WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Senate Armed Services Committee, returned from a weeklong national security trip to the Middle East focused on the U.S. fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Senator Heinrich traveled to Iraq, Kuwait, and the Horn of Africa where he met with top military officials to discuss operations against ISIL, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations, and visited with U.S. troops from New Mexico.
"During my trip to the Middle East, I was able to meet with top officials to discuss our progress in the fight against ISIL. While there are significant challenges that lie ahead, I left the region optimistic about our military strategy to degrade and destroy this barbaric terrorist organization. America is playing a critical role in that effort, employing a full range of military might, as well as economic and diplomatic power. I'm encouraged that we are taking a smart approach that provides the training, resources, and support to our regional allies like the Iraqi security forces, without putting tens of thousands of U.S. troops on the front lines. This strategy puts the pieces in place for a more lasting solution," said Sen. Heinrich. "I also appreciated the opportunity to visit with our men and women from New Mexico serving in the region. Americans should be incredibly proud of and confident in the work our troops are doing to combat ISIL and keep our homeland safe."
On Wednesday, August 31, Senator Heinrich traveled to the Republic of Djibouti where he was greeted by President Ismail Omar Guelleh. Senator Heinrich then met with Major General Kurt L. Sonntag, the Commanding General of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa to discuss military operations, strengthening partner nation defense capability, and building and maintaining U.S. strategic access in the region. Djibouti is strategically located on the Horn of Africa next to Yemen and Somalia, where multiple terrorist organizations operate. Later that day, Senator Heinrich met with servicemembers from New Mexico stationed at Camp Lemonier.
On Friday, September 2, Senator Heinrich arrived in Kuwait City where he was briefed on counter-ISIL operations, including the significant advances made in the fight to reclaim territory from ISIL, and preparations to retake Mosul. He met with the new Commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), Army Lieutenant General Stephen J. Townsend. Lieutenant General Townsend is leading the coalition efforts against ISIL at the OIR headquarters in Camp Arifjan.
At Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Senator Heinrich also had lunch with the men and women of the New Mexico National Guard in the 126 Military Police Company. He had the opportunity to thank them for their service and hear from them about their experience being deployed to the region.
On Saturday, September 3, Senator Heinrich traveled to Baghdad where he met with regional leaders, including the new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Their discussions focused on liberating Mosul from ISIL and the importance of maintaining a strategic partnership, as well as humanitarian efforts.
In Erbil on Sunday, September 4, Senator Heinrich met with American military leaders in Iraqi Kurdistan and members of the Peshmerga, who are fighting against ISIL in northern Iraq. Senator Heinrich also met with Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani.