Visits with Tennessee Troops in Kabul and Bagram Airfield
WASHINGTON - Following the recent transfer of lead security responsibility in Afghanistan from the U.S.-led NATO coalition to Afghan Security Forces, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, made his fourth trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan over the weekend to evaluate U.S. policy in the region and to assess progress toward the planned reduction in U.S. forces in December 2014.
Corker’s trip included meetings with senior government and business officials in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the Afghan president, leading Afghan opposition politicians, the chief of staff of the Pakistani Army and the head of Inter-Services Intelligence, and the Pakistani prime minister’s senior advisor for foreign affairs. On Sunday in Afghanistan, Corker also visited with Tennessee service members in Kabul and at Bagram Airfield and met with senior U.S. military officials, including ISAF Commanding General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. and 101st Airborne Commanding General James C. McConville.
“I was honored to meet with our brave Tennesseans serving in Afghanistan. We must work to ensure their sacrifices are matched with a policy in Afghanistan that will, to the extent possible, allow Afghans to pursue a better future in a stable, secure and united country governed by the rule of law and with respect for the rights of all its citizens,” said Corker.
Regional instability and associated political and economic challenges remain in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, but an opportunity to improve the prospects for these countries exists in the near-term. The next few months in Afghanistan in particular will be key in determining the long-term stability of that nation, as attempts to broker a political settlement, tamp down continued violence, and secure a Bilateral Security Agreement between the U.S. and the Afghan government continue, and as the nation approaches a crucial presidential election early next year.
“I hope that President Obama will make his decision on the remaining troop presence after 2014 in a timely fashion based on our national security interests, including the continuing need for robust counterterrorism operations. As this transition occurs, it would be a shame to undermine all that we’ve achieved in reducing the threat posed by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan,” Corker said.
Corker’s visit to Pakistan on Friday and Saturday included discussions of the current economic, political and security conditions, as well as the situation in Afghanistan. In particular, Corker focused his discussions with Pakistani government officials on the American people’s broad skepticism of the Pakistanis’ will to address mutual threats, including terrorist attacks coming out of Pakistan’s Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Corker visited the FATA to observe USAID projects and noted the importance of the Pakistani government taking strong action against terrorist facilities in the area.
“We continued to aggressively press the Pakistani leadership on the need to address the threat from terrorist groups in the FATA areas, including the Haqqani network, that are targeting our troops and undermining progress in Afghanistan,” said Corker.
In a short transit visit in Dubai, UAE, Thursday, Corker met with embassy officials as well as regional private sector finance officials managing capital and investments in Pakistan and the Gulf region.