After visiting military forces in the Middle East this month, U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi said he thinks the country cannot fully withdraw troops from the region any time soon.
Suozzi, a Glen Cove Democrat, traveled for a week to Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Jordan in mid-April, visiting military officials and soldiers with two Republicans and one Democrat from the House Armed Services Committee, on which Suozzi serves.
Suozzi called the trip a “very sobering and humbling experience” that taught him about the on-the-ground reality of the military’s efforts in the Middle East.
What he saw indicated to him that the U.S. should continue and enhance its efforts to train local forces to fight the Islamic State group and other American enemies, Suozzi said.
“We can’t leave these places, because we have real enemies that will be there for some time, and this is going be a generational effort,” he told reporters on a conference call last Thursday.
On the trip, Suozzi met military leaders, including the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Forces in Iraq and Syria, and solders from his 3rd Congressional District, which stretches across the North Shore from northeast Queens to northwest Suffolk County.
Suozzi said he was impressed by how calculated the military’s operations are, something he thinks the general public does not understand.
“It’s not like this cowboy type of thing,” he said. “Everything was very, very measured and responsible and intelligent in the way that people approach their jobs over there.”
Asked whether the U.S. should change the level of troops in the Middle East, Suozzi said he is open to deploying “a couple thousand” more soldiers in Afghanistan to better protect American troops who go on patrols with Afghan units, as some military officers have recommended.
“I think we’re probably in a good spot, with a little tweaking here and there,” Suozzi said.
While the Syrian civil war did not come up much on his trip, Suozzi repeated his support for President Donald Trump’s decision to strike Syrian government targets to retaliate for the government’s use of chemical weapons against civilians.
But the Trump administration should seek authorization from Congress before taking more military action in Syria, Suozzi said.
“It was important that he [Trump] send a measured and appropriate response, but I think before he does anything further he needs to get authorization from Congress and bipartisan support,” he said.
Since taking office in January, Suozzi has spent his first 100 days in office trying to balance international issues with local concerns and constituent service, he said in another recent interview.
The Middle East trip reflected the intersection of all three because Suozzi’s district gets $1.7 billion annually in federal defense contracts, the most of any district in New York, he said.
“What we do with our Defense Department is very important to our local economy here,” Suozzi said.