On March 20th, 2003 the first American troops engaged the Iraqi army. The reign of Sadam Hussein would quickly topple but America's military stayed on as Iraqis of different ethnic and religious backgrounds struggled to come together.
Eight years later the last of America's troops expect to come home at the end of this year. Accessing progress toward that goal took Valley Congressman Jim Costa and four other house members to Baghdad last week.
Jim Costa said, "I think progress in equipping and training the Iraqi army and the police force is meeting our timelines."
But a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki was met with anger when south coastal California Congressman Dana Rohrabcher suggested Iraq repay the U.S. for some of its costs.
Jim Costa said, "There were tense moments there but I think there was an honest discussion of differences of view."
On this third trip to Iraq Costa also met with U.S. Army General Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. forces - Iraq. And he paid a short visit by helicopter to the Kurdish area of Iraq, piloted by a young soldier... one Sgt. Martinez of Fresno.
Congressman Costa left Iraq knowing a debate on keeping some American troops here is likely, should the Iraqi government make that request.
Nancy asked, "Is that something you will support?"
Costa replied, "Well I want to evaluate that at the end of this year and I want to see the progress we've made."