Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, just spoke to reporters on a conference call from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, after visiting Iraq as the leader of a six-member bipartisan freshman Congressional delegation.
“It’s given me a lot to think about — I see that they are making some progress in the parts of Iraq that we saw. I look forward to minimizing the amount of violence in Iraq and bringing our soldiers home soon,” he said. “I’m sure that the soldiers are doing the very best they can in a very, very difficult situation. … I’m sure they were careful to show us the regions where they’re having the most success. … I really don’t have an opinion about what’s going on in the rest of Iraq.”
“We need to put a timetable out there, it needs to make sense,” McNerney added — a plan to bring the troops home, so that the Iraqi government is compelled to unite and take over the task of securing the country. “I think we can work to find a way forward that would be bipartisan, that would accomodate the achievements they have had in the last four or five months.”
Arriving in Baghdad on a C-130 from Kuwait, he met first with officials including Gen. David Petraeus, who he said is working very hard and is “very optimistic about what’s happening in the conflict. … He’s concerned about being given enough rope to finish the job here.”
The lawmaker then rode a Blackhawk helicopter to Ramadi in Anbar province, which had been a hotspot for the insurgency, where he met with other high-ranking officers, saw local police patrolling the streets, and walked through the marketplace with a military escort. “They’re very proud of the work they’ve done in Ramadi and overall in the Anbar province,” he said. “The Sunni population has realized that al-Qaida is much less favorable to their day to day lives than what we’re offering them.”
After returning to Baghdad, he dined with six California soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division — some of whom were on their third tours of duty in Iraq — and also left the Green Zone to meet with the commanding general of all Iraqi forces. “He has the right words, he knows we’re concerned about their relationship with the different sects and about the sectarian violence.”
The delegation left Baghdad late last night and arrived early this morning in Germany, where members met with wounded soliders — some of whom said they wished they could return to Iraq, others who were too injured badly to speak.