August 24, 2011

WASHINGTON – Sens. Carl Levin, Jeanne Shaheen and Jeff Merkley concluded a visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan this week, where they met with U.S. troops and commanders and senior civilian and government leaders. The senators were in the region from August 21 through August 23, 2011.

Levin, D-Mich., Shaheen, D-N.H., and Merkley, D-Ore., made the following joint statement of their impressions of their trip:

“We are in awe of the extraordinary professionalism of our troops and at the high morale they maintain.

“There has been militarily significant progress in Afghanistan since our last visits, particularly in the south. The transition of selected regions to Afghan control is on target.  The proportion of Afghan troops conducting missions has significantly improved, and the Afghans are increasingly in the lead. Increasing the size and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) is having benefits.  The ability of the ANSF to protect the Afghan people is the key to success of our mission.  The vast majority of the Afghan people detests the Taliban and tolerate their presence out of fear.

“The Afghan Local Police program – whereby U.S. and coalition special operations forces live among the local population and train the local Afghan people selected by the village elders to defend the village – has demonstrated some important early successes.

“Coalition and Afghan forces have successfully diminished Taliban havens in southern Afghanistan.  As a result, the Taliban are increasingly focusing their efforts in eastern Afghanistan.  Consequently, the Pakistan safe havens for the Haqqani Group and the Afghan Taliban Quetta Shura pose a greater threat than ever.  These safe havens allow those insurgents to cross the border to attack U.S., Afghan and coalition forces and then return to their sanctuaries.

“While the Pakistani Army takes on terrorist groups within their borders that attack them – often at great cost in Pakistani lives – they have not taken on the Haqqani Group and the Quetta Shura. We told the Pakistanis that we believe that their working to eliminate those safe havens is essential to a closer relationship between the United States and Pakistan.”

The delegation met with senior U.S. and foreign officials and commanders, including:

In Afghanistan:

- U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and his Embassy team

- Commander of ISAF and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen

- Lieutenant General Bill Caldwell, Commander of the NATO Training Mission

- Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparrotti, the Commander for ISAF and U.S. operations

- Major General Daniel Allyn, Commander of ISAF forces in Regional Command East

- Afghan President Hamid Karzai

- Minister of Defense Abdul Wardak

- Afghan Army Chief of Staff General Karimi

In Pakistan:

- Ambassador Richard Hoagland, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy and the  Embassy team

- Lieutenant General Purl Keen, Director of the Office of the Defense Representative Pakistan

- General Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan Chief of Army Staff

- Prime Minister Syed Yousef Gilani

- President Asif Ali Zardari

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