The following statement by Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) follows his recent trip to Iraq over the past weekend:

“I recently returned from a trip to visit our troops in Iraq.  I met with our military’s top leaders in the region and I was also able to meet with some of the soldiers, Marines and airmen from Washington state. They are doing a great job and we should make every effort to support them.

One common thread that I heard over and over again is the strain that is being placed upon our troops as their deployments stretch out longer and longer. This is a strain on both our troops and their families back at home. We need to take action to reduce the enormous strain that our operations in Iraq have placed on our service members, including those in the Guard and Reserve.  As I have witnessed first hand in Iraq, we have a dramatic need to increase the number of troops in our active duty military. If we’re going to continue to be actively engaged around the world, we must make sure we have enough active duty members to support our missions.

We also cannot afford to abandon our reconstruction efforts in Iraq. In order to ensure that Iraq will not reemerge as a destabilizing force in the Middle East, we must establish security there and help Iraqis build the foundations for a democracy. To pull out of Iraq at this point would leave a shattered country in the hands of whichever militant group is able to establish control and suppress the Iraqi people. As we have seen in Afghanistan and elsewhere, unstable countries in which people lack basic freedoms are the most likely to become breeding grounds for terrorism. Without question, leaving Iraq in this condition would create an even graver threat to our security and that of our allies in the region.

In my role on both the House Armed Services and International Relations Committees, I will continue to support our mission in Iraq and will keep working to make sure we effectively address the challenges that arise in its reconstruction. First and foremost, though, we must continually remember ours sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors who are on the front lines, throughout the world in this War on Terror. They deserve our constant attention and we must show them all of the support that we can offer.”