Missoulian: Tester visits Montana troops, reports progress in Iraq

HELENA – Flying into Baghdad this week, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., saw things he didn’t see during his previous visit, in November 2007: lots of agriculture where before there were empty fields, and electric lights where it was dark, and heavy traffic on the roads.

“It’s a much different Iraq today than it was then,” he said Wednesday evening in a conference call from Yemen with Montana reporters. “The country is much more a country, instead of a country that’s being occupied by us. Their stability is evident. … It was evident by the political leaders, it was evident by the people in the streets it was evident by the shops that were open.”

Tester met with military brass, Montana troops and Iraq political leaders including Ayad Allawi, former prime minister or the Iraqi interim government and leader of the party that won parliamentary elections in March, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as well as Christians who had been targeted by attacks.

Despite the progress, he said, the country has major security concerns. There are about 10 to 15 attacks a day in the nation, which sounded like a lot to Tester but is significantly fewer than just a few years ago when the daily total topped 100.

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