Delegation visits troops as decision on Afghanistan looms

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the House’s senior defense appropriator, led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Afghanistan and the Middle East region earlier this week.

Murtha, the chairman of the Appropriations Defense subcommittee, met with the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry.

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The congressional delegation comes a week before President Barack Obama is expected to announce his strategy for Afghanistan and possible troop increases.

Obama’s announcement likely will commence an intense and divisive congressional debate not just over the price tag of the war, but also over the U.S. role in that country.

Murtha told The Hill recently that he does not see an “achievable goal” in Afghanistan. “I do not see a strategy and how we can measure it,” Murtha said.

Murtha’s congressional delegation also stopped at the border between Iraq and Kuwait to observe and talk to officials in charge of the withdrawal of equipment from Iraq. 

Congressional delegations are customary for the Thanksgiving recess particularly with members from defense committees, but they are not announced in advance for security reasons.

The delegation included mostly members of the House Appropriations Committee, such as Reps. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), Kay Granger (R-Texas) and Ken Calvert (R-Calif.).

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has ensured that the deployed military gets “a literal taste of home” for Thanksgiving, said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon’s press secretary.

The Defense Logistics Agency has made plans to ship Thanksgiving meals for approximately 180,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Without wading too far into the delicious details, our forces in these two theaters will be sitting down to Thanksgiving feasts that includes 63,000 pounds of potatoes, 8,700 cans of cranberry sauce, 61,000 pounds of stuffing and more than 465,000 pounds of turkey. For dessert, there will be 67,000 pies and cakes,” Morrell said.

“Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines risk their lives on a daily basis. They deserve every effort we can make to show them how thankful we are for their continuing sacrifices,” Morrell said.