Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, is just back from his first visit to Iraq. Braley says he went on the trip in a fact-finding mission as the U-S prepares to pull the majority of its military out of the country. Braley says it was very clear that the Iraqi police force — which he says has long been a weak link — has made “enormous strides,” especially the federal police force.
He says the two areas of most significant concern are border enforcement, especially along the Iranian border, and the oil police, in light of the theft of the Iraq oil and natural gas supplies. Braley says a key will be how the government supports the police.
Overall Braley says there’s been progress. He says based upon what he saw and heard, from the military and the ambassador and intelligence briefings, “the country of Iraq is in a much more stable place than it was three or for years ago.” Braley says the election of the leadership is going to be a key.
Braley says there are a lot of outside interests groups and countries trying to influence the elections and he says that’s part of the domestic challenge of showing the citizens that they are going to provide fair and democratic elections. Braley says some of the diplomatic and military situations in Iraq are independent of the U-S involvement in Afghanistan. But he says there are some aspects that are related, such as the movement of the military resources.
Braley says there’s a lot of equipment in Iraq that will need to be moved out to Afghanistan, and a lot of it needs significant repairs. Braley says he was briefed on the efforts to move and repair that equipment. Braley says he wanted to visit Afghanistan while on this trip, but was unable to do so because of congressional votes.