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Troops must get job done in Iraq, says Rep. Kind

Unlike some of his fellow-Democrats, 3rd District Congressman Ron Kind does not endorse the immediate withdrawal of American troops in Iraq.

At the monthly meeting of the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau Nov. 30 at the Hudson Golf Club, Kind said American troops have to remain in Iraq and get the job done.

He does not, however, suggest that troops remain in Iraq forever.

"Our troops are doing a great job," Kind said. "We may disagree or agree on why we are there, but we have to deal with the current situation."

Kind recently visited Iraq for the third time. He was in Iraq for four days just prior to the Oct. 15 election in which Iraqi citizens ratified a new constitution.

"There is a lot at stake and we have a huge investment in the outcome of Iraq, and it's in our national interest to have a hand in the results," Kind said. "If Iraq can achieve a democracy and get the changes in place, it could be the jewel of the entire Middle East. A quick withdrawal could cause a civil war."

On the other hand, Kind said that staying too long also creates problems.

"If we stay too long, it could create a culture of dependency (on America)," Kind said. "We must make them realize that they (Iraqi people) have to take over at some point in time - it's a real balancing act."

He suggested that a future timetable with a pullout date may be appropriate. Kind also said the Iraqi people want to make things work, but suggested that they too will not be happy with continuous "American occupation."

"The bottom line is, we can't leave too soon and we can't stay too long," Kind said.

After his trip to Iraq, Kind came up with a report card on progress being made in the country. The report included the following grades:

1) Troop morale, A-. Kind said troop morale is excellent and that most feel they have a job to do and are committed to completing the job.

2) Iraqi Security Forces, C. Kind said troops are making progress in training Iraqi troops, but he said there is still a "long way to go."

3) Taxpayer Accountability, D. He said the economics of Iraq created a loss of $8 billion last year. He said the "cash and carry" system of doing business presents many opportunities for money to be lost. He is calling for a system with more accountability.

4) Reconstruction, D-. Kind said the reconstruction effort is not going well. He said the largest problem is security. He said it is difficult to be building hospitals and schools in areas that are not secure.

5) Political process, ? He said he is unsure of what direction the process will go. He said two important dates were the ratification of the constitution Oct. 15 and the upcoming national election Dec. 15. He hopes the Sunni faction of the country participates in the elections. Kind said their participation in the process is important because it will give the insurgents less political ammunition.

"I wish I had a crystal ball - it's a tough region, a tough country and a country with a long history," Kind said.

Kind said the toughest part of his job has been attending the funerals/visitations of military personnel from the 3rd District. He recently visited Hudson after the death of Spc. Benjamin Smith on Nov. 2 in Iraq.

"Last weekend I was in Sparta for a funeral," Kind said. "We've had 13 military funerals in our district since the war started."

Kind was also critical of the country's effort to catch Osama Bin Laden and stomp out al Qaeda.

"Bin Laden is still out there; al Qaeda is still out there," Kind said. "All our resources are in Iraq. "The terrorist network is still out there and it is lethal."