Pace Visits Iraq to Assess Surge Progress, Way Forward
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Marine Gen. Peter Pace is visiting Iraq as part of the U.S. military assessment of the surge strategy.
The assessment of the strategy is due to Congress by Sept. 15. Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters traveling with him that he would meet with Multinational Force Iraq Commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus during his visit here.
Pace said the Joint Staff has been working for months on possibilities that could unfold in Iraq. “That way, we have the planning done no matter what the decision -- plus-up, go down or maintain,” he said to reporters traveling with him. “From my perspective in D.C., I’ve got to do the homework that allows the national leadership to do whatever route they want to take.”
The chairman said his meetings with Petraeus would give him a feeling of what is the likeliest possibility.
This does not mean that Pace wants all the staffs involved in the study to synchronize with each other. The chairman said he specifically wants to avoid “groupthink.”
Pace said it is important that Petraeus and his staff, Navy Adm. William J. Fallon and his U.S. Central Command staff, and the Joint Staff continue to examine the situation in Iraq from their different perspectives.
“As we get closer to September, we’ll start sharing ideas, but none of us wants to get too wrapped up in the other teams’ thinking, so we don’t end up with groupthink,” Pace said.
Pace said the way the process will work in September is that Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker will return to Washington. Petraeus will brief the Joint Chiefs and the defense secretary on his conclusions. Crocker will brief the secretary of state. Then Petraeus and Crocker probably will brief President Bush together.
As the senior military advisor to the president, Pace also will present recommendations. He said these recommendations will be “informed” by the work of Petraeus and Fallon. “This is exactly what we did last September, October, November, when we worked out the strategy that resulted in the surge,” he said.
At that time, recommendations on the way forward came from Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., then Multinational Force Iraq commander; Army Gen. John Abizaid, then Central Command chief; and the Joint Staff.
Pace said he feels no political pressure to mold his military advice to fit any specific outcome. He stressed the word military when he said that uniformed leaders would give their best “military advice in September.”
Politics is an obvious part of the president’s decision, but military leaders will “work very carefully and assiduously” to keep political considerations out of their military advice, Pace said.
The chairman refused to make any predictions about Iraq and reminded reporters that things in the country can change very quickly. “Look at al Anbar province,” he said. “All it took was about 27 sheikhs to decide they had had enough of al Qaeda, and very quickly things changed.”
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