U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kan., who has been a vocal critic of President Bush's policy in the war in Iraq, on Monday visited troops in Iraq and said the situation appears to be improving.
"It's headed in a much better direction but everything is very tentative," Boyda said after receiving briefings from war commander Army Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and others.
She said that violence has decreased significantly in the region but that U.S. military and civilian officials don't want to raise hopes yet.
"What is happening on the ground tactically is very good, and everyone is hopeful that it will continue, but no one is taking anything for granted and they don't want to overstate things," she said.
Boyda, whose district includes western Lawrence, visited Iraq with five other congressmen led by Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Wearing body armor, Boyda flew in an Osprey aircraft to Anbar Province and then went on to Baghdad, where she was scheduled to have lunch with troops from Kansas on Christmas. She also rode in a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, which were developed by the military to better withstand roadside bomb blasts.
She said she saw a lot of destruction.
"It's a war zone and it looks like a war zone," she said in a telephone interview.
In addition to a reduction in violence, she said the government of Iraq has made progress in a number of areas, including a national budget.
"From top to bottom, our military and our civilian leadership as well will tell you there is not a tactical military solution to this war. It has to be political," she said.
She said violence started decreasing about 15 months ago when former insurgents in Anbar Province started working with the Americans because of atrocities committed by al-Qaida in Iraq.
"Our troops have done an incredibly good job," she said. "The buds of a political solution are starting to form."