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Cooper: Iraq security situation 'worse'
Jul 14, 2005 12:00 am
July 12, 2005
About a year after his first trip to Iraq, Congressman Jim Cooper described the security situation as "worse" instead of better.
"We had to wear helmets and full body armor the entire time," the Tennessee Democrat said Monday afternoon. "I didn't have to do that last time."
Cooper, D-Nashville, traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan for five days to examine the troops' progress compared to a year ago. He explained ground transportation is not any better in the two Middle Eastern countries.
The congressman was flown from site to site in a helicopter in Iraq despite being transported on the ground a year ago. Traveling on the ground in Afghanistan also was impossible for the congressman, who noted the traveling conditions for soldiers are no better.
"There are tough working conditions for our troops," Cooper said. "There are so many IEDS, improvised explosive devices. It is impossible for a secure group to travel by ground."
Despite the worsening conditions, Cooper pointed out the troops' morale is still high. He also noted the new guardsmen arriving in the Middle East for the first time are "excited" to be in the country.
"They are unbelieveably patriotic," he said. "They are the most capable and greatest fighting force."
To help the guardsmen, Cooper said troops – whose average age is 41 – need more uparmored humvees, body armor and weapons. Iraq and Afghanistan also need help in stimulating the economy to prevent the unemployment and lawlessness.
"But the economy seems to be coming back despite the violence," the congressman said.
But Cooper declined to guess when the violence would end and allow American soldiers to return home.
"There is political hope with election looming in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "This fall and autumn will determine how long our troops will have to stay in both countries."
If Sunnis and Iraq and others in Afghanistan participate, U.S. troops will have a better chance of coming home soon, Cooper said.
"Once the government is perceived as legitimate, the Iraqis and Afgahns will work hard to rebuild their countries," he said. "Because it is their job, not our job."
Night News Editor J.K. Devine can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 46 or by e-mail at email@example.com.