Stefanik visits Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates

February 20, 2015
In The News

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, visited the Middle East this week to get perspective as the House Armed Services Committee prepares to hold hearings on President Obama’s request for authorization to fight Islamic State terrorists.

“The threat of ISIS is not just one country. It’s a regional threat, and it’s also a global threat,” Stefanik said in a telephone interview, after she returned Friday from the weeklong trip to Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates.

Stefanik, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, traveled with an “official” House delegation that also included Reps. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.; Seth Moulton, D-Mass.; and Brad Ashford, D-Neb.

The delegation met with King Abdullah II of Jordan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Iraqi President Fuad Masum.

“We shared our support from the United States perspective on a bipartisan basis to make sure that our partners in the Middle East can succeed in the long run,” Stefanik said. “And in many cases that’s providing air support, but it’s also providing training for soldiers so that they can fight themselves to defend Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Moulton, the Democrat from Massachusetts, said the trip reinforced the need to have “a political strategy” to defeat ISIS.

“I continue to believe that the best way to stabilize the Middle East is to provide the Iraqi government with diplomatic and political support to empower Iraqi leaders to take on this fight,” he said, in a press release.

The House Armed Services Committee is expected to begin hearings next week on President Obama’s request for authorization to use military force against ISIS, the terrorist group that has seized territory in Syria and Iraq, and is seeking to establish an Islamic state.

The president is seeking war-powers authorization that would expire after three years.

It would end the authorization Congress passed in 2002 for operations in Iraq.

Stefanik said Democrats and Republicans alike have criticized aspects of Obama’s proposal.

“I don’t support the explicit details of the AUMF because I believe it hamstrings our troops in its inability to beat this group in the long run,” she said.

Some of the debate has centered around whether the U.S. should send in ground forces.

Obama has proposed banning long-term, large-scale ground missions such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq, but would permit using ground forces “in other more limited circumstances,” according to The Associated Press.

Stefanik said the use of ground forces should not be ruled out.

“I don’t think any option should be taken off the table,” she said. “But something that I learned on the trip with these meetings with the heads of state is that in many cases what they’re looking to the U.S. for is a commitment to help train and make sure that their troops are able to take this fight in the long run.”

Stefanik said the delegation flew to the Middle East on commercial flights, and then flew around the region on military air craft.

She stayed in a civilian unit at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan.

“The highlight of the experience” was meeting with soldiers, including some based out of Fort Drum, she said.

“I was very impressed by how closely all the troops follow the discussions in Washington because it has an immediate effect on them,” she said. “It was a great opportunity to educate myself on what it’s like being over there.”

Congressional trips to the Middle East have been fairly common in the past decade.

Local Reps. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, Scott Murphy, D-Glens Falls, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-Greenport and John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, all visited Iraq or Afghanistan or both.