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Co-del visits Pakistan, Afghanistan

After visiting Iraq Friday, a bipartisan Congressional delegation — led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo — met Saturday with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad, and then released the following statement today after visiting Afghanistan and meeting with President Hamid Karzai:

The purposes of our trip to Afghanistan were to salute our troops, visit with President Karzai, and meet with leaders of the NATO military effort. For five and a half years, our troops have been on the front line of the war on terror in Afghanistan. It is appropriate that we come here early in the new Congress to pay tribute to the men and women who are serving with great distinction in this critical task.

In our discussions, President Karzai stressed the crucial importance of reconstruction. The delegation commended him for his leadership and discussed additional steps that would enhance the authority of the central government and improve the security situation in the country. We are encouraged by reports of a proposed supplemental assistance package to enhance our efforts to assist our Afghan partners. We will expeditiously consider this legislation and urge the international community to invest more fully in Afghanistan’s future.

The delegation is deeply concerned about the escalating poppy cultivation problem in Afghanistan. Without aggressive action, this drug problem risks undermining the efforts of the Afghan government and coalition forces to stabilize the country.

Many of us have been convinced for some time that additional forces would benefit the forgotten war in Afghanistan. We are pleased our commanders will now have larger numbers of American troops to prepare for challenging operations in the spring. In addition, the delegation appreciates the contributions of our NATO partners and looks forward to the fulfillment of their military commitments to this mission.

We were honored to meet with in Afghanistan our troops, whose patriotism, courage, and devotion to duty are a source of great pride. Their efforts often do not receive attention reflecting the magnitude of their mission. We are grateful to them and to their families for all they are doing for our nation.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.