John Boehner, House delegation visit Afghanistan

April 20, 2011

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) visited Afghanistan on Tuesday and Wednesday, the latest stop for a six-member delegation to the region during Congress’s spring recess.

Boehner, who is traveling with Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), Mike Conaway (R-Texas), Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), Joe Heck (R-Nev.) and Dan Boren (D-Okla.), arrived in Afghanistan after traveling to Baghdad on Saturday and to Pakistan on Monday.

According to a release from Boehner’s office, the delegation met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai; Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan; U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry; Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, commander of the NATO-International Security Assistance Force Joint Command; Lt. Gen. Bill Caldwell, commander of NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan; embassy and other military officials; and U.S. troops from the delegation members’ home states.

The trip is Boehner’s first to Afghanistan since becoming House speaker in January.

In a statement, Boehner said that while troops in Afghanistan are making gains against al Qaeda and the Taliban, “it’s also clear that there are immense challenges in building a credible government on behalf of the Afghan people” and that the delegation “heard from President Karzai about his efforts to do so.”

Boehner also called on President Obama to further explain how July’s planned troop drawdown will affect the progress that has been made on the ground thus far.

“During our meeting with General Petraeus, he noted that security gains have been made in Afghanistan, but that they are fragile and reversible,” Boehner said.

“That is why we must remain steadfast in our commitment to the counterinsurgency strategy our commanders on the ground have put in place and to ensuring its success, rather than focusing on meeting arbitrary deadlines for withdrawal,” he added. “Any drawdown of U.S. troops must be based on the conditions on the ground, not on political calculations. If the Obama Administration insists on beginning to draw down troops in July, it must explain how the pace and scope of such a move will not undermine the tenuous progress we’ve made thus far. To date, it has not done so.”

Boehner’s visit also comes as the top Democratic leader in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), is leading a 10-member delegation to China.

Reid’s office said Wednesday that the delegation received a briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing by U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who is mulling a bid for president after he returns to the United States early next month. The delegation also met with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan; Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi; and People’s Bank of China President Zhou Xiaochuan.

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