March 17, 2006
Governor Kaine was back in the commonwealth Friday night after his trip to Iraq this week. The governor left Andrews Air Force Base Sunday along with governors from three other states. They traveled to Baghdad and met with the U.S. Ambassador and troops from here in Virginia.
"It was a very very powerful week," said Kaine after landing in Richmond Friday afternoon. "I think the highlight...was seeing the guard unit from Virginia."
He met with nearly 160 troops from the state. Many of them have been in Iraq for more than two months.
"Basically what they do is provide security for the president, prime minister, and vice-president of Iraq, which is a pretty tough duty. But their morale was really high and that was really a highlight to get a chance to spend some time with them," said Kaine.
His trip coincided with a particularly aggressive week for U.S. forces. The governor said the military did not let on that anything was about to happen, but that their actions came as no surprise to him.
"It was very clear that they were taking very seriously the civil unrest and the aftermath of the shrine bombings on the 22nd of February, and were wanting to do some things to make sure that they were restoring order," he said.
Kaine also says he backs the president on the issue of a when to pull out of Iraq.
"I've not been of the school that we should set a time table and leave. I think that would be a real disaster, and I feel that even stronger after having been there," said the governor.
Politics aside, he said the main goal of the trip was to give a message to local troops.
"Just get a chance to say thank you. I mean that really was what made the trip special. Just a chance to express our appreciation to them for what they're doing."
The week-long trip was kept secret until after the group of governors arrived in Iraq early in the week. Kaine also mentioned a side trip to Afghanistan, but for security reasons did not comment on the meetings in that country.
The governor accepted the trip last Saturday after the Virginia General Assembly completed it's session.