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Bush to hear military concerns Friday about heavy troop deployments in Iraq

Bush to hear military concerns Friday about heavy troop deployments in Iraq

President George W. Bush is expected to hear deep concerns Friday from top Pentagon generals about continuing the military buildup in Iraq, as yet another grim independent report emerges finding lack of progress in the conflict.
Iraq was to be the main topic at a meeting so Bush could hear assessments from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Two independent assessments already have been previewed this week _ the latest finding that Iraq's national police are so corrupt and tainted by sectarianism that the corps should be scrapped and replaced with a smaller force.
An independent commission established by Congress to study Iraq's security forces will recommend starting over and reshaping the troubled 25,000-member police organization with a more elite force, a defense official said Friday.
The report from a commission headed by the former commander of U.S. troops in Europe, retired Gen. James Jones, is to be presented to Congress next week but was briefed to Gates and other officials this week, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it has not been publicly released.
It followed circulation of a draft report by the auditing arm of Congress that found the Iraqi government has failed to meet political and security goals. A third report _ by the nation's intelligence agencies last week _ found there has been some progress, but that violence remains high, the Iraqi government will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months and its security forces have not improved enough to operate without outside help.
Training and equipping an Iraqi Army, police force and border corps is key to handing over responsibility for Iraq's security and bringing U.S. troops home. Commanders have said they hoped to have a 390,000 security forces trained by the end of this year, but that they are not yet capable enough in some areas for the U.S. to reduce its troop levels.
Bush's Friday meeting with generals is likely to include an assessment on the long-term impact on U.S. forces of maintaining a heavy troop presence in Iraq in 2008 and beyond. There are more than 160,000 Americans in Iraq, up from around 130,000 before the escalation Bush ordered in January.
The Army and the Marine Corps have shouldered most of the burden in Iraq, creating strains that service leaders fear could hurt their recruiting as well as their preparedness for other military emergencies. The Joint Chiefs, however, were not expected to urge Bush to withdraw from Iraq entirely as many Democrats want.
Maj. Gen. Richard Sherlock, director of operational planning for the Joint Chiefs, told reporters that Friday's meeting in a secure conference room known as "the tank" would be the Joint Chiefs' opportunity to "provide the president with their unvarnished recommendations and their assessments of current operations" _ in particular the situation in Iraq.
It did not appear that the session was intended to work out a consensus military view on how long Bush should maintain the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq or how soon to transition to Iraqi control of security.
Bush in recent public statements has suggested he intends to stick to his Iraq strategy for now.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said this week that Gates wanted to ensure that all senior military leaders had an opportunity to express their individual views on Iraq to the president, without feeling the need to present a consensus view.
Bush was to hear advice from Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs; Adm. William Fallon, the senior commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East; and the top commanders in Baghdad.
The Pentagon meeting takes place as an independent assessment of the war from the Government Accountability Office has concluded that Iraq has made little political progress in recent months despite the influx of U.S. troops the president ordered earlier this year.
In a draft report circulated this week, the GAO concluded that at least 13 of the 18 political and security goals for the Iraqi government have not been met. Administration officials on Thursday objected to several of the findings and dismissed the report as unrealistically harsh because it assigned pass-or-fail grades to each benchmark, with little nuance.
Officials also appeared to dismiss the separate report on Iraqi security forces Friday.
"We're not giving up on the Iraqi National Police," said Morrell.
"We have said all along that the Army is growing into a very professional, dedicated force and that there is still work to be done with the police," said Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman.
Jones briefs Congress next week on his assessment of the Iraqi security forces, and Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, testify the week of Sept. 10.
Bush will deliver his own progress report by Sept. 15.


Updated : 2021-03-05 06:01 GMT+08:00