Joint Chiefs op­pose pull­out

‘No dis­sent’ on strat­egy, timetable

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Rowan Scar­bor­ough

All six mem­bers of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, amid an on­go­ing Pen­tagon re­view of strat­egy for Iraq, op­pose pulling out U.S. troops now, and are also against a spe­cific with­drawal timetable, a de­fense source said Nov. 29.

“The chiefs are solid. They want vic­tory,” the source said. “There is no dis­sent.”

The Joint Chiefs — which in­cludes Gen. Peter Pace, the chair­man, along with a vice chair­man and the heads of the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy — have been meet­ing sev­eral times a week to re­view a list of Iraq op­tions for Pres­i­dent Bush.

The Pen­tagon has said all op­tions are open for con­sid­er­a­tion dur­ing the far-reach­ing re­view. But on the ques­tion of with­drawal, the is­sue is set­tled in fa­vor of Mr. Bush’s po­si­tion, the source said.

“We are look­ing at the whole spec­trum of pos­si­ble mil­i­tary ac­tions,” Gen. Pace said. “I’m not go­ing to say to you where I am per­son­ally, nor where the chiefs are, be­cause our re­spon­si­bil­ity is to

give our best mil­i­tary ad­vice.”

A Pen­tagon spokesman said he had no in­for­ma­tion on the chiefs’ po­si­tions.

At a press con­fer­ence, Gen. Pace en­dorsed the idea of shift­ing more Iraqi forces into vi­o­lencewracked Bagh­dad, where Shi’ite and Sunni ter­ror­ists are on a killing spree to gain con­trol of the cap­i­tal. A num­ber of law­mak­ers, in­clud­ing Rep. Dun­can Hunter, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can and House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee chair­man, ad­vo­cate send­ing more Iraqi bat­tal­ions to the cap­i­tal.

“I think that idea has a good amount of ap­peal for mul­ti­ple rea­sons,” Gen. Pace said. “Be­cause Bagh­dad is ex­tremely im­por­tant to the Iraqi gov­ern­ment, and their armed forces and their se­cu­rity forces are the proper long-term so­lu­tion to that prob­lem.”

Gen. Pace said that putting into prac­tice a Bagh­dad re­de­ploy­ment de­pends on whether Army Gen. Ge­orge Casey, the top U.S. com­man­der in Iraq, and Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki think they have suf­fi­cient per­son­nel from a to­tal force of more than 300,000.

“The ques­tion is, when they move them from where they are, what con­di­tion does that cre­ate from where they moved them,” he said.

The Iraq Study Group, a bi­par­ti­san com­mis­sion of for­mer of- fice­hold­ers, com­pleted work Nov. 29 on its fi­nal re­port to Mr. Bush. The re­port will be re­leased Dec. 6, the day af­ter Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings be­gin for De­fense Sec­re­tary-des­ig­nate Robert M. Gates.

Mr. Bush is not likely to warmly em­brace the study group’s cen­ter­piece pro­posal — di­rect diplo­matic en­gage­ment with U.S. ad­ver­saries Syria and Iran, which are fu­el­ing the var­i­ous in­sur­gency groups in Iraq that are killing U.S. troops and Iraqi civil­ians by the thou­sands.

De­fense sources said the group, led by for­mer Sec­re­tary of State James A. Baker III and for­mer Rep. Lee Hamil­ton, de­cided not to call for a spe­cific timetable to bring home troops be­cause such an idea lacked unan­i­mous sup­port on the panel.

Gen. Pace told re­porters that Gen. Casey has started, af­ter a buildup in Au­gust, to put yet more U.S. troops into Bagh­dad.

“The im­pact of those [Au­gust] in­creases has not been what we wanted it to be,” he said.

De­fense of­fi­cials say Gen. Casey is mov­ing a Stryker ar­mored-ve­hi­cle brigade from north­ern Iraq into Bagh­dad. An in­com­ing brigade will even­tu­ally re­place it in Mo­sul.

Gen. Pace said the Joint Chiefs re­view has been aug­mented by se­nior of­fi­cers who have re­cently served in Iraq. They have com­piled a list of ideas and per­son­ally dis­cussed them with the chiefs in the “tank,” the group’s se­cure meet­ing place.

“We’re do­ing our job, which is to meet mul­ti­ple times a week and to talk through in­di­vid­ual pieces of the global mil­i­tary en­vi­ron­ment,” he said.

De­cem­ber is shap­ing up as a time of ma­jor de­ci­sion-mak­ing by Mr. Bush. He will re­ceive the study group re­port, more in­put from Gen. Pace and ideas from the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil staff.

He has re­sisted di­rect talks with Syria and Iran, two U.S.-des­ig­nated ter­ror­ism spon­sors whom the ad­min­is­tra­tion thinks are us­ing un­rest in Iraq to spread vi­o­lence in Le­banon and the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries. Mr. Bush has also ruled out a di­rect timetable for troop pull­outs. He says re­duc­tions should be based on achiev­ing peace and on the Iraqis’ abil­ity to take con­trol of se­cu­rity in more of the coun­try’s 18 prov­inces.

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