Here is what they had to say today at a DOD press conference.
Presenter: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Chariman Joint Chiefs Of Staff General Peter Pace April 05, 2007
Defense DoD Special Briefing With Secretary Of Defense Robert M. Gates And General Peter Pace From the Pentagon Briefing Room, Arlington, VA
Q Mr. Secretary and General Pace, by your own accounts, you only have two of the five surge brigades into place, about 40 percent of the surge force. Why has it been so slow in getting brigades into place, and how can you judge, eight weeks into a surge -- how can you judge this summer whether the surge is working, when the surge is really more of a trickle than a surge?
SEC. GATES: Well, let me take a crack at it and then invite General Pace to comment. First of all, the plan from the very beginning has been to move approximately a brigade a month into Baghdad as part of the Baghdad Security Plan. We looked at one point of whether we could accelerate that process, and, frankly, to ensure that -- one of the principal reasons that it was not possible to accelerate it was that we want to make sure that every single one of those brigades is adequately trained before they actually enter Iraq. So the training piece of it was important as well as the fact that no matter how fast we get the troops there, most of the equipment still goes by sea, and it's 30 days, no matter how much of a hurry you're in. And so it's been really a combination of logistics and training that has paced this, as we've seen.
GEN. PACE: This is very much on track. The Marines are now -- are all in Al Anbar. The five Army brigades that are plussing up -- the third one, as you know, is moving into Baghdad as we sit here. It'll be fully operational within the next week to 10 days. The fourth brigade goes into Kuwait as scheduled, around the 15th of this month; the fifth brigade goes into Kuwait around the 15th of May. So this has been on plan to be fully up in all categories in early June to be able to continue this.
SEC. GATES: I think it's been -- to answer the other part of your question -- I think it's been General Petraeus's view all along that during -- sometime at some point during the summer -- mid to late summer, perhaps -- he has thought that he would in a position to evaluate whether the plan was working so far. As we've indicated, you know, the early signs are positive. I must say that General Petraeus and others were accurate in projecting that once the security plan began to take hold, that you would see a rise in large-scale bombings and other efforts to try and show that it wasn't working, and to try and cause more violence; so more vehicle-borne IEDs and things like that. And we are seeing that. But I think already there are -- everybody is being very careful. I think that there is a great reluctance to engage in "happy talk" about this. It's a tough environment. General Petraeus I think has been very realistic in his assessments in terms of what's working and what he's happy with and what concerns him. And I think we'll just have to wait several more months before we're in a position to make any real evaluation.
Q Mr. Secretary, we've heard, though, from some of the commanders in Iraq that this increased level of troops that are associated with this surge may be needed well into 2008. And I'm wondering, what would that extended increase in the number of troops in Iraq do to the overall readiness? After all -- and for you, too, General Pace -- you know, we're soon going to have at least three brigades returning to Iraq who have had less than a year dwell time. We've heard that some of the training opportunities for the troops redeploying to Iraq have been curtailed somewhat. A couple of brigades were not able to go to Fort Irwin, for example.
So what is this prolonged deployment in Iraq doing to the overall readiness of the force, and what is the state of the readiness of the force today?
SEC. GATES: Let me make one comment and then ask General Pace to answer your question.
I have said all along that I believe the decisions on duration and everything else will depend on the situation on the ground. So the truth is, I think people don't know right now how long this will last. I believe that the thinking of those involved in the process was that it would be a period of months, not a period of years or a year and a half or something like that. So the honest answer is that nobody knows for sure. It will depend on the circumstances on the ground.
But in terms of readiness -- General?
GEN. PACE: First of all, fundamentally, Mic, we are not going to send any troop into Iraq who is not manned, trained and equipped to do the job. And that's why, as the secretary pointed out, that we have them going one month at a time, so we can make sure that they are properly trained. And it is true that some units are not going to be leaving their home station, go to California, train out in California and come back. But they will get the training at their home base. And we will certify -- the commanders must certify to their chain of command before the units deploy that their soldiers and their Marines are properly trained.
What happens over time -- to answer your question about long-term readiness -- is that we will ensure, we will have the capacity to ensure that those who are going into Iraq, those who are going into Afghanistan are properly trained for those missions. But when you only have one year between -- or less -- between deployments instead of the two that you would like to have, you then do not train to what we call full spectrum. So that if an unexpected event were to happen somewhere in the world where you needed your full combined arms team, that you had been training to that on a routine basis.
So you end up with your troops who are well-trained for the mission they're going to, but you do forfeit some of the kind of training you would like to do just to have a little bit more readiness in case something happens that you're not expecting.
But there's more than one audience here, so let me make sure I got -- I make sure our potential enemies also know that the United States armed forces have enormous power and capacity, and at any given time we have about 200,000 to 250,000 of our troops overseas out of some 2.4 million. We have enormous residual capacity. We have the vast power of our Army -- correction -- of our Navy and our Air Force still available to take on any potential foes. And it would take longer then for the reserve forces to be remobilized and to get to the fight, but there is zero doubt about the outcome. It would simply take us longer than we would like, or than it would if we were not doing anything else, to defeat any potential enemy.
Q Which would potentially increase the number of casualties of the West.
GEN. PACE: You potentially increase the number of casualties on both sides and the amount of damage done on both sides, because you have some of your precision intelligence systems and some of your precision delivery systems already committed, and therefore, you may end up using more dumb bombs, for example, to get the job done. So you would end up using more brute force than you normally would if you could just start with nothing else going on and pick the exact units and exact weapons that you would use.
Q General, you talked about the Army brigades heading into Baghdad. Could you focus on Anbar province and the Marines? The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit has left or is leaving Anbar. Which unit will replace that? Do you know at this point?
GEN. PACE: Admiral Fallon will make a decision. He has the troops available to him right now. He has another Marine unit available to him right now. He'll decide with the commands on the ground when and if to send that additional unit ashore. In addition, there have been the plus-up of additional Marine battalions, two additional Marine battalions. So the entire force is available to the commands on the ground. It will be up to them to employ them ashore as they see fit.
Q But do you expect to have that level -- it's the same level of Marines there, correct?
GEN. PACE: We'll have the same level of Marines in theater. Right now the Marine Expeditionary Unit Number 15 is back aboard ship, and another Marine expeditionary unit is available in theater. The commanders have not yet made the decision to put that unit on the ground. They can if they want to. They have not yet made that decision.
Q But the bottom line is, you're 1,200 short in Anbar as a result, aren't you?
GEN. PACE: No. The bottom line is, there are about -- there are 1,200 fewer Marines there today than there were two weeks ago. Those Marine are available to the commanders if they want to put them ashore. They have not yet made that decision.
SEC. GATES: Yeah?