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Defense chief says congressional resolution `emboldens the enemy' in Iraq

Defense chief says congressional resolution `emboldens the enemy' in Iraq

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that a congressional resolution opposing President George W. Bush's troop buildup in Iraq amounts to undercutting U.S. commanders in a way that "emboldens the enemy."
He also said the Pentagon was now studying whether it could accelerate the deployment of the five additional Army brigades that it has announced will be sent to Baghdad between now and May to bolster security in the capital.
At his first Pentagon news conference since taking office Dec. 18, Gates was asked his reaction to the debate in Congress over the effect of such a nonbinding resolution. "It's pretty clear that a resolution that in effect says that the general going out to take command of the arena shouldn't have the resources he thinks he needs to be successful certainly emboldens the enemy and our adversaries," he said.
An aide to Senate Majority leader Harry Reid declined comment. There was no immediate reaction from the office of the leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who was touring Iraq Friday.
Gates talked to reporters as Senate Democrats prepared for the start of debate next week on the resolution of opposition to Bush's decision to send an additional 21,500 U.S. forces into battle in wartorn Iraq. Reid said Friday that a quick test vote would likely be taken if minority Republicans try to delay or block the move.
Gates was referring to Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who was confirmed by the full Senate on Friday to replace Gen. George Casey as the top American commander in Iraq. Petraeus has said he needs all 21,500 extra troops that Bush has ordered to Iraq in order to quell the raging sectarian violence in Baghdad.
"I think it's hard to measure that with any precision, but it seems pretty straightforward that any indication of flagging will in the United States gives encouragement to those folks," Gates said, referring to the anti-government forces in Baghdad. He added that he was certain this was not the intent of those who support the congressional resolution.
"But that's the effect," he said.
Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing last week that he wanted the 21,500 additional troops in Iraq as quickly as possible. Gates said Friday that they had discussed this further and that the Pentagon would see if there are ways of speeding up at least some of the brigades.
"There some simply logistical constraints that make it difficult to do a lot" of acceleration, he said. "But I have asked people to look at it and see to what extent they could be _ or some portion of it _ accelerated."
Until now, the Pentagon had envisioned sending a brigade a month over the next five months.
Gates said there was "no blank check" to U.S. commanders in Iraq to receive an unlimited number of extra troops, but rather they submit requests for what they believe they need and that is reviewed closely by senior officials in the Pentagon, with final decisions left to Bush.
"What we have done, I hope, is created an enviroment in which the commanders feel open to requesting what they think they need and then we will evaluate it here in the department to see what's available and how much of that request we can satisfy," he said.
Asked about indications of potential opposition in the Senate to confirming Casey as the next Army chief of staff, given the unsatisfactory progress in Iraq under his command, Gates said Casey was the professional military's first choice to succeed Gen. Peter Schoomaker as the chief of staff at Army headquarters in the Pentagon. Casey had been the vice chief of staff before Bush sent him to Baghdad in July 2004.
"I think he's eminently qualified," to head the Army, Gates said.
The resolution Gates talked about was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday on a near party-line vote of 12-9, a day after Bush implored lawmakers in his State of the Union address to give his revised war strategy a chance to work.
Several Republicans have lined up behind an alternative proposal that is also critical of Bush's plans to deploy an additional 21,500 troop, but in softer terms.
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Associated Press Special Correspondent David Espo contributed to this story.


Updated : 2021-04-17 11:38 GMT+08:00