U.S. Officials Say Troop Boost Relies on Iraq Doing Its Part
USINFO Staff Writer
Washington – The plan to augment the U.S. military presence in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, and Anbar province will take place in phases and could be reconsidered if the Iraqi government does not keep its promised security commitments, top military leaders told Congress.
The new U.S. strategy for Iraq was announced January 10 by President Bush. (See related article.)
The United States and Iraqi governments expect the strategy to start showing positive results within the next several months, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the House Armed Services Committee January 11.
“The president has made very clear, both in his speech last night and in his talks with the Iraqi government, that American patience is limited,” Gates testified. “And obviously, if the Iraqis fail to maintain their commitments, we will have to revisit our strategy.”
However, Gates emphasized, “It is the Iraqis who have come to us with this plan. It is the Iraqis who are insisting on leading this undertaking. It is the Iraqis who are insisting that they have to get control of their own capital and that they need some help from us to do that.”
Gates, who took charge of the Pentagon in mid-December 2006, has held numerous meetings with U.S. and Iraqi officials.
“The Number 1 most important difference between this plan and other plans is the political environment in which it will be executed,” said General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who testified alongside Gates.
Late the previous evening, President Bush announced a new Iraq strategy that includes deploying approximately 21,500 additional troops to augment security. The plan also includes additional investment in economic development and a commitment by the Iraqi government to provide $10 billion of its own funds for rapid economic development and to take the lead in establishing and maintaining security in and around Baghdad.
Iraqi officials have promised to deploy more troops to Baghdad and to deploy those troops impartially, without favoring any specific ethnic, religious or political group, Gates said. Iraqi officials also have pledged to prevent any political interference in the detention or release of suspects apprehended by police or military authorities. The security efforts will be assisted by a gradual increase of American forces.
Gates said it is unclear how long the additional U.S. troops would be deployed. “I’m thinking of it as a matter of months – not 18 months or two years,” Gates replied when asked if the augmentation would stretch beyond a year. “We clearly will know within a couple of months whether this strategy is going to bear fruit.”
Pace outlined some of the details of the new strategy.
Approximately 4,000 Marines would build on recent coalition military successes in Anbar province, Pace testified. About 7,000 troops are heading to Baghdad. Another 10,500 will be deployed gradually over the next several months and could be reassigned elsewhere depending on local conditions. The United States also is expanding the number of military advisers assigned to Iraqi battalions and companies.
The first U.S. brigade is en route to Baghdad, but two follow-on brigades will not be deployed immediately. Their schedule could depend on the performance of Iraqi security forces and government officials.
It is important, Pace said, that the plan began as an initiative by the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It then was developed “in great detail” by U.S. General George Casey – the senior coalition commander in Iraq, along with Iraqi and U.S. military and government officials.
The plan calls for appointing an Iraqi commander for all of Baghdad. The Iraqi commander will have two Iraqi division commanders reporting to him, with each division responsible for one side of the Tigris River that divides the Iraqi capital. Baghdad is to be divided into nine districts, and each district will have an Iraqi military brigade assigned to it, along with Iraqi national police and Iraqi local police. Each Iraqi brigade, made up of several battalions, will be supported by an American military battalion. In each of these districts, three or four Iraqi police stations will serve as hubs for military and police operations. U.S. and Iraqi officials jointly approved the appointment of division and brigade commanders, Pace said.
As part of the plan, the Iraqi government has said it will move three brigades from other regions of Iraq into Baghdad, Pace said. The first brigade is en route. The United States will watch the deployment of the next two Iraqi brigades closely, and deployment of U.S. brigades likely would depend on the successful deployment and operation of Iraqi units.
The additional U.S. troops augment a U.S. presence of approximately 132,000 troops throughout the country.
In Bagdad, there are currently 42,000 Iraqi security personnel and 24,000 U.S. military personnel, Pace said. The plan calls for Iraq to deploy an additional 8,000 personnel and the United States to deploy an additional 7,000 troops to Baghdad, for a total of 31,000 U.S. military personnel in the capital, Pace said.
For more information on U.S. policy, see Iraq Update.