Washington (CNSNews.com) – A top Iraqi official visited wounded American troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Tuesday to thank them for their part in ending Saddam Hussein’s rule in his country.
“We have come … to express our gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices made by these great warriors, soldiers, in freeing the Iraqi people and in helping us in Iraq recover from tyranny and dictatorship,” Jawad Karim al-Bolani, Iraq’s minister of the interior, said through a translator to a handful of journalists in the lobby of the medical center.
“We also want to express our gratitude to the families of all these great men and women and express how important their sacrifices are for our nation,” he added.
Bolani’s visit with troops comes on the heels of Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) recent trip to the Middle East, where the Democratic presidential candidate caused a stir when he canceled a planned visit to wounded American soldiers.
Presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose campaign has just released a new television ad on the canceled visit, charged that Obama had “shunned” the troops. An Obama campaign spokesman denied the charge, saying the Illinois senator “did not want to have a trip to see our wounded warriors perceived as a campaign event.”
The Pentagon, meanwhile, said Obama was welcome to visit the troops – without his campaign entourage.
The Iraqi government official, who didn’t mention presidential politics, said that he also wanted to visit Walter Reed because it was a “great institution.”
“(We wanted) to witness firsthand the level of technical (and) medical sophistication that is being practiced here so that we may learn from it to help our foreign wounded and the many, many victims of terrorism and violence in Iraq,” Bolani added.
CNSNews.com asked the minister if he supported a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq.
“I would like to talk about all the progress and all the improvements that have taken place throughout Iraq at the security level,” Bolani said, adding that Iraq still faces challenges in the future because of “regional considerations.”
Although Bolani did not express support for a timeline, he said the Iraqi government is doing what “is necessary to be ready and to step up and to fulfill our requirements … for this transitional time.”
In a response to a question from a Department of Defense official, Bolani tried to reassure Americans about the status of the Iraqi National Police.
“Our national police in Iraq have demonstrated that it is very professional and has increased its performance level,” Bolani said.
While at Walter Reed, Bolani visited soldiers at its Military Advanced Training Center, which provides physical therapy and counseling for troops who have lost limbs or the use of limbs.