TIME Foreign Policy

House Speaker John Boehner Visits Afghanistan

Speaker of the House John Bohener arrives for his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill, April 10, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Speaker of the House John Bohener arrives for his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill, April 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer—Getty Images

Republican delegation's visit comes as presidential elections continue, and as U.S. officials weigh how many—if any—American troops to leave in the country after the end of the year, when U.S. operations there are set to conclude

Speaker of the House John Boehner visited Afghanistan Monday, the highest-profile visit by an American official since that country’s first round of presidential voting earlier this month.

Boehner and a number of House Republicans met with American forces, as well as Ambassador James Cunningham and General Joseph Dunford, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. According to a statement from Boehner’s office, “the delegation sent a strong, unequivocal message that the House of Representatives wants to maintain a right-sized presence in Afghanistan to successfully complete the work that has been done to date, and to honor the sacrifice of thousands of troops and civilians, as well as their families.”

The Republican delegation’s visit comes as U.S. officials weigh how many—if any—American troops to leave in Afghanistan after the end of the year, when U.S. operations there are set to conclude. President Barack Obama has stated a desire to keep some American troops in Afghanistan for counterterrorism and training purposes, but ordered the Pentagon in February to draw up plans for a complete withdrawal from the country, as Afghan President Hamid Karzai refused to sign a Bilateral Security Agreement that would provide legal protections for remaining U.S. troops. However, every frontrunner in the presidential election to replace Karzai has said they would sign the bilateral agreement.

Boehner sought to pay tribute to troops who had fought in Afghanistan since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “Many Americans have sacrificed to secure these goals, and far too many have made the ultimate sacrifice or suffered life-changing wounds in the past twelve years of fighting,” he said in a statement. “Now, the Afghans are poised to elect a new government for the first time in their history. We must honor the sacrifices of the Americans and Afghans who have given so much to reach this point and continue our work together.”

House Education & Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Natural Resources Committee Chairman ‘Doc’ Hastings (R-WA), Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), and Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) accompanied Boehner on the trip, according to the statement.

Obama last visited Afghanistan in May 2012.

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