Rep. Duncan Hunter, the current chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is urging top administration and military officials to shift Iraqi forces from peaceful areas of Iraq into the heavy combat areas before making any decisions about American troops.
The California Republican and 2008 presidential hopeful said there are 27 Iraqi battalions now guarding overwhelmingly peaceful areas and most or all of them should be moved into more combative areas where daily fighting occurs, such as Baghdad.
“There’snoreasonnottoputthem into operation,” he said. “We can movethoseIraqiforcesintothefight.”
He said doing so would mature the Iraqi troops as fighters, test the quality of the Iraqi military leadership and accelerate the goal of fully turning Iraq over to the Iraqis and removing American troops.
Mr. Hunter sent a letter to President Bush about the topic back in October. He said he’s requesting a follow-up meeting with Mr. Bush and possibly the vice president to discusstheidea,andhe’ssendingfollow-up letters to others as well, includingRobertM.Gates,nominated to be the next defense secretary.
Mr. Hunter said he’s pushing his idea so forcefully because he anticipates a new Pentagon plan recommending either withdrawing from Iraq or enlarging U.S. forces there, with a middle ground of staying for a long time.
“I have an alternative to that, and it’s called ‘Go Iraqi,’ ” he said.