Washington, DC—Key Democratic Senators, retired U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Lawrence J. Korb and Third Way Vice President Matt Bennett held a panel discussion today to discuss how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have strained our ground forces, and what Congress and the military can do to address these problems. Our troops and their families suffer from extended deployments, the war strategy has stretched our forces thin, and our focus in the Middle East leaves us ill-equipped for the next attack or crisis.
“The wars have also stretched our troops thin, failing to provide them the support, rest, equipment or training they need. This strain on our military is one of the most serious consequences of the Iraq war,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. “We have to face the reality that with more than 160,000 troops in Iraq, our military simply does not have the flexibility it needs to handle the unknowns. I believe that if we work together – civilian, military, Democrat, Republican – we can find solutions to rebuild our military, refocus on the fight against terrorism, and redirect our foreign policy to truly make America safer. This will continue to be one of my highest priorities as Majority Leader.”
Said Senator Evan Bayh, a Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee: “The Bush administration has broken faith with the armed forces of the United States, and rebuilding that trust must be of highest priority. We are at a major turning point in the threats facing the nation. We must have the courage to shift gears, because business as usual risks leaving us with an exhausted military ill-equipped to meet the changing threats of a dangerous world.”
“The administration has continuously had three options to stabilize the situation in Iraq: meaningful international diplomacy, national reconciliation within the country, and the employment of our military. We have used this third option of calling on our military time and time again,” said Senator Webb, a Vietnam combat veteran and former Secretary of the Navy. “Every time there has been a crisis, our military have done all that has been asked of them tactically to control the battle space before them. But, until we have a smart diplomatic formula in place to match the work of our servicemembers on the ground, we will lack the ability to withdraw from Iraq in a responsible way and continue to have an overburdened military. We have placed great strain on our men and women in uniform through repeat and extended deployments and left ourselves ill-prepared to respond to crises in other regions of the world.”
Said McCaffrey: “The departure of so many talented Captains and Majors tells me the Army is at risk of breaking. We simply can’t fight today’s or tomorrow’s wars without them and they are leaving in alarming numbers.”
“Our current U.S. Army was not built for the long war, and therefore we’ve had to break our moral contract with our men and women in uniform,” Korb said. “This is just one of the reasons why we need to get out of Iraq.”
Said Bennett: “The Army is the tip of the spear in our arsenal, and that spear has been blunted. Unless our leaders act now to fix the Army and re-sharpen the spear, the United States will be in serious danger.”