Thursday, August 03, 2006

The U.S. view on Iraq

Donald Rumsfeld and his top generals are on Capitol Hill today, testifying about Iraq.

Rumsfeld was there reluctantly, having said yesterday he didn't have time to testify. As you'd expect, he tried to put as good a light as possible on the situation.

"If we left Iraq prematurely as the terrorists demand, the enemy would tell us to leave Afghanistan and then withdraw from the Middle East," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee at a hearing.

"And if we left the Middle East, they'd order us and all those who don't share their militant ideology to leave what they call the occupied Muslim lands from Spain to the Philippines," he said.

A bit hyperbolic, considering we chose to invade Iraq and that nobody supports letting Islamic extremists take over the world. But in any event his entire statement turns on how you define "prematurely." Considering that the administration keeps talkinga about handing substantial responsibility to the Iraqi army by the end of the year, about the only thing that might be considered premature is an immediate and unconditional withdrawal, which hardly anybody is advocating.

His generals were a bit more blunt.

"Iraq could move toward civil war" if the violence is not contained, Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I have seen it," he said, adding that the top priority in Iraq is to secure the capital, where factional violence has surged in recent weeks despite efforts by the new Iraqi government to stop the fighting.

That would be the capital we captured three years ago and have not yet secured.

Abizaid did say, however, that he thinks that U.S.-backed Iraqi forces can prevent a slide into civil war.

Likewise, Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that while civil war was a possibility, it wasn't a certainty and depended on the Iraqis more than the U.S. military.

All this comes against the backdrop of another report that indicates how the war in Iraq is straining our military capacity.

More than two-thirds of the Army National Guard's 34 brigades are not combat ready, mostly because of equipment shortages that will cost up to $21 billion to correct, the top National Guard general said Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum spoke to a group defense reporters after Army officials, analysts and members of Congress disclosed that two-thirds of the active Army's brigades are not ready for war.

So three years after the invasion of Iraq we do not have the manpower or equipment to sustain much beyond the current pace of operations -- and we may not be able to sustain that. During that time the administration has taken no steps to expand the military or increase equipment purchases.

Are we serious about this war or not? Because sometimes it doesn't seem like it. We have inadequate troops in Iraq, and we have taken no steps to increase our ability to field more. In fact the reverse has occurred; the readiness of the units we do have is declining even as the need for increased readiness grows ever more apparent and the security situation in Iraq deteriorates by the week.

One of two things needs to happen: We either need to increase our military capability to match our strategic plan, or we need to modify our strategy to reflect our military capability. Ignoring the problem and hoping for the best just won't work any more.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I happen to read what Rumsfeld and the generals were saying, while testifying before Congress.
Sounds downright frightening. 3-4 months of the bloodshed and we could see, (what the republicans call)civil war. John Warner saying that if that happens the Prez will have to get a new vote of authorization.
When will the next request for more emergency funding in Iraq coming.?
Will it not be before the end of this year.?
How many votes will they be able to line up for that.?

8/04/2006 8:04 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

The Pentagon budget, which includes more than $50 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, will be taken up in September. It will bring the total price tag of Iraq/Afghanistan to $450 billion, the overwhelming bulk of that for Iraq.

The bill will pass. No one's going to vote against continued funding right before the elections. But if Iraq does indeed descend into chaos, we may see a move to pull funding in the early part of 2007.

8/04/2006 9:33 AM  

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