Rep. Case Returns From Kosovo & Egypt
Congressman Ed Case has just returned to Capitol Hill from a four-day congressional visit to the countries of Kosovo and Egypt.
Case’s trip, on behalf of the House Committee on Appropriations on which he serves, was to visit Hawai‘i Army National Guard (HIARNG) troops now stationed in the Republic of Kosovo and in Egypt. He also met with leaders of both countries to discuss issues of mutual interest.
In Kosovo, HIARNG’s 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, “Lava Strong,” Col. Roy Macaraeg commanding, is leading the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Kosovo Force (KFOR) Multi-National Battlegroup East Command with headquarters at Camp Bondsteel near the capital of Pristina. A tragic war with neighbor Serbia in 1998 and 1999 ended with NATO intervention and led to a United Nations resolution creating KFOR to prevent renewed fighting and preserve security and safety in Kosovo.
Today KFOR is a multinational force of some 3,500 troops from 28 nations. Col. Macaraeg commands the eastern sector of the country with Guard units from other states including Tennessee and California and troops from Poland, Turkey and Romania.
“KFOR has kept the peace for two decades,” said Case. “But our HIARNG troops have taken it to a whole other level, winning the respect of their colleagues with their professionalism (not to mention their affection with a full-on lū‘au last week) and the affection of the citizens of Kosovo with their aloha, shakas and appreciation of local history and culture.”
In Kosovo, Case also met with U.S. Ambassador Philip Kosnett and the Embassy staff, and at the request of the State Department also met with the senior leaders of Kosovo including President Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj and several members of Parliament. They
discussed strengthening ties further between the U.S. and Kosovo, a strong ally, and countering the growing influence of Russian in other Balkan countries.
In Egypt, HIARNG’s 299th Cavalry, the Koa Regiment, Col. John Udani commanding, is an integral part of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), an independent multinational force established by Egypt and Israel in the Sinai Peninsula on their borders to maintain the peace following their historic peace agreement in 1979. HIARNG is based in Sharm El-Sheik but also operates from bases in Northern Sinai and more remote locations.
“MFO has been among our most successful peacekeeping operations ever,” said Case. “And again, our HIARNG has brought its own brand of professionalism and aloha to the job and earned the respect of their fellow troops from around the world.”
Before travelling to Sharm El-Sheik, Case met in Cairo with senior U.S. official Thomas Goldberger and the Embassy staff, and again at the request of the State Department met with senior members of the Egyptian Parliament Kamal Amer, Chair of National Defense and Security, and Karim Darwish, Chair of Foreign Affairs.
“We discussed a range of issues, some more difficult than others,” said Case. “But it was clear that there were many areas of agreement and that our ongoing dialogue is constructive. As this is the first visit to Parliament by a member of the U.S. Congress in three years, they we very appreciative of the outreach. And it didn’t hurt that Mr. Darwish had honeymooned on Maui twenty-five years ago and that I left them with chocolate-covered macadamia nuts from home.”
Case also held two ”Talk Story With Congressman Ed Case” community meetings with our troops in both Kosovo and Egypt.
“I told them that since they couldn’t come to my Talk Stories back home, I was bringing them to where they were,” said Case. “I learned a great deal from our discussions and took away some specific questions and concerns to work on including in particular their Tricare health insurance coverage. Words can’t express how emotional it is to visit our troops overseas in strange places with clear risks yet performing with such competence and grace and aloha. They truly do Hawai’i proud.”