Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of the bipartisan Congressional delegation that recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan held a news conference this afternoon to discuss their experiences and observations. Below are Pelosi's remarks:
'As is appropriate, my first trip outside of the United States as Speaker of the House was to visit our men and women in uniform - to thank them for their courage, their patriotism, and their sacrifices that they are making and that their families are making for our country.
'As a tribute to them, I wanted to bring the highest-level delegation possible - people who are respected for their commitment to our national security and their concern for the welfare of our troops - Members of Congress who understand how America must protect its power and project its values.
'On our bipartisan delegation, we were joined by the distinguished Member from Ohio, David Hobson, recognized as a champion of our troops and our veterans and an expert on international security; the Chairman of our Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton; the Chairman of our Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Lantos; the Chairman of our Intelligence Committee, Silvestre Reyes; from the Appropriations Committee two decision makers who are critical to the mission: Congressman Jack Murtha, the Subcommittee Chair on Defense and Congresswoman Nita Lowey, the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, which covers reconstruction and investment in Iraq and Afghanistan.
'Our first visit to the troops was in Iraq. It has been nearly four years since we went to war in Iraq, and nearly four years later there is still no end in sight.
'We went to Iraq convinced, I am speaking for myself, that the war could not be won solely by military means. Our military has done their jobs excellently, but they cannot be expected to do all that needs to be done alone. We went with the hope and expectation that what we would see in Iraq was some coordinated effort to have political solutions to relieve the civil strife and violence there and diplomatic efforts to bring stability to the region. Sadly, we saw no evidence of either.
'The escalation instituted by the President has been tried before and failed. Although we heard varying judgments about prospects for success this time, everyone we spoke to agreed that this was the one last chance, and it might not work.
'A better course than the escalation would be to quickly transition U.S. troops from a combat mission to a training mission; a mission committed to force protection, border security, fighting terrorism, and training Iraqis. A comprehensive diplomatic initiative focused on Iraq's neighbors and dealing with security, reconstruction, and economic development matters must be made an urgent priority. Change the mission, engage in diplomatic initiatives, and once again have political initiatives - for example amending the Constitution to expand the political participation and civic participation of all Iraqis in order to end the violence. This simply was not in evidence.
'We next visited our troops in Afghanistan. Sadly, the war in Afghanistan is far from over. Our troops have been on the front lines for more than five years, but in some ways Afghanistan has been a forgotten war. We conveyed to our NATO partners that they must provide their fair share of the additional troops that are necessary to defeat the Taliban. We have conveyed to them that the nations of Europe and elsewhere must play a bigger role in the effort to enhance the authority of the central government, improve security, and expand economic opportunity - that must be a priority.
'We also conveyed that aggressive action is needed to address the escalating poppy cultivation that risks undermining the efforts of the Afghan government and coalition forces to stabilize the country. We conveyed to President Karzai, as well, a strong commitment from the U.S. to help in every way Afghanistan.
'The indelible memories of the trip will be those of our troops - from Camp Victory in Iraq, to the base at Bagram in Afghanistan, to the hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. We were inspired by their dedication, their spirit, and their selflessness. Our commitment is to ensure that the policies they are given to implement match the exceptional quality of their service and sacrifice.'