Senate Democrats

Democratic Leaders Call for Greater Accountability From Rumsfeld on Iraq

Washington, DC - A group of Senate Democratic leaders wrote to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to call on him to provide more straightforward answers about the military and political progress in Iraq to the Congress and the American people. The leaders criticized Rumsfeld for not giving clear answers in the Administration’s first report to Congress measuring stability and security in Iraq. For his testimony today before the Senate Armed Services Committee and for the report due in two weeks, Democrats urged the Secretary to meet a higher standard, lay out clear objectives, and provide more detailed, unclassified judgments about the progress in Iraq . America can do better.

The text of the letter is below:

September 28, 2005

The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
The Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301-4000

Dear Secretary Rumsfeld:

Tomorrow you will testify before the United States Senate and the House of Representatives regarding the Administration’s strategy in Iraq. In addition, in less than two weeks, your second written report to Congress measuring stability and security in Iraq will be due.[1] These are significant events. We urge you to take advantage of these opportunities to provide frank answers to the questions the American public has been asking and that, thus far, the Administration has not answered.

General Casey, America’s top military commander in Iraq, in July stated that “if the political process continues to go positively, and if the development of the security forces continues to go as it is going, I do believe we’ll still be able to take some fairly substantial reductions [in U.S. forces] after these elections in the spring and summer” of 2006. No other Administration official has publicly confirmed this timetable, or, just as importantly, provided Congress and the American people with sufficient unclassified information to permit us to assess the Administration’s progress on either front.

The Administration’s first report to Congress measuring stability and security in Iraq raised more questions than it answered. As a result, despite the fact that more than two years have elapsed since the fall of Baghdad, we have still not received a reliable, unclassified assessment of the security training progress we have made. We hope you use your upcoming testimony and the unclassified section of the next report to Congress to address three key questions:

  • How many Iraqi security forces are now capable of fighting on their own (units rated by the Defense Department as “Level 1″) or taking the lead in the fight with a small number of embedded U.S. forces (“Level 2″)?
  • How many Level 1 and Level 2 security forces must be in place before you feel it will be appropriate to begin reducing U.S. forces ? When do you anticipate this is likely to occur?
  • What U.S. troop levels likely will be required in the year ahead?

The Administration’s first report to Congress was also deficient in providing information needed to assess the Administration’s progress in Iraq on the political front. As a result, it appears the Administration’s measures of success for the political process do not sufficiently focus on building political consensus and reconciling differences across Iraq’s sectarian lines. The Administration must provide answers to three key questions on this front:

  • What specific measures does the Administration plan to take to forge the necessary political consensus and reconcile the sectarian and religious differences?
  • How will we measure progress on reconciling Iraqi differences after the October referendum and December elections?
  • What additional political milestones must be met next year before American forces can begin to come home?

The Administration needs to find a way to provide the American people with unclassified judgments on these questions. Continued stonewalling, or simply saying these answers are “unknowable” or are “conditions based” are no longer satisfactory. The Congress and the American people deserve better information.

Sincerely,

Harry Reid
Richard Durbin
Carl Levin
John D. Rockefeller IV
Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Edward M. Kennedy
Jack Reed

[1] As required in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief (Public Law 109-13).

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