US House Armed Services Committee on the way forward in Iraq
Thursday Jan. 11, 2007, 1:00pm, 2118 Rayburn
The committee will meet to hearing testimony on the way forward in Iraq.
Honorable Robert M. Gates
Secretary of Defense
General Peter Pace, USMC
No transcripts YET!
Gates, Pace Say U.S. Will Review Plan If Iraqis Fail (Update3)
By Ken Fireman
Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. will ``revisit'' President George W. Bush's plan to send more forces to Iraq if that country's leaders fail to fulfill their responsibilities under the plan, top Defense Department leaders told lawmakers.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace said they remain confident that Iraqi leaders will follow through on commitments to provide more troops and use them evenhandedly against all violent groups.
If those pledges are not met, Gates and Pace said in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, U.S. officials will quickly pressure the Iraqis to act. If that isn't successful, the U.S. will reconsider the decision to send as many as 21,500 additional American troops, they said.
``Obviously, if the Iraqis fail to live up to their commitments,'' we will have to revisit our strategy,'' Gates told the committee.
Pace reiterated that view, while adding that early indications are that Iraqi leaders are serious about following through on their pledges. ``Everything they have said they would do, they have done,'' said Pace, a Marine general.
The two officials testified as part of a Bush administration effort to sway lawmakers who are skeptical about the plan, which Bush presented last night as an Iraqi-led crackdown on violent unrest in Baghdad with the new U.S. forces in a supporting role.
Doubts on Maliki
Committee members from both parties expressed strong doubts that the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki would deliver on its promises to commit three new brigades to the Baghdad operation within five weeks and to act against Shiite militias as well as Sunni insurgents.
``I just have my doubts that the Iraqis will show up,'' said Representative John McHugh, a New York Republican.
McHugh and other lawmakers pressed Gates and Pace repeatedly for details on how U.S. officials would react if such fears were realized.
Gates declined to say how long the administration would wait before reacting to an Iraqi failure. Still, he and Gates noted that U.S. officials will soon have some concrete indications about Iraqi intentions because the Maliki government has promised to fully deploy one new brigade in Baghdad by Feb. 1 and two more by Feb. 15.
``We clearly will know within a couple of months or so whether this strategy is, in fact, beginning to bear fruit,'' Gates said. ``It's going to take a while. We are at the mercy of anyone willing to strap on a bomb and blow themselves up, in terms of more bloodshed and more violence. But we will, obviously, be monitoring it.''
Pace said the joint Iraqi-U.S. operation in central Baghdad earlier this week was an early favorable sign that Iraqis would live up to their promises. In that operation, he said, Iraqi forces took the lead in taking on insurgents, backed by U.S. ground forces as well as helicopters and aircraft.
Gates and Pace provided new details on the planned tempo of the U.S. buildup and said Iraqi performance would be one of the factors determining that pace.
They said U.S. ground commanders requested two new brigades for Baghdad and one for Anbar province in western Iraq to carry out the new security plan developed by U.S. and Iraqi officials. Bush has authorized five brigades for Baghdad -- more than requested -- to provide a reserve force, they said.
Gates said decisions about whether to commit some or all of those U.S. forces, and when to do so, will be made based mainly on two factors: whether Iraqi officials are keeping their commitments and the ``overall success'' of the operation on the ground.
To contact the reporter on this story: Ken Fireman in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated: January 11, 2007 16:27 EST SOURCE