Thursday, July 2, 2009

Kay's op-ed: 'Cautious Progress in Iraq'


Read Senator Hutchison's op-ed in today's Dallas Morning News about 'Cautious Progress in Iraq'.

I recently had the opportunity to celebrate the Fourth of July early and in a unique way. This year, on the eve of our nation's Independence Day, I was in Baghdad, thanking those who are protecting the freedom that we celebrate on July Fourth. There in Iraq, I was privileged to visit the Texans who embody the same patriotism as the American soldiers who won our nation's freedom 233 years ago.

I spent the Senate's July Fourth recess traveling to Iraq so I could carry a very clear message to those who were not able to spend the holiday at home with their families: The American people are completely behind our troops, and we are deeply grateful for their brave service. Our nation would not know freedom without their sacrifice.

The soldiers of the Texas National Guard warmly welcomed me and made me prouder than ever to be a Texan. I am happy to report that Texas troops are exhibiting our state's indomitable spirit of pride and optimism as they serve overseas. Their energy was infectious, and their attitudes were uplifting.

As America undertakes its first major deadline for drawdown of forces, I also wanted to be there on the ground to see this process begin to unfold and to hear from our commanders how it is being executed. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commanding general of multinational forces in Iraq, and Christopher R. Hill, American ambassador to Iraq, outlined for me their vision of the way forward.

On June 30, we reached a key milestone. U.S. forces completed a process that began last January of transferring responsibility for patrolling Iraqi cities to the Iraqi Army. Primarily, American soldiers will fall back to the outskirts of the cities, where they will remain ready to provide training and support.

I hope the Iraqis will be successful and build on the progress we've already made. The indicators for security gains are mostly trending in the right direction. However, there are troubling variables that we must monitor closely, such as resurgence of sectarian violence and the continued malevolent Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs.

The Iraqis can be assured that, if there is trouble, the American forces will not be far. We did not invest so much – in American lives and treasure – to see progress languish. Our soldiers stand at the ready as needed.

Odierno and Hill assured me that the full drawdown of our troops will be gradual. Iraq must remain stable so next January's elections can be fair and peaceful and the logistically complex drawdown process can continue apace. In deliberate, calculated steps, we will start to close down base operations in Iraq. Equipment will be refurbished or repaired and sent to support our missions in Afghanistan or elsewhere in the world.

The commanders on the ground assured me that we have a solid plan, supported by the world's finest military. It is in all our best interests that America withdraws in an orderly fashion so that the end result of our efforts in Iraq is greater stability in the region, as well as an Iraq that never again serves as a base for terrorist operations.

My visit with our troops left me hopeful and optimistic for the future of Iraq. Moreover, I returned to Texas thankful that we have such dedicated and selfless young men and women as those I met from Texas who are, even now, serving on the frontlines.

Kay Bailey Hutchison is the senior U.S. senator from Texas and may be reached through www.hutchison.senate.gov.

An op-ed in a major Texas newspaper was a great way to reach out to Texans and share details about her trip to Iraq. We give her an A+ for the effort and content of today's op-ed.

What are your thoughts on Kay's op-ed? Comment below.

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