Gen­eral to Congress: Anti-surge ef­forts give en­emy hope

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Rowan Scar­bor­ough

The next U.S. com­man­der for Iraq told Congress on Jan. 23 that pend­ing Se­nate res­o­lu­tions against a surge of more than 21,000 troops give the en­emy hope by de­pict­ing Amer­ica as di­vided on win­ning the war.

Army Lt. Gen. David Pe­traeus, Pres­i­dent Bush’s choice to take over com­mand in Iraq and change the tide of a de­te­ri­o­rat­ing bat­tle, re­vealed his as­sess­ment in ques­tion­ing from the Se­nate’s two lead­ing warhawks:Sens.JohnMcCain,Ari­zona Repub­li­can, and Joe Lieber­man, Con­necti­cut in­de­pen­dent.

Mr. McCain, who sup­ports a larger troop in­crease, asked what the re­sults would be if sen­a­tors “tell those troops that we sup­port you, but we are con­vinced that you can­not ac­com­plish your mis­sion. [. . . ] What ef­fect does that have on the morale?”

“Well, it would not be a ben­e­fi­cial ef­fect, sir,” Gen. Pe­traeus replied dur­ing a con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing to four-star rank be­fore the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. “Ob­vi­ously, a com­man­der would like to go for­ward with as much flex­i­bil­ity as he can achieve.”

Mr. Lieber­man tried to pull Gen. Pe­traeus fur­ther into the up­com­ing Se­nat­ede­bate.Heasked­what­ef­fect an anti-surge Se­nate res­o­lu­tion would have on the en­emy. Af­ter prais­ing the U.S. sys­tem of open po­lit­i­cal de­bate, the gen­eral added, “hav­ing said that, a com­man­der in such an en­deavor would ob­vi­ously like the en­emy to feel that there’s no hope.”

“A Se­nate-passed res­o­lu­tion of dis­ap­proval for this new strat­egy in Iraq­would­givetheen­e­mysomeen­cour­age­ment,”Mr.Lieber­man­said, to which Gen. Pe­traeus an­swered, “That’s cor­rect, sir.”

Gen. Pe­traeus spent much of the hear­ing ex­plain­ing his views on coun­terin­sur­gency, as­sess­ing the “dire”sit­u­a­tion in Iraq and pre­dict­ing the troop surge can suc­ceed. He tes­ti­fied that the gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki has tak­en­step­stochange­pol­i­cy­by­bulk­ing up Iraqi forces in Bagh­dad.

“The sit­u­a­tion in Iraq is dire,” he said. “The stakes are high. There are no easy choices. The way ahead will be very hard.”

Gen. Pe­traeus, whose con­fir­ma­tion is ex­pected by the full Se­nate, is to re­place Army Gen. Ge­orge Casey, whom Mr. Bush has se­lected as Army chief of staff. His hear­ing was the first of two con­fir­ma­tion pro­ceed­ings that will change the nearly four-year war’s mil­i­tary lead­er­ship. Next up is Adm. William J. Fal­lon, who is to re­place Army Gen. JohnAbizaidashead­ofU.S.Cen­tral Com­mand, which in­cludes Iraq.

Sen. Carl Levin, Michi­gan Demo­crat and the com­mit­tee chair­man, ex­pressed doubts that Mr. alMa­liki would keep his prom­ise. Mr. al-Ma­liki had re­fused to or­der his mil­i­tary to crush the death squad forces of rad­i­cal cleric Muq­tada alSadr, who con­trols Shi’ite mem­bers in par­lia­ment who sup­port Mr. al-Ma­liki.

“They have not com­plied with pre­vi­ous com­mit­ments that they’ve made,” said Mr. Levin, who ad­vo­cate­sapre­de­ter­mined­phased­with­drawal of all U.S. forces. “I’m very doubt­ful, as one sen­a­tor, that it’s likely they’re go­ing to carry out the other com­mit­ments that they have made. I just think his­tory should make us very du­bi­ous about the like­li­hood that they are go­ing to carry out th­ese crit­i­cally im­por­tant com­mit­ments.”

Mr. Bush an­nounced a surge to about155,000troopsin­what­maybe the last ma­jor bid to put down Sunni-Shi’ite sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence and de­feat al Qaeda in Iraq.

In Gen. Pe­traeus, Mr. Bush tapped a com­man­der who led part of the force that in­vaded Iraq in 2003 and who then re­turned to the coun­try to train its emerg­ing se­cu­rity force. The gen­eral is com­man­der of the U.S. Army Com­bined Arms Cen­ter at Fort Leav­en­worth, Kan., and over­saw the writ­ing of the mil­i­tary’s new coun­terin­sur­gency man­ual, which states that too many troops can alien­ate civil­ians and push them to sup­port­ing the in­sur­gents.

Gen. Pe­traeus said, “I think that at this point in Bagh­dad, the pop­u­la­tion just wants to be se­cure. And truth­fully, they don’t care who does it.”

Bloomberg News

Army Lieu­tenant Gen­eral David Pe­traeus tes­ti­fies at a Se­nate Armed Ser­vices hear­ing on his nom­i­na­tion to be the new com­man­der of U.S. forces in Iraq on Jan. 23. Gen. Pe­traeus said he couldn’t suc­cess­fully carry out his new mis­sion of lead­ing U.S. forces in Iraq and pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity for Bagh­dad with­out the ad­di­tional 21,500 troops that Pres­i­dent Bush plans to send to the coun­try.

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