June 03, 2005

CRAPO VISITS SOLDIERS, NOTES PROGRESS IN IRAQ

Senator also makes stops in Russia, Baltic States, Jordan

Washington, DC â?? Idaho Senator Mike Crapo visited with Idaho soldiers in Fallujah, Iraq, as he completed a tour of the Middle East, Russia and the Baltic States this week. He says that the most remarkable observation about his stay in Iraq is the progress that U.S. soldiers and advisers are making in successfully turning over many military and security functions to Iraqi soldiers and police. â??We were using mostly U.S. and multi-national troops just a year ago,â?? Crapo said via telephone from London, England on route back to the United States. â??Now there are 168,000 military and police forces who are Iraqi and the U.S. and multi-national forces are playing a supplemental role in day-to-day security.â?? Crapo traveled via helicopter and ground transport from Baghdad to Fallujah where he met with two Idaho Marines, Corporal Justin Erickson of Coeur dâ??Alene (now stationed in North Carolina) and Lt. Corporal Damie Tom of Blackfoot. Crapo said that the soldiers told him they were receiving enough equipment and support, but are concerned about the perception of their mission back home. â??We should be proud of the service of our soldiers,â?? Crapo said. â??They are doing tremendous work and great progress is being made. They wanted me to tell folks back home that the U.S. military and the people of Iraq are taking significant steps forward toward independence.â?? Crapo told Iraqi leaders, as well as Jordanâ??s King Abdullah whom he met in Amman, that progress for Iraq means sticking to political timetables and an election process. â??I told them I want to be sure there is no delay in the August 15th timeline for setting up a new Iraqi constitution. A referendum vote on that constitution would follow on October 15th, followed by new national elections for political leadership in December. Staying on schedule will promote the integration of many factions into the national system rather than into the insurgency. If we delay, I am afraid the movement forward may slow down. I canâ??t overemphasize how important this is.â?? Crapo visited Iraq, Jordan, Russia, Latvia, and the Ukraine during the trip with Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Senator James DeMint (R-South Carolina). The visits were part of a congressional tour inspecting U.S. security and diplomatic operations in the Middle East, Russia, and the Baltic States. Crapo met with Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga in Jurmala, and with Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko in Kiev for briefings on the former Soviet statesâ?? progress toward free society and a market-oriented economy. He came away â??impressed with the political and economic reforms and the will of the people to seek freedom.â?? The relationship between the former Soviet states and Russia was also discussed during a visit with officials from the Russian Foreign Ministry at the Kremlin inside Moscow. â??Despite a long and difficult process, the Iraqi people are like their neighbors in Russia and the Baltic States in that they are relishing new freedom and do not want to deviate from the path they have set upon,â?? Crapo said. â??Americans have a role to play here by assisting with infrastructure and security. In Iraq, they donâ??t even have a banking system. Itâ??s a cash economy if you can imagine that. We will have to pursue this course to prevent terrorism and other actions from being exported to the U.S.â?? Crapoâ??s telephone conference from London as well as pictures of the Crapo and Delegationâ??s visits with Idaho troops and with dignitaries during the trip are available on Crapoâ??s website at http://crapo.senate.gov or through Crapoâ??s communications offices at the numbers listed above.