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Troop Morale Good Despite 'Difficult' Situations

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2003 – American troops are doing a fine job and their morale is good despite "difficult" conditions, agreed four congressmen recently returned from Iraq.

"I commend the extraordinary dedication, skill and courage shown by our servicemen and women in the field," said California Rep. Ed Royce, who led the delegation, which included members of the House International Relations Committee.

New York Rep. Peter King met a number of troops from his home state and said they made him proud to be a New Yorker. He cited their "outstanding valor and dedication."

Noting there will be "tough times" in Iraq, King said he has "no doubt the American military will be able to overcome whatever those difficulties are."

He said his talks with Iraqis indicate they support or accept U.S. presence. "If anything," he added, "they wanted assurances that the United States would not cut and run. I know that this president and this secretary of defense would never cut and run. It's important that we get this message out to the people of Iraq -- that the United States stands committed to the end."

Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot, vice chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, said, "Clearly (we) face some significant security issues," but some parts of country are "quite stable and considerable progress is being made."

Chabot said he spoke with a number of troops from Ohio. "(Their) morale was tremendous. We need to make sure we provide all the resources they need and to make it a little more 'livable' over there for our troops."

Ultimately, the answer, said Chabot, is "to train the Iraqis to defend their own country."

Georgia Rep. Max Burns said, "Our troops have done a great job and continue to do a great job under very, very difficult circumstances."

In talking with commanders and troops, Burns said he's convinced the United States is "doing the right thing."

He said he believes the delegation had one consensus: "Failure is not an option. We must persevere. We must make sure this is a stable and democratic state in the Middle East."

Noting that recent attacks have been on infrastructure and on a "developing Iraq," the congressman said it's extremely important that the coalition "stay the course."

Burns pointed out the dedication of Reserve and National Guard troops. "Morale is very, very strong," he said. "They're doing a job because they believe that this is essential for peace and stability, not only for that area of the Middle East but indeed throughout the world."

Royce spoke of changes he noticed since his first trip to the war-torn country in May. He said there has been much progress, especially around Mosul. He cited examples: a refinery being brought back on line, as well as water projects that included taking water out of a lake and irrigating fields.

Royce said he sees why the progress of these reconstruction programs with Iraqis and U.S. servicemen and women working side by side is so important in building relationships that lead to good sources of information.

The congressman said part of the delegation's mission is to explain to colleagues the importance of the supplemental funding measure just passed by Congress that contained monies to continue Iraq reconstruction projects as well as support for American troops so "they can finish their mission."

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