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thedrifter
12-01-05, 07:29 PM
'No magic solutions' in Iraq, vet says
By DAVE HIRSCHMAN
Cox News Service
Thursday, December 01, 2005

ATLANTA — Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran who was one of the top commanders in the first Gulf War, said Wednesday in Atlanta that the U.S. military is "in a race against time" to train its Iraqi replacements before running short of soldiers and Marines next summer.

"The wheels start falling off the Army and Marine Corps next summer," McCaffrey said. "We can't sustain the current deployment cycle beyond that without changing the law."

McCaffrey said the United States has little alternative to reducing the number of troops in Iraq since it is also quickly running out of Reserve and National Guard forces to send to Iraq.

Georgia's 4,400-member 48th Brigade Combat Team is about halfway through a yearlong deployment to Iraq that began in May. Twenty-two members of the brigade have been killed since the unit was mobilized in January.

McCaffrey, the former drug czar under President Bill Clinton, was in Atlanta to give the keynote address at the Southeastern Conference on Addictive Diseases. He praised President Bush's speech Wednesday at the U.S. Naval Academy for showing commitment to success in Iraq.

But McCaffrey blamed the Pentagon's "egregious misjudgments" before, during and immediately after the 2003 invasion for the ongoing turmoil and violence there.

McCaffrey, who commanded the 24th Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart during the first Gulf War, faulted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for invading Iraq with too few soldiers and "denying reality" when looting and lawlessness became widespread.

"There's a complete lack of confidence in the senior civilian leadership at the Pentagon," McCaffrey said. "Fortunately, people have a lot of confidence in the armed forces leadership."

He said the Bush administration plan must work because there are no viable alternatives.

"This isn't the president's war — it's America's war," McCaffrey said. "We've got to make this come out right."

McCaffrey said the current U.S. troop level of 160,000 is adequate, and he anticipates that number will fall by about one-third by the end of next year. By that time, Iraq should have a functioning, democratically elected government, he said, and about 250,000 Iraqi soldiers and police.

McCaffrey said he expected Congress and the American people to give Bush until next summer to show his strategy is working.

"Congress and the American people will give him the authority to carry out his judgment," he said. "It better work because there are no magic solutions. We're following the one course of action available to us."

Iraq is scheduled to elect a national government on Dec. 15, and U.S. officials hope to begin reducing troop levels soon after.

McCaffrey doesn't expect Iraq to be completely peaceful for many years.

"The insurgency in the Sunni areas will last another 10 years," he said. "Baghdad will be an armed camp for another five years."

But McCaffrey said it would be a mistake to announce a timetable for leaving.

"A well-articulated exit strategy is an incitement for civil war," he said.

Dave Hirschman writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. E-mail: dhirschman@ajc.com

Ellie