Jul 16 04:18 PM US/EasternAlthough the headline emphasizes that Pace is considering additional troops on top of the 30,000 committed to the surge, Odierno said that he's not asking for them. The issue of a tired Army looms in the background of any discussion of Iraq these days. To some outside the U.S. military in Iraq who claim to be kicking al-Qaeda ass in al-Anbar, we have bitten off more of the Jihadi jerky than we can chew. I don't suppose we will ever really know the answer to that question but to all the world, it will appear to be so.
By ROBERT BURNS
AP Military Writer
BAGHDAD (AP) - The U.S. military is weighing new directions in Iraq, including an even bigger troop buildup if President Bush thinks his "surge" strategy needs a further boost, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace revealed that he and the chiefs of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force are developing their own assessment of the situation in Iraq, to be presented to Bush in September. That will be separate from the highly anticipated report to Congress that month by Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander for Iraq.
The Joint Chiefs are considering a range of actions, including another troop buildup, Pace said without making any predictions. He called it prudent planning to enable the services to be ready for Bush's decision.
The military must "be prepared for whatever it's going to look like two months from now," Pace said in an interview with two reporters traveling with him to Iraq from Washington.
"That way, if we need to plus up or come down" in numbers of troops in Iraq, the details will have been studied, he said.
Pace, on his first visit since U.S. commanders accelerated combat operations in mid-June, said another option under consideration is maintaining current troop levels beyond September.
There are now about 158,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, reflecting a boost of about 30,000 to carry out the new strategy Bush announced in January. The plan is focused on providing better security for Iraqis in Baghdad, but the intended effect—political reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites—has yet to be achieved, and many in Congress are clamoring to begin withdrawing troops soon.
Pace said the administration must consider not only what works best on the battlefield but also the growing stress of more than four years of war on American troops and their families.
He repeatedly mentioned his concern about soldiers and Marines doing multiple tours of duty and the decision in January to extend soldiers' Iraq deployments by three months, to 15 months.
"That has impact on families," he said in a separate Associated Press interview at a U.S. military headquarters on the outskirts of the capital after meeting with commanders and conferring by secure video teleconference with Bush.
Pace also conferred with Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the No. 2 commander in Iraq, who said he did not currently foresee requesting more troops.
"Right now I can't find an assessment where I would say I need more troops," Odierno said, adding that he is confident that by September he will be able to give Petraeus his advice on how the troop buildup is working.
"My assessment right now is, I need more time" to understand how the offensive targeting al-Qaida in Iraq is working and how it could lead to political progress, Odierno said.
"I'm seeing some progress now here in Iraq. We have really just started what the Iraqis term 'liberating' them from al-Qaida. What I've got to determine is what do I need in order to continue that progress so that the political piece can then take hold and Iraqi security forces can hold this for the long term."
Pace said he saw signs of improvement since his previous visit in April, based in part on a 30-minute aerial tour of Baghdad in a Black Hawk helicopter as well as private talks with commanders.
"The surge is having very good positive results on the streets of Baghdad," he told AP. "We have yet to see the political progress and results that you would hope to see."
All the while, the violence continues. On Monday, a suicide truck bombing followed by two smaller car bombs killed more than 80 people and wounded at least 180 in Kirkuk, about 180 miles north of Baghdad.
There are deep tensions between Kurds and Arabs in the city, and Sunni insurgents are believed to be moving north, fleeing the U.S. offensive around Baghdad and consolidating to carry out deadly bombings.
At the same time, the U.S. military said American troops launched a new offensive south of Baghdad on Monday, aiming to stop weapons and fighters from moving into the capital.
As for the U.S. troop boost, some on the Joint Chiefs had argued against it in January, in part out of concern that it could not be sustained long enough to have the desired effect and that it would put too much strain on the military.
In the AP interview, Pace made clear that he believes the soldiers and Marines in Iraq are focused on their mission. He seemed more concerned about the possibility that families eventually would grow fed up with the strain of long separations and the worry about loved ones being killed or wounded.
The chiefs for a number of weeks have been studying the timing of a possible U.S. military transition away from today's combat-oriented mission to one focused mainly on training Iraqi security forces while also protecting Iraq's borders and continuing the fight against terrorists.
Without opining on any new course of action in Iraq, Pace stressed in the interview his concern that multiple combat tours for many in the Army and Marine Corps could tear at the fabric of the military. He said that is one reason he is visiting the troops now—to hear their concerns, assess their morale and explain to them why he advocated extending Army tours from 12 months to 15.
He said he also would stop in Germany this week to meet with family members of military units that are affected by tour extensions.
Pace, who will be replaced soon by Adm. Michael Mullen as Joint Chiefs chairman, was asked whether he feels political pressure amid a heated and prolonged Iraq debate in Congress and the approach of the 2008 elections.
"I don't feel any pressure" of that sort, he said.
Pace and Odierno were discussing a number of things related to Iraq. What's not clear at least from this article, is the direction we're going. The Generals were quoted on a number of topics but are actually playing it close the vest right now. To be fair, so are the politicians. The lack of Statesmanship coming from Washington D.C. is appalling. Is there a man in Washington who can lead or is everyone so tied to the pork strings that he dares not engage the public with the hard, cold facts. It seems that every politician has one finger in the wind and is sitting on his other thumb. The papers are of no use in sorting things out, instead, dullards like me are forced to read the tea leaves. Well, says here in the bottom of my cup that our military may be a bit light for the heavy task of occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. That's bad news because we're only five years into the new Thirty Years War. Since there has been a deafening silence about a draft, I assume that the idea was always to get in and get out of Musselmanistan. Somehow, we got detained along the way. It appears that Nation building was not in the "peace dividend military's" job description which had been long on humanitarian relief operations short of the Somalia sort.
American patience, we're told, has all but run out on Iraq. We've also been told that the Iraqi government sucks and is primarily concerned with the oil revenue. CBS just reported that the Saudis send 60 to 80 jihadis per month through Damascus into Iraq. Our government doesn't make a peep about it and leaves it to the Iraqi National Security Adviser to complain to the Saudis and Syria. We're told by our Generals that Iran is training people who then cross the border to kill us in Iraq and what do we do about it? This is no way to wage a war and if there is no way to wage this war, then we need to get the hell out. This situation is so FUBAR that the only thing to do now is give General Petraeus the time he needs (through January 2008), declare "mission accomplished" and hand it over to our new best friends, the Iraqis.
Damn the consequences, we'll have to deal with whatever comes our way but when the graphic images of the genocide and carnage are plastered all over the world's media, just remind the left of their wonderful understanding and cooperation every step of the way. And when the Republicans are being hunted down and prosecuted by the Dems, just remind them how they treated their base. And when the fundamentalists knock off Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and Israel and the Sauds are turned out in Arabia, well, just ignore it and console yourself that pedaling that bicycle will make you a healthier man.