Mar 02 2011
**With NEW Visuals Available Online**
Senator Joe Manchin just completed a 9-day fact-finding mission to six countries in the Middle East, traveling through war zones while visiting with national leaders and American allies. The Senator met with foreign Presidents and Prime Ministers, visited with the men and women of West Virginia who are serving on the ground and discussed the operations with senior U.S. diplomats and military commanders.
“This was my first trip to the region as a U.S. Senator, and I was briefed on a wide array of political and security developments. During those nine days, I spent my time asking tough questions and getting the best possible insight from our commanders, our troops and our diplomatic leaders on the ground,” Senator Manchin said.
“Above all, I was fortunate to meet and talk with the brave men and women who serve this great country – both from West Virginia and other parts of our nation. It was an honor to thank them personally for their service and sacrifice. I can say without a doubt that there is no greater military in the world, and all West Virginians and Americans can be proud of the incredible job that every single one them is doing.”
A few key statistics from the trip. Senator Manchin:
- Traveled more than 17,000 miles on five commercial flights, five helicopters and three military fixed-wing flights;
- Held four meetings with West Virginians, both USAID workers and service members in combat zones;
- Met with three heads of state: Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari;
- Met with three Prime Ministers: Pakistan’s Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Jordan’s Marouf al-Bakhit and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu;
- Held six meetings with government ministers, include ministers of defense and foreign affairs from Pakistan, Jordan, Israel;
- Attended more than 20 briefings with U.S. military and diplomatic officials.
Senator Manchin traveled to the Middle East on a Congressional delegation with fellow Senators Bob Corker, Bernie Sanders and Chris Coons. Senator Manchin left Washington, D.C. Thursday evening and returned Saturday night.
Senator Manchin met with U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter. Among the issues they discussed were Pakistani military activities against extremists and the planning for USAID development projects.
Senator Manchin met with Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and had lunch with Parliament opposition leaders to discuss Pakistan's political future.
In the afternoon, Senator Manchin had a discussion with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who discussed education and infrastructure projects and continued aid from the United States.
In the evening, Senator Manchin attended a business roundtable with Pakistani business leaders hosted by the Ambassador at the U.S. Embassy. The conversations were lively and frank and centered around the Pakistani economic interests in trade, and the goodwill between both countries.
Finally, Senator Manchin had an intimate meeting with Pakistani General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to discuss the Pakistani efforts on the war on terror and the future role of U.S. military aid in achieving key strategic objectives in the region.
Afghanistan – Day One
Senator Manchin was briefed by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry on the U.S. military and civilian mission. The Senator was also briefed on U.S. and NATO involvement in advising Afghan governmental agencies and the progress of reconstruction projects.
Senator Manchin met with West Virginians serving in both the military and Department of State during the day, and had dinner with troops.
Senator Manchin also visited with Afghan President Hamid Karzai where a frank discussion was held about the future role of the United States in Afghanistan.
Senator Manchin also reviewed a training facility for Afghan police forces at the NATO-supported police academy. He finished the day with a review of combat command operations at Regional Command-East, where he was hosted by Army Major General John Campbell of the 101st Airborne Division and Senior Civilian Representative Tom Gibbons. The command headquarters at Bagram Airfield also houses field hospital operations, where Senator Manchin had an opportunity to met members of the medical corps who are performing life-saving operations on our wounded warriors.
For Senator Manchin, the highlight of the day was being able to spend time meeting and talking with West Virginians and all of our brave military men and women serving in the war zone.
Afghanistan – Day Two
Senator Manchin drove through Kabul to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command (IJC) headquarters, where he met with Lieutenant General David Rodriguez for a briefing on military and intelligence operations where the troop surge is focused.
The Commander of Regional Command-Southwest, Major General Richard Mills of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, briefed Senator Manchin before he visited a remote Forward Operating Base where the Marines are fully engaged in the daily operations of clearing out Taliban fighters and securing the small villages.
