(Cairo, Egypt)--Over President's Day weekend, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan and Cairo, Egypt together with a bipartisan delegation of Senate leaders to meet with government, military, business, and civil society leaders in both countries. The bipartisan delegation - which is led by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) - will also visit other nations in the Middle East this week.
In Afghanistan, Senator Blumenthal and his colleagues met with U.S. and coalition forces as well as their Commander, General John Allen. The delegation also met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Afghan human rights activists and political opposition leaders. The delegation's visit focused on the ongoing U.S. negotiations with the Afghan government for a long-term strategic partnership agreement. On the strategic partnership agreement, Senator Blumenthal said: "As a United States Senator and the father of a U.S. Marine Reserve officer who has served in Afghanistan, I am proud of the extraordinary progress our men and women in uniform have made together with our Afghan partners to defeat the forces of terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan. The strategic partnership agreement is the next critical step we now must take to safeguard the gains we have achieved, and I am committed to working together with my colleagues in the Senate to expedite this agreement with our Afghan partners."
Senator Blumenthal also stressed in his meetings with government officials in Afghanistan the urgent need to address the threat posed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) against American forces and Afghans. Senator Blumenthal said: "Despite the battlefield successes we have secured against the Taliban, the use of IEDs is still rising in Afghanistan. This is a threat that requires increased and urgent attention across the U.S. government. I will return to Washington next week determined to find new ways to stop to the flow of bomb-making materials from Pakistan that are responsible for maiming and killing thousands of our forces."
In Cairo, Senator Blumenthal met with members of the newly-elected Parliament, as well as top military officials, leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, and employees of the NGOs IRI, NDI, and Freedom House. Senator Blumenthal said: "Our purpose in Cairo has been to reaffirm the bipartisan support in Congress for an irreversible transition to democracy in Egypt. We leave hopeful about the progress that Egyptians have made since their revolution one year ago, while also aware of the many challenges that still lie ahead. In particular, we were encouraged in our meetings with Egypt's newly-elected leaders by their support for safeguarding universal rights in the constitution they will be writing and for international commitments for Middle East peace. We are also hopeful that a resolution can soon be found to the problems facing IRI, NDI, Freedom House, and other NGOs in Egypt. These organizations exemplify the universal principles that the Egyptian revolution stands for, including the freedom of association and expression, and we were pleased to learn that a new NGO law is being written in parliament that we hope will allow NGOs in Egypt to operate without undue restrictions."