April 26, 2019

Returning to Iraq for First Time Since Being Shot Down, Duckworth Leads Bipartisan Congressional Delegation to Middle East


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – This week, combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Iraq, joining U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Angus King (I-ME) on an official trip to the Middle East. The Senators traveled to Baghdad, Taji, and Erbil, where they met with Iraq’s top leaders and received operational and intelligence updates from American diplomats and military commanders in the region. The Senators visited American troops deployed across Iraq, including many Illinois natives, and they met with Kurdish leaders to reiterate the importance of our nation’s alliance with our Kurdish partners who fought alongside American forces against ISIS. The trip was Duckworth’s first time returning to the country where was she was shot down in 2004 while flying a Blackhawk helicopter during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photos of the trip are available here.

“Fifteen years ago, I deployed to Iraq as an American Soldier to fly helicopter missions. This week, I returned in a role I never expected: as a United States Senator leading a bipartisan delegation to show our support for the people of Iraq and express our hope that Iraq will be an independent, strong country and a close ally of the United States for many years to come,” said Senator Duckworth. “I was proud to join Senators Isakson and King representing our nation on this important trip – and I was even prouder that I was able to leave Iraq under my own power this time.”

“I was pleased to be back in Baghdad with our troops and the people of Iraq for the fourth time,” said Senator Isakson, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Iraq is a long-term strategic partner and we care about its security, independence and sovereignty. Democracy and freedom are still new to Iraq, and I am proud to support the enduring partnership between Iraq and the United States as we seek to strengthen these values. With the support of the United States and our allies, progress has been made to increase stability in the region. We have successfully ended the Islamic State’s physical control of the Iraqi territory, but there is still much more work to be done to curb its influence in the region. A strong Iraq is good for regional stability and for countering Iran.”

“After a whirlwind three days of meetings with American military officials, State Department officials, Iraqi leaders and national security officials, I’m returning to the Senate with a better understanding of the ongoing challenges in Iraq. Among the most important takeaways from this trip is the knowledge of the continuing danger that ISIS can pose if left unchecked, and the importance of our continued operation to ensure they do not gain a new foothold,” said Senator King. “It was an incredibly informative experience, and I was proud to share it with my good friends Senator Isakson and particularly Senator Duckworth, who was on her first trip to Iraq since she was combat wounded. To witness Senator Duckworth flying once again over the site where she was shot down in 2004 was a moment I’ll never forget. I’m deeply grateful for her service, and for the service of all the men and women deployed to Iraq and across the world to keep America safe.”

In Iraq, the Senators met with a contingent of top Iraqi and American officials including:

  • Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi
  • Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi
  • Iraqi President Barham Salih
  • Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani
  • U.S. Embassy Chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Mission in Iraq, Joey Hood
  • U.S. Consul General in Erbil, Steven Fagin
  • American Military Commanders from the Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve
  • American Servicemembers from Illinois National Guard 108th Sustainment Brigade Task Force Lincoln
  • Combat Aviation Brigade Supporting Coalition Operations in Iraq

Duckworth has been outspoken about the critical importance of defending our Kurdish partners who fought alongside U.S. military forces against ISIS. After President Trump announced plans to withdraw our military from Syria earlier this year, Duckworth wrote to the President along with Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to urge him to protect our Kurdish partners in the region, not abandon them, and to express the United States’ strong commitment to defending our Kurdish partners in the region.

Duckworth served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years before retiring from military service in 2014 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. She was among the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom before her Blackhawk helicopter was hit by an RPG and she lost her legs as well as partial use of her right arm. Duckworth is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), which has jurisdiction over the nation’s common defense, military operations, servicemember pay and retirement, military family benefits and the selective service system.