12 January 2007
U.S. Expects Results of Policy Shift in Iraq To Emerge Quickly
Military increase to begin in earnest by early February; senators question plan
Washington -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates says results of boosting the number of U.S. troops in Iraq by some 21,500 will be known “fairly quickly,” and the effort to quell violence there has a reasonable prospect of success if the Iraqis fulfill a variety of existing commitments.
Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee January 12 the first of five new U.S. brigades will arrive in Iraq in mid-January, and U.S.-Iraqi operations to stabilize Iraqi neighborhoods systematically will begin seriously “around the first week of February.”
The secretary said the effectiveness of the plan should be apparent within “a couple of months” because by then it will be clear if new military operations will be carried out without Iraqi political interference. The Iraqis have to demonstrate they “finally have the will to act against all instigators of violence in Baghdad,” Gates said. (See related article.)
He said Iraq has reached “a pivotal point,” and overcoming its steep challenges requires more than military muscle. Progress, Gates said, requires Iraqis to address issues that long have divided them. Given the deteriorating situation, he said, Iraqi politicians now realize they are running out of time.
If the Iraqis follow through on their commitment to distribute oil revenues equitably, for example, and the level of sectarian violence decreases, Gates indicated it might be possible -- at some point -- to send some of the troops composing part of this new increase home -- and with sufficient progress there could be additional troop reductions in the future.
Some committee members expressed skepticism about the new strategy for Iraq President Bush outlined January 10. Committee Chairman Carl Levin, for example, said putting more U.S. troops in Iraq is based on a false premise that there can be a military solution to instability in Iraq “when what is needed is a political solution among the Iraqi leaders and factions.”
Gates said civilian and military defense officials believe this is “a sound plan that can work if the Iraqi government follows through on its commitments and if the non-military aspects of the strategy are implemented and sustained.” (See related article.)
MILITARY COMMANDERS CALLED FOR TROOP INCREASE
General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who testified with Gates, agreed the strategy of increasing the number of troops in Iraq alone will not solve that nation’s problems because there must be a change in the political environment as well. Both Pace and Gates said the impetus for boosting the level of troops in Iraq came directly from the commanders in the region, not Washington.
Within months, Gates said, it will be clear whether the military part of the strategy is working as envisioned. If not, he said, the U.S. strategy will be re-evaluated.
Gates was pressed for benchmarks by which to measure Iraqi success in the near term. He said an early indicator will be if the Iraqi security forces enter mixed neighborhoods, like Sadr City, clear them of insurgents and deny their use as safe havens.
Any effort to withdraw U.S. troops prematurely could leave “Iraq in chaos,” Gates warned, and bring about the disintegration of the country. Senator Joseph Lieberman concurred with this assessment, saying that although there never are guarantees of success, “it would be a disaster to fail in Iraq.”
But committee members such as Senator Ted Kennedy asked why another increase in U.S. troops will make a difference when others – in 2004, 2005 and 2006 – did not. (See related article.)
Other members such as Senator John McCain said an increase in the number of U.S. forces is necessary to reduce the “toxic levels of violence in Baghdad and Anbar province.” He also suggested Saudi Arabia should help fund a job creation program for Iraq and other regional nations should not remain aloof “while Baghdad burns.”
INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY WEIGHS IN ON IRAQ
The U.S. military presentation to the committee on Iraq was somewhat more optimistic than the U.S. intelligence assessment presented January 11 to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lieutenant General Michael Maples warned violence in Iraq has increased in scope and lethality.
U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte described the situation in Iraq as grave, but not hopeless. Time will tell if the Iraqis can make the political compromises necessary, he said. But to give Iraqi national reconciliation a chance to succeed, the newly nominated deputy secretary of state said, security has to be established. The lack of a secure environment has precipitated much of the negative behavior that is occurring in Iraq, Negroponte added.
CIA Director Michael Hayden said the success of the new plan for Iraq does not depend so much on Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as it does on the performance of the entire current government. Success or failure depends on its ability to establish security, the Air Force general said, which is a precursor to political and economic progress.
The full text (PDF, 7 pages) of Gates’ prepared statement is available on the Web site of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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