Surge in troops isn't enough, U.S. commander says
The U.S. military's No. 2 man in Iraq says political and economic changes must be made before the tide can turn.
Minneapolis Star Tribune | January 8, 2007
Nancy A. Youssef
BAGHDAD - In his first wide-ranging interview, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq conceded Sunday that a military "surge" would not be enough to rescue Iraq, advocating economic and political changes as well, as top Democratic lawmakers in Washington toughened their opposition to any increase in U.S. troop strength.
Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said he believed that a combination of jobs, provincial elections, anti-militia legislation and stronger Iraqi security forces could stop the nation's plunge toward all-out civil war. Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, his predecessor, spelled out the same approach before his departure one month ago.
By echoing his predecessor, Odierno's comments raised concerns in Washington and Iraq that the U.S. war effort is exhausting old tactics that haven't worked. Indeed, many Iraqis do not trust that a new Baghdad security plan can change their circumstances because the U.S. and Iraqi governments have touted at least five such plans before, all of which failed.
The commander's statements came days before President Bush is to announce a new course for U.S. policy in Iraq, probably Wednesday. It's expected to include an influx of between 9,000 and 30,000 U.S. troops, an increase in civilian advisers to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government and perhaps $1 billion in new aid for reconstruction efforts.
In Washington on Sunday, top Democratic lawmakers emphasized that they oppose any plan to escalate U.S. troop strength in Iraq, but made it clear that they are not ready to cut off funds for troops there now. However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Congress would scrutinize any request by Bush to fund a larger U.S. presence in Iraq.
"The American people and the Congress support those troops. We will not abandon them. But if the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it. And this is new for him, because up until now, the Republican Congress has given him a blank check with no oversight, no standards, no conditions," Pelosi said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
However, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., contended that Congress was constitutionally powerless because lawmakers authorized the commander in chief to wage war. The war strategy could be changed only if enough congressional Republicans join Democrats in persuading Bush that it is wrong, said Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a 2008 presidential candidate.
In Baghdad, Odierno said he proposed several approaches to Defense Secretary Robert Gates last month. "Some included surge of troops, some included a surge in economic capabilities." Others, he said, included boosting other Iraqi capabilities regarding the treasury, justice and rule of law, "and some didn't include a troop surge."
During his tenure, Chiarelli repeatedly said that if more Iraqis had jobs, fewer would shoot at U.S. soldiers. The unemployment rate is estimated at least 25 percent.
Both commanders said they believed that Iraqi forces should take the lead in enforcing security, while conceding that, while they are improving, Iraqis have faltered when given the lead.
Both said U.S. forces must tackle not only Sunni insurgents but Shiite militias -- yet both stopped short of advocating that U.S. forces go after anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who leads Iraq's largest militia, the Mahdi Army.
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