Congressman Jim Cooper, having just returned from a trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, spoke with media this morning about his journey and the announcement by President George W. Bush that U.S. troop levels would be reduced in Iraq but escalated in Afghanistan.
While calling the surge in Iraq a success, Cooper cautioned that people should be "slow in jumping to conclusions." He cited the "Sons of Iraq" program, where former insurgents were being paid by the U.S. government not to fight and urged caution that they may switch sides again.
Cooper then turned his focus to Afghanistan, saying he hoped that the president would "fit the manpower to the mission" and not just put the same plan in place that had been in Iraq.
"Afghanistan is a much more primitive culture than Iraq," he said. "They have no middle class and a 70 percent illiteracy rate."
To change the situation in Afghanistan, Cooper said it would have to be done "village by village, valley by valley."
While on his trip, he and other members of Congress met with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson, General David D. McKiernan, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force, and other officials from both countries.
Cooper said that the Pakistanis expressed concern that U.S. attacks in the region are harming their efforts in the Northeastern territories of the country. Just recently, according to Cooper, Pakistan has felt that it "finally had the political capital" to launch air strikes on rebel forces in its own country and wanted to be able to continue.
Recently, Pakistani and U.S. military officials met on the U.S.S. Linclon aircraft carrier to discuss the situation in the region. Cooper said that he and the delegation were "not privy to those discussions."