U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker returned late Tuesday from a four-day trip to Iraq, Kuwait and Germany, which included meetings with top American and Iraqi leaders and visits in and around Baghdad, including the Green Zone and outside the Green Zone at Camp Victory and the U.S. Combat Outpost near Taji.
“I said in January that we needed a new strategy in Iraq; that I wanted to move our troops out of combat business and into support, equipping and training business,” said Alexander. “During our visit we saw clear successes in some provinces, with coalition forces working with Iraqis on the ground – running out Al Qaeda and providing security for Iraqis to live their lives. I’m enormously impressed with General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker and with what they are accomplishing militarily, and I’m looking forward to their report this fall. I hope the lessons of the last few months and the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton bipartisan Iraq Study Group Report will provide the basis for a Petraeus plan to put us on a path to finish the job in Iraq.”
“In both of the trips I've taken to Iraq in the past six months, I have been tremendously impressed with the professionalism of our men and women in uniform. It is incredibly moving to be in their presence and see the work they are doing on a daily basis,” said Corker. “There is no question that we've made some military gains over the last several months under the leadership of General Petraeus and General Odierno. We are, province by province, changing the mission on the ground in Iraq and it is having success. More and more, Iraqi sheiks now understand that we are there to support their security and view us as enablers rather than occupiers. I do believe there is a strong possibility that when the Petraeus plan comes forth in September, it could go a long way towards bringing our country together around what is occurring in Iraq.”
During their visit, which marks the second trip to Iraq for both Alexander and Corker, the senators met with Commanding General David Petraeus, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, and Iraqi Deputy Presidents Adil Abdul-Mahdi and Tariq Al-Hashimi.
The senators had lunch with a number of Tennessee soldiers, marines and airmen in the Green Zone and later flew by helicopter outside the Green Zone to the U.S. Combat Outpost (COP) near Taji, where they were able to see a street-level view of life for Iraqi citizens. They had dinner at the Outpost with 70 U.S. soldiers and four Iraqi sheiks who are working with the U.S. military to help secure their villages.
Alexander and Corker were joined on the trip by Senators George Voinovich (R-OH) and David Vitter (R-LA).