Oregon Sen. Merkley on fact-finding trip to Afghanistan

—Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., is spending his President’s Day vacation traveling through Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kuwait and India, his office announced today.

Merkley embarked on Thursday with with Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., to “get an on-the-ground look at the state of our military activities on the region,” Merkley spokeswoman Julie Edwards said, in a written statement.

Members of congress don’t release advance itineraries of trips into potentially dangerous areas. So far, Merkley spent less than a day in Kuwait, then traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan for about two days each. While in Afghanistan Merkley met with a variety of U.S. military officials and diplomats, including Gen. Stanley McChrystal and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry.

He also visited a police training center and met with Afghanistan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Gov. Atta Mohammad Noor, leader of the Balkh province in northern Afghanistan. In a January article, the Los Angeles Times described Atta as “a personification of Afghanistan’s deeply entrenched warlord culture,” and former leader of the Northern Alliance, which fought the Taliban in 2001.

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