Congressman Huizenga visits Afghanistan, thanks troops

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga returned Monday from a trip to Afghanistan, where he visited and thanked American troops and learned more about the mission on the ground. The Zeeland Republican met with soldiers from across Michigan, including Ludington and Grand Rapids.
Tribune Staff
Jan 20, 2012

“I was honored to be able to personally thank the men and women of our armed forces for a great job on our missions there,” Huizenga said. “I wanted to let them know that my constituents and I have not forgotten them or the work and sacrifice they put in every day to help keep our country safe.”

Huizenga said the trip fulfills a promise he made to the constituents of Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District to visit American troops on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He visited Iraq in May, and he was in Afghanistan Jan. 12-16.

“While each trip was very different, in both countries I was highly impressed by all of the members of the military that I met,” the congressman said.

In Afghanistan this past week, Huizenga said he was “cautiously encouraged” by the progress he saw on the ground.

“I also witnessed the truly coalition effort this is, and want to recognize the work of the troops of our international partners — including Britain, Australia, the Netherlands, Jordan and Romania — who are helping to push this effort forward,” he said upon his return to the United States. “I was encouraged by the reported improvement of the Afghan National Army, and how much they want to move forward on their own to protect their country.”

Huizenga said there are still a number of concerns that combine to make him wary of setting an arbitrary date years in advance for pulling all U.S. support and troops out of the country. These factors include corruption in the Afghanistan National Police, and local and federal government — adding to the frailty of the current government there. The pressure from Pakistan to the east and other countries in the region is also a major concern as Afghanistan moves forward, he said.

“Each day, I now proudly carry in my pocket a ‘challenge coin’ given to me by a Marine sergeant major from Gladwin, Mich.,” Huizenga said. “It’s a small but heavy coin that reminds me of their service and sacrifice, and as a signal to those veterans and service members I meet. They will not be forgotten.”

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