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Governor Spends Thanksgiving with Utah Troops in Iraq

Governor Spends Thanksgiving with Utah Troops in Iraq


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Richard Piatt reporting Another Thanksgiving in Iraq sparks some strong opinions in Gov. Jon Huntsman. He returned this weekend from a whirlwind trip to the war zone.

The trip included tours with a delegation of U.S. senators and meetings with Iraq's top brass, but it was the time Huntsman spent with Utah servicemen and servicewomen that made the trip the most rewarding.

From Gov. Huntsman, direct words about what he observed in the war zone: "The government of Iraq needs to get its act together."

It is in a region where the governor says the security situation has actually improved since he was there a year ago. That's not to say all is calm in a nation that faces major challenges in shaping its government, building its economy, and in making good on sharing revenue from oil sales.

Huntsman says the best part of his trip was lunch and Thanksgiving dinner with Utahns serving in Iraq. For the former ambassador, it was an ideal way to observe Thanksgiving. "I'm very grateful for the men and women who are serving, and by extension let me say I'm grateful to their families who had to make this sacrifice during this very important time of year," Huntsman said.

Huntsman was the only governor in a delegation of U.S. senators on this trip. All went at the invitation of presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.

Along the way, there were tours of juvenile and adult detention facilities in Kirkuk and meetings with Gen. David Petraeus, Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

In the end, Huntsman sees a reduction of troops in Iraq, a successful surge, and hundreds of Utah heroes who made it happen. "I think we have given the Iraqis the best gift anyone could give them, which is enhanced security; and it's what they've wanted all along, and the one thing that has been unachievable for them," Huntsman said.

The governor's interest is obviously Utah's troops in Iraq. Right now, he says there are 730 Utahns deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another 350 will be deployed after the first of the year.

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