The longtime congressman whose district includes Wayne County returned from a trip to Iraq last weekend.

After hearing reports from Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker on Monday, U.S. Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Syracuse, said he supports a withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Walsh, who represents Wayne County and parts of Monroe, returned from a 36-hour visit to the war-torn country before the long-awaited assessment on the war. 

 
Walsh and other local congressmembers have said they would base key decisions on how the U.S. should proceed with Iraq based on the report from Petraeus and Crocker, the two top U.S. officials on the ground in Iraq.


"Iraq is fresh on my mind and on my shoes, and I am not convinced that open-ended American military presence in Iraq is in the best interests of the United States," Walsh said in a statement.


Walsh, who opposed President Bush's troop-surge plan earlier this year, added he did "see first-hand, unmistakable proof that the influx of American troops in Baghdad has been successful from a military standpoint."


However, "despite the unquestionable short-term success of the surge, Iraq remains a dangerous place that requires an Iraqi-driven, long-term solution. The Iraqi government is stumbling towards a national democracy, though a sense of urgency is lacking. The Iraqi military is mobilizing, though its unwillingness to take the lead is evident.


"Iraq’s stalled political progress will continue unless it is forced to take charge of its own destiny. The Iraqi military will not stand up until the U.S. military physically begins to step down."


"The clock is running out on American military support."


Walsh, who also visited Iraq four years ago, traveled with the U.S. Army on the ground, flew with the U.S. Air Force and visited with wounded soldiers.


During a visit to Messenger Post Newspapers last month, Walsh said he had broken rank with fellow upstate Republicans on the war. "I take a little different tact than Tom and Randy of late," said Walsh, referring to Reps. Tom Reynolds of Clarence and Randy Kuhl of Hammondsport. Both Reynolds and Kuhl said during separate visits with Messenger Post that they were frustrated with lack of progress in Iraq but were waiting for a report from Petraeus to comment further on which direction the war should take. Reynolds and Kuhl supported the troop surge.


Kuhl was preparing a statement today, but it was not available at press time.
"You have to see if the Iraqi people and government are moving forward," Kuhl said in August.


Today, Reynolds issued the following statement:


"General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker both offered straightforward assessments of the situation on the ground in Iraq. It is clear that our brave men and women in the Armed Forces are ably and strongly executing the counter-insurgency mission set forth by General Petraeus. 


"However, we are also seeing, and something that has only remotely changed over the past eight months, is the inability of the Iraqi government to capitalize on the growing security in various areas throughout the country. 


"I continue to support the military goals set forth by General Petraeus, but it is far time the Iraqi government becomes more than casual observers in how their country is run."