Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., said Wednesday that during what was his third trip to Iraq he saw definite signs of improvement in the security and economy of the nation. “I would be so bold as to say the surge had worked,” Rehberg said during a telephone press conference. Rehberg was invited to participate in the bipartisan trip over the weekend by Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., chair of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. While in Iraq, he met with the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and Iraqi officials. Rehberg, who was in Iraq in November 2003, at the time when Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was captured, and two years later in November 2005, said situations in the country were much better than the last time he was there. In 2005, he said, he thought there was “a long way to go” to provide security and stability. “I was not particularly impressed with the changes I had seen ,” he said. “I didn’t see as much change as I had hoped. I saw progress.” But, Rehberg said, there was a marked difference on this trip. More food is being raised, infrastructure is being repaired, micro loans are being made to help businesses start up, and while there are still hot spots Rehberg cited Mosul as one difficult region in most places armed guards aren’t needed to prevent violence. “Now you can walk the street,” he said. Rehberg said he met with some troops from Montana and had lunch with them. The troops all had the same message, he said. “They felt what they are doing is important,” Rehberg said, adding that that message doesn’t always come through. “They are pretty proud of what they are doing.” While some discount the impact the troop surge implemented a year-and-ahalf ago has had in reducing violence in Iraq, citing negotiations and cooperation with regional Iraqi leaders instead, Rehberg said he believes it is the increased troop presence that has had the greatest effect. That has led to coopEration by the Iraqi citizens, especially in fighting terrorism, he said. “The locals said, Hey, this is real. The Americans are serious, and we’re turning people in,’” Rehberg said. He said the reduced violence is the result of the leadership of Petraeus and is following the general’s plan and schedule, which could lead to reducing the levels of troops in Iraq. After the press conference Rehberg had to return to the floor of the House for a vote Bridger Pierce, Rehberg’s communication director, said details of troop reductions or new developments were not discussed during the trip. Some National Guard units, including the 639th Quartermaster Supply Company headquartered in Havre, have been placed on alert and have been receiving training in case of deployment. Rehberg said he was also impressed by a 6-square-mile “green zone” being implemented around the new U.S. Embassy in Iraq, soon to be staffed. The zone will provide a secure area through which people will be able to safely travel to reach the embassy, he said. “Ultimately, life will get back to normal in Iraq,” Rehberg said.