Perdue visits Ga. troops in Iraq

Gov. Sonny Perdue was in Baghdad on Tuesday meeting American troops deployed to Iraq. He arrived in the region Monday as part of a delegation of four state governors.

Perdue spoke to Georgia reporters during a 20-minute audio conference from the Green Zone compound in Baghdad. He landed in the country shortly after the Iraqi parliament passed a law that will permit national elections in January. The law, enacted last week, is seen as a crucial step toward eventual American disengagement from the country.

“I’m very encouraged by what I see,” he said. “The passage of the election law, which doesn’t seem like a big deal in the United States, is a huge deal here.”

Regarding America’s other theater of war, Perdue threw his support behind proposals to deploy additional U.S. forces to Afghanistan. President Obama is likely to approve as many as 40,000 additional troops as early as next week, according to several recently published reports.

“I would welcome a surge of troops in Afghanistan,” Perdue said.

The Georgia National Guard’s 48th Brigade has operated in Afghanistan since March.

“Georgia is all in on Afghanistan with the 48th Brigade,” Perdue said. “The more troops we can commit to help, the better for us.”

Perdue did caution against overextending National Guard soldiers, many of whom have deployed back and forth to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003.

“I am concerned about deployment fatigue, not necessarily with the soldiers themselves, but the citizen soldiers in the Guard,” Perdue said.

Perdue is joined by Gov. Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Gov. Ted Kulongoski of Oregon.

The governors met with Gen. Ray Odierno, commanding general of all U.S. forces in Iraq, and Ambassador Christopher R. Hill, the Obama administration’s top diplomat in Iraq, during their Tuesday tour of Baghdad. Perdue said he met troops from the 3rd Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, which took operational control over much of the northern region of Iraq earlier this month.

The four governors took part in a barbecue with the troops, Perdue said, complete with burgers and baked beans.

“It was just the kind of the fare you would think of at home,” he said.

The Department of Defense would not release additional details of Perdue’s itinerary, but Perdue said he would not return to Atlanta until next week.

To contact writer Thomas L. Day, call 744-4489.