Joint chiefs chairman faults military for not explaining Iraq war well enough
By ROBERT BURNS - AP Military Writer
WASHINGTON - (AP) The military hasn't done a good enough job
of explaining to the American people what is going on in Iraq and the
political and military progress there, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff said Thursday.
Even so, Gen. Peter Pace, warned that battling terrorism will be a
Speaking at the National Defense University, Pace said he is often
asked if the United States would be better off by ending the fight and
"There is no option other than victory," he said. "You need to get
out and read what our enemies have said ... Their goal is to destroy our way
Pace spoke a day after President George W. Bush used a speech at the
U.S. Naval Academy to spell out what he called his strategy for victory in
Bush's plan contained no new approaches and no start date for
withdrawing U.S. troops. But he indicated that by 2006, Iraqi forces will be
sufficiently trained to let American troops shift to less visible and
possibly less dangerous roles.
Amid growing pressure to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq, Bush
urged patience, claimed steady progress and vowed to accept nothing less
than "complete victory."
Democrats were quick to criticize, accusing Bush of failing to
answer squarely the most pressing questions on the minds of Americans who
wonder whether the cost in American blood and treasure has been worth it.
Sen. John Kerry, who challenged Bush for the presidency in 2004, on
Thursday said the president was ignoring "the realities on the ground" as
military leaders have described them to Congress.
"The large presence of American troops in Iraq gives credence to the
notion of occupation and in fact delays the willingness and ability of Iraqi
troops to stand up," Kerry said on NBC's "Today" show.
"Until the president really acknowledges that that large presence is
part of the problem, and begins to set a benchmark process for transferring
responsibility to the Iraqis, we're going to continue with more of the
same," he said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi embraced a call by a prominent
defense hawk in her party, Rep. John Murtha, to begin a troop withdrawal.
"The status quo is not working," Pelosi said.
And Murtha, a decorated Vietnam war hero, told a civic group in his
home state of Pennsylvania that he believes most U.S. troops will leave Iraq
within a year because the Army is "broken, worn out" and "living hand to
mouth," the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Thursday.
Before Bush spoke Wednesday, the White House released a report,
titled "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," outlining the
administration's rationale, strategy and measures of progress.
By next year, Bush said, U.S. commanders expect the Iraqi security
forces to be able to assume more of the direct combat roles now performed by
"We will continue to shift from providing security and conducting
operations against the enemy nationwide to conducting more specialized
operations targeted at the most dangerous terrorists," Bush said. "We will
increasingly move out of Iraqi cities, reduce the number of bases from which
we operate and conduct fewer patrols and convoys."
The implication is that fewer U.S. troops will be needed, at least
for missions that have been causing the bulk of U.S. casualties. So far,
more than 2,100 American troops have died in Iraq.
In noting that U.S. forces have begun turning over control of
military bases to the Iraqis, Bush singled out the Nov. 22 handover of a
base near Tikrit that includes one of Saddam Hussein's former palace
complexes. Bush said it had served as a U.S. military headquarters "in one
of Iraq's most dangerous regions."
Bush's definition of victory in Iraq suggested years of additional
U.S. military assistance. But it also may have set the stage for what
Pentagon officials already have said is an expected 2006 drawdown of U.S.
forces, which now total nearly 160,000. Bush emphasized recent progress in
the training of Iraqi security forces, noting that they now control several
sections of Iraq, including large portions of Baghdad.