Pace Visits U.S. Troops in Central Asia
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2004 Marine Gen. Peter Pace met thousands of U.S. servicemembers during a swing through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan Nov. 20-24.
Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went to the region to thank American servicemembers for their contributions to the global war on terrorism. "He wanted to look them in the eyes and assure them that their sacrifices are appreciated by the American people," said Pace's spokeswoman Marine Col. Ellen Haddock.
Pace visited troops in Forward Operating Base Salerno, Kandahar, Kabul and Bagram in Afghanistan. He also met with servicemembers at Kharsi-Khanabad Air Base in Uzbekistan and Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan.
Pace was impressed by the joint and combined teams that commanders have put together in Afghanistan. "Many times he said the bases reminded him of the bar scene in Star Wars, with servicemembers of every service and many different nationalities working together," Haddock said.
During an interview in Bagram, Pace said the difference in Afghanistan in the year since he last visited "is truly remarkable."
"They have traffic jams in Kabul now, for crying out loud," Haddock said. Pace mentioned that there are more markets open, much more construction, and many more boys and girls are going to school. Pace said that U.S. servicemembers have made a difference in the lives of all Afghans.
Haddock said that many Afghans showed the general their voter registration cards. "They were very proud that they are part of the future of Afghanistan," she said.
Pace said that many soldiers and Marines spoke highly of the members of the Afghan National Army. "The soldiers in the field, the Marines in the field feel particularly good about fighting alongside them," he said.
He said the Afghan soldiers fight right alongside coalition troops and have proved courageous in battle and useful in dealing with local populations.
Haddock said the Oct. 9 elections were a "tipping point" for the country. The number of people who voted and the resounding victory of moderate parties show that Afghans do want a democracy that respects the rights of all and can provide security to all.
Pace said the country still faces problems. Coalition forces will continue to hunt down al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban rebels. The coalition will work with the Afghan government to combat the cultivation of opium poppies and its conversion to heroin, he said.
At every stop in the region, Pace stressed that the American people understand the sacrifices servicemembers are making and honor them for it. And he urged servicemembers to examine their roles in the region. "Our troops get it," Pace said. "They understand what they are doing and why they are doing it, and they have justifiable pride in their accomplishments."