WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, returned this week from a five-day visit to Turkey, Afghanistan, and Lebanon, where he discussed regional security and stability with U.S diplomats and military leaders, high-ranking government officials, and NGOs.
In Turkey, Booker met with Karen Decker, Director of START Forward and Jennifer Davis, the U.S. Consul General in Istanbul, to discuss the U.S. humanitarian response in Syria and critical issues related to U.S.-Turkey relations, including the potential sale of the Russian S-400 air defense system. Earlier this month, Booker wrote to President Trump expressing his concern about the withholding of stabilization funds to Syria, which risks undermining gains made against ISIS and ceding U.S. leadership to Russia and Iran.
In Afghanistan, Booker held meetings with U.S. Ambassador John Bass, General John Nicholson (Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan), Major General James Linder (head of the NATO Special Operations Component Command), next generation Afghan leaders, and administrators of the American University of Afghanistan. Booker also visited and toured bases outside of Kabul, including Bagram Air Field, and received briefings on military operations and diplomatic efforts toward a political settlement. He also visited with enlisted troops and officers stationed in Afghanistan.
In Lebanon, Booker held meetings with U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Richard, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, General Joseph Aoun (Commander of the Lebanon Armed Forces), and Mr. Imran Riza (Deputy Head of Mission of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon). He also received a briefing by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, visited an informal tented settlement of Syrian refugees in the Beqaa Valley in Eastern Lebanon, and toured a USAID-funded water and sanitation project in Rassieh. Booker also participated in several briefings focused on efforts to ensure Israel’s security on its border with Lebanon.
“From my series of meetings and briefings in Afghanistan, it was clear that a diplomatic surge is needed in the country to further the efforts of peace and reconciliation,” Booker said. “I agree with our Ambassador and military leaders in Afghanistan that there is no military solution to the conflict. I’ll be watching upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections closely and urge Afghan leaders to do everything possible to ensure citizens are able to exercise their right to vote safely.”
“In Lebanon, Hezbollah continues to undermine stability,” Booker added, “and Israel rightly remains concerned about the threat to its security posed by Hezbollah. I was deeply impressed with the Lebanese peoples’ generosity toward Syrians displaced by the conflict in their country. The U.S. must do all it can to help host communities grapple with the effects of the humanitarian catastrophe in the region.”
Booker’s trip follows a similar trip he took to the region in 2016, during which he visited Iraq, Jordan, and Israel and discussed U.S. operations to counter ISIS, U.S. support to strengthen Iraqi institutions, Israeli security, and the Syrian refugee crisis.