip by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).  The trip marked Whitehouse’s fourth visit to Pakistan and fifth visit to Afghanistan.

Whitehouse concluded, “Afghanistan’s security is steadily improving in many areas, and we need to continue pushing to bring our troops home as soon as possible.  President Obama has already ordered our drawdown to begin, with 10,000 servicemembers leaving Afghanistan this year.  I will keep pressing to make sure we stand by that commitment and bring our troops home as soon as possible.”

In a letter sent to President Obama earlier this year, Whitehouse joined a number of Senate colleagues in calling for a “sizable and sustained” drawdown of troops that puts the U.S. on a path toward removing all regular combat troops from the country.


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