He visited the Garmsir district, the breadbasket of Afghanistan, an impoverished but critical region to Afghan farmers. The Marines escorted Senator Manchin on a mile-long walk to see a street market in the district center where he participated in a traditional shura – which is like a town hall meeting - with local elders and Governor Gulab Mangal of Helmand Province.
Governor Mangal and the elders expressed gratitude for the US military efforts to clear out Taliban, which has allowed tribal leaders to run their own affairs and made it possible for the Afghans to partner on U.S. aid and assistance programs.
Ambassador Eikenberry accompanied the Senator to the district and the two had frank discussions about the impact of U.S. aid and the State Department's strategies to stabilize Afghanistan through U.S. economic and political aid.
Senator Manchin then returned to Kandahar Air Base, where massive logistical support for ongoing "clear and hold" operations in Regional Command-South is housed. Major General James Terry from the Army's 10th Mountain Division and the American Senior Civilian Representative Andrew Haviland (State Dept) briefed the Senator on the progress of operations in Kandahar region where many of the Taliban command operates.
Before departing Afghanistan, the Senator met with West Virginian service men and women. He asked them about their experiences in Afghanistan and let them know how proud he and the nation is of the personal sacrifices they are making to serve our country.
Jordan and United Arab Emirates
In transit to Jordan, the Senator met with Dubai Ambassador Richard Olson to discuss American interests in the region and the effectiveness of US trade sanctions against Iran. During the meeting he was briefed by a state department expert on Iran and the region.
In Jordan the Senator met with U.S. Ambassador Steve Beecroft, Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit and His Majesty King Abdullah II. They addressed the current political unrest in Egypt and neighboring countries in the Middle East and Africa, particularly the impact on the stability in the region as well as the Israel-Palestinian peace process.
Senator Manchin got a firsthand look at the Joint Interagency Police Training Center facility and U.S. investment in the training of Jordanian and Palestinian civil guard forces.
During the visit, he met with King Abdullah II and had a substantive discussion on the region’s recent political developments. King Abdullah and Senator Manchin had a serious discussion on the importance of the U.S. and Jordan partnership and the best strategies forward in response to regional unrest.
Senator Manchin and King Abdullah also spoke frankly about the need to set benchmarks that would ensure U.S. aid is used wisely to promote economic development and a lasting peace in the region.
During the stop in Jordan, Senator Manchin also met with Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit, and he shared his impressions of the value of Jordan's contribution to the coalition efforts in Afghanistan.
Senator Manchin was briefed by Ambassador James Cunningham on current political and security developments in the Middle East.
Senator Manchin met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak to discuss the importance of U.S. and Israeli partnership and recent security concerns facing the region. He also met with Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni and discussed a wide range of issues, including the prospects for the peace process in light of the political upheaval facing other states in the region.
Senator Manchin also met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and had a long and engaging discussion where he made clear that the relationship with Israel is unbreakable and of shared importance. Senator Manchin reiterated his appreciation for the complexity of the peace process and of the importance of Israel as an ally in the region.
As part of his briefings, Senator Manchin met with Lt. Gen. Michael Moeller and discussed the value of U.S. support for the professional training of the Palestinian Security Forces.
During a powerful series of stops, Senator Manchin also visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum and walked through the Old City and other religious sites in Jerusalem.
The final leg of Senator Manchin’s trip was focused on visiting American servicemembers being treated at Landstuhl Medical Center.
During the stop, Senator Manchin toured the new USO facility and the Fisher House, which provides family members a place to stay when visiting their loved ones. Senator Manchin also received a briefing from Brigadier General Nadja Y. West on the unique mission of Landstuhl Medical Center, where wounded warriors from the Iraq and Afghanistan theater come for medical treatment. Senator Manchin also personally visited servicemembers who were injured and recovering.
Senator Manchin also received a briefing by Brigadier General Mark D. Scraba
on the U.S. European Command, which is responsible for NATO forces and allied command operations with European nations, Afghanistan and Israel.
Please visit Senator Manchin’s photo gallery of the trip here: http://manchin.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=February-Congressional-Delegation-Trip