Administration’s Inability to Give Congress Clear Measures of Progress Is Unacceptable
Washington, D.C. – Senator Harry Reid issued the following statement following testimony today by Defense Department leaders on the U.S. strategy in Iraq:
“We must succeed in Iraq. Our men and women fighting in Iraq are dedicated patriots who deserve every ounce of our effort to make sure there is a strategy for success. What has become increasingly frustrating for the American people and the Congress is the continued refusal of the Bush administration to come clean and talk straight about the war in Iraq and lay out in detail what his plan is. Yesterday, I joined with a group of Democratic Senators who wrote to Secretary Rumsfeld and called on him to do just that because America deserves better. Today he had he yet another opportunity to do so and once again he failed.”
“The President and Secretary of Defense have repeatedly told the American public that more than 160,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained and equipped. But today we learned that more than two years since the fall of Baghdad, the Bush Administration has only trained 1 Iraqi battalion – roughly 1,000 soldiers — to fight without U.S. forces. It is hard to call this progress and raises serious questions about this administration’s ability to level with the American people about the war in Iraq.
“It is unacceptable that this administration cannot – or will not – answer the most basic questions about what military and political progress is being made and what must be achieved in order for our troops to complete their mission and come home. With only one Iraqi battalion fully capable of fighting without American support, we have a long way to go, but no idea how long that path is. At the same time, I remain greatly concerned that the administration has not created the political consensus necessary to create a stable and secure Iraq.
“The American people deserve better and together I know we can do better. It is long past time for President Bush and his advisors to lay out in clear and explicit terms, with goals by which their progress can be measured, their strategy for success. For our troops and our families, I hope that time will come soon.”
THE FACTS BETRAY THE RHETORIC
Bush Says 160,000 Troops Were Trained and Equipped. “Today Iraq has more than 160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions.” [President George W. Bush, 6/28/05]
But General Casey Says Only 1 Iraqi Battalion is Fully Ready and Equipped to Fight Independently:
MCCAIN: General Abizaid, there was a report sent over, I think last June, that three of the 100 Iraqi battalions were fully trained and equipped, capable of operating independently.
What is that number now?
ABIZAID: The number now is, if you’re talking about level 1-trained, it’s one.
MCCAIN: You have one battalion?
MCCAIN: It used to be three. Now we’ve gone from three to one?
CASEY: Pardon me?
MCCAIN: It was three before.
MCCAIN: The previous report you had three battalions. Now we’re down to one battalion.
[Testimony Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 9/29/05]
September 28, 2005
The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
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. 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.
John D. Rockefeller IV
Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Edward M. Kennedy
 As required in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief (Public Law 109-13).