View Full Version : Pace: Message of Iraq Progress Stymied

12-01-05, 01:14 PM
Dec 1, 12:45 PM EST
Pace: Message of Iraq Progress Stymied
AP Military Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The military hasn't done a good enough job of explaining to the American people what is going on in Iraq and the political and military progress there, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday.

Even so, Gen. Peter Pace, warned that battling terrorism will be a long war.

Speaking at the National Defense University at Fort McNair, Pace said he is often asked if the United States would be better off by ending the fight and leaving Iraq.

"There is no option other than victory," he said. "You need to get out and read what our enemies have said ... Their goal is to destroy our way of life."

Pace spoke a day after President Bush used a speech at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., to spell out what he called his strategy for victory in Iraq.

Bush's plan contained no new approaches and no start date for withdrawing U.S. troops. But he indicated that by 2006, Iraqi forces will be sufficiently trained to let American troops shift to less visible and possibly less dangerous roles.

Amid growing pressure to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq, Bush urged patience, claimed steady progress and vowed to accept nothing less than "complete victory."

Democrats were quick to criticize, accusing Bush of failing to answer squarely the most pressing questions on the minds of Americans who wonder whether the cost in American blood and treasure has been worth it.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., on Thursday said the president was ignoring "the realities on the ground" as military leaders have described them to Congress.

"The large presence of American troops in Iraq gives credence to the notion of occupation and in fact delays the willingness and ability of Iraqi troops to stand up," Kerry said on NBC's "Today" show.

"Until the president really acknowledges that that large presence is part of the problem, and begins to set a benchmark process for transferring responsibility to the Iraqis, we're going to continue with more of the same," he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., embraced a call by a prominent defense hawk in her party, Rep. John Murtha, to begin a troop withdrawal. "The status quo is not working," Pelosi said.

And Murtha, a decorated Vietnam war hero, told a civic group in his home state of Pennsylvania that he believes most U.S. troops will leave Iraq within a year because the Army is "broken, worn out" and "living hand to mouth," the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Thursday.

Before Bush spoke Wednesday, the White House released a report, titled "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," outlining the administration's rationale, strategy and measures of progress.

By next year, Bush said, U.S. commanders expect the Iraqi security forces to be able to assume more of the direct combat roles now performed by U.S. troops.

"We will continue to shift from providing security and conducting operations against the enemy nationwide to conducting more specialized operations targeted at the most dangerous terrorists," Bush said. "We will increasingly move out of Iraqi cities, reduce the number of bases from which we operate and conduct fewer patrols and convoys."

The implication is that fewer U.S. troops will be needed, at least for missions that have been causing the bulk of U.S. casualties. So far, more than 2,100 American troops have died in Iraq.

In noting that U.S. forces have begun turning over control of military bases to the Iraqis, Bush singled out the Nov. 22 handover of a base near Tikrit that includes one of Saddam Hussein's former palace complexes. Bush said it had served as a U.S. military headquarters "in one of Iraq's most dangerous regions."

Bush's definition of victory in Iraq suggested years of additional U.S. military assistance. But it also may have set the stage for what Pentagon officials already have said is an expected 2006 drawdown of U.S. forces, which now total nearly 160,000. Bush emphasized recent progress in the training of Iraqi security forces, noting that they now control several sections of Iraq, including large portions of Baghdad.

"Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation," he said.

It's not clear that terrorists have used Iraq as a haven to plot attacks on the United States, but Bush's remark suggested a link between terrorists now in Iraq and those who planned the 2001 suicide hijack attacks. The two "share the same ideology," Bush said, of seeking to "sow anger and hatred and despair."

While stoutly defending his war strategy, Bush also acknowledged some setbacks and cautioned that the months ahead would be difficult. He noted that the Iraqi security force originally created to fight the insurgents "proved to be no match" for the enemy, and that some early training for Iraqi police was inadequate.

"Their performance is still uneven in some areas," Bush said, referring generally to Iraqi security forces.

Bush's speech was the first in a series of planned presidential addresses aimed at shoring up public support for a war that has lasted much longer and caused more U.S. casualties than the administration originally expected.

On the Net:

White House: www.whitehouse.gov

Defense Department: www.defenselink.mil