Senate Democrats

National Security Experts Believe U.S. Must Change Course in Iraq

During today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on the military and political prospects in Iraq after the surge, national security experts reiterated their calls for a change of course in Iraq. Citing the continued lack of political progress, the tenuous nature of security gains and the cost of the war on our military readiness, they called for redeployment of our troops from Iraq. Democrats agree with this assessment, which is why we continue to push for a new strategy that refocuses on the terrorist threat, allows us to rebuild our military and redeploys our troops from Iraq.

The surge has failed to meet its primary objective of political progress in Iraq:

Lt. Gen. Odom Testified That The Surge is Prolonging Instability. “The surge is prolonging instability, not creating the conditions for unity as the president claims… Violence has been temporarily reduced but today there is credible evidence that the political situation is far more fragmented.  And currently we see violence surge in Baghdad and Basra.  In fact, it has also remained sporadic and significant in several other parts of Iraq over the past year, notwithstanding the notable drop in Baghdad and Anbar Province.” [Lieutenant General William Odom’s Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]

Shi’ite Iraqi Government Used Surge To Consolidate Power, Not Compromise. “Rather than broadening the political process and opening the doors for compromise, forces dominating the government are using the lull in the violence to consolidate their hold on power by establishing facts on the ground.” [Yahia Said’s Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]

Iraqi Government Failed to Take Advantage of Security Gains, Can’t Meet Basic Needs of Iraqis. “The Maliki government appears largely unwilling or unable to take advantage of the space created by improved security to move towards political accommodation, provide for the basic needs of the Iraqi people and lay the foundation for stability – and its own legitimacy. And the Bush administration appears to lack a strategy for getting them to do so.” [Michelle Flournoy’s Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]

  • Virtually All Iraqis Believe Central Government is Corrupt. “From Sunni tribal and business leaders in Baghdad and the west to Shia mayors and governors in the center and south, mounting frustration with the incompetence, dysfunction, and corruption of the central government was palpable and universal.” [Michelle Flournoy’s Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]

Said Testified That Iraqi Political Process Has Failed To Improve. “Without progress at the political level, improvements to security and administration are likely to falter. Progress is needed to bring the various initiatives together and provide them with coherence and resources. Groups currently vying for power will need a way to negotiate a shared vision of the future. Yet the political process, hobbled by a sectarian allocation formula, is showing little signs of movement.” [Yahia Said’s Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]

Laws Passed by Iraqi Parliament Failed to Address Underlying Issues and Tensions. “Growing differences between government and opposition and within individual parties and factions are creating political paralysis. Constitutional review, hydrocarbon and election legislation are in limbo. The laws being passed often fail to address the underlying issues and tensions. Crucial disagreements over the distribution of power, the role of religion or transitional justice remain un-addressed.” [Yahia Said’s Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]

Security situation remains tenuous, despite the surge:

Rosen Said Violence Has Decreased Due to Ethnic Cleansing, Not Military ‘Surge.’ “In 2007, when most reasonable observers were calling for a reduction of American troops and an eventual withdrawal, the Bush administration decided to increase the troops instead. The immediate impact was nothing, and since it began nearly a million Iraqis fled their homes, mostly from Baghdad, and Baghdad became a Shiite city. So one of the main reason less people are being killed is because there are less people to kill. This is a key to understanding the drop in violence. Shiites were cleansed from Sunni areas and Sunnis were cleansed from Shiite areas. Militias consolidated their control over fiefdoms.” [Nir Rosen’s Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]

Lt. Gen. Odom Said The Surge Has Made The Military Situation ‘Far Worse’ Because of Proliferation of Armed Groups. “Thus the basic military situation is far worse because of the proliferation of armed groups under local military chiefs who follow a proliferating number of political bosses.” [Lieutenant General William Odom’s Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]

Lt. Gen Odom Said Sunni Awakening Is Not Loyal to U.S., Could Break Off At Any Time. “Let me emphasize that our new Sunni friends insist on being paid for their loyalty.  I have heard, for example, a rough estimate that the cost in one area of about 100 square kilometers is $250,000 per day.  And periodically they threaten to defect unless their fees are increased.  You might want to find out the total costs for these deals forecasted for the next several years, because they are not small and they do not promise to end. Remember, we do not own these people. We merely rent them. And they can break the lease at any moment.  At the same time, this deal protects them to some degree from the government’s troops and police, hardly a sign of political reconciliation.” [Lieutenant General William Odom’s Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]

The prolonged war in Iraq has taken a great toll on our military:

General McCaffrey Said We’re Breaking the U.S. Army. “U.S. combat forces need to reduce their footprint to get down to twelve combat brigades by December 2008. We are breaking the U.S. Army.” [General McCaffrey’ Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]

Gen. McCaffrey Testified Iraq War is Badly Damaging Our Military. General McCaffrey pointed out that many troops are on their 4th combat tour. On his last trip to Iraq he observed that American military forces are the de facto low level government of Iraq. General McCaffrey believes our army is starting to unravel and we have a huge recruitment and retention problem. He said 10% of the recruits joining the military today shouldn’t be in uniform and multiple deployments to Iraq are the major problem in recruiting quality troops. He also warned that we are overly dependent on private contractors for all our military needs in Iraq. [General McCaffrey’ Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]

Flournoy Testified 6 Years of Repeated Combat Tours Broke Our Military. “More than six years of repeated combat tours with little time at home in between have placed a heavy burden on our soldiers, marines and their families. The operational demands of these wars have consumed the nation’s supply of ready ground forces, leaving the United States without an adequate pool of Army units ready for other possible contingencies and increasing the level of strategic risk.” [Michelle Flournoy’s Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]

The U.S. must adopt a new strategy and withdraw from Iraq:

Lt. Gen Odom Testified Withdrawal Is The Only Sensible Option in Iraq. “The only sensible strategy is to withdraw rapidly but in good order. Only that step can break the paralysis now gripping US strategy in the region. The next step is to choose a new aim, regional stability, not a meaningless victory in Iraq.” [Lieutenant General William Odom’s Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]

General McCaffrey Said War as it Is Now Configured Is Not Militarily Nor Politically Sustainable. “There is no US political will to continue casualties of 100 to 1000 US military killed and wounded per month.…The war as it now is configured — is not militarily nor politically sustainable.” [General McCaffrey’ Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]

Flournoy Supported a Timetable for Withdrawal in Iraq. “Under this approach, if the Iraq central government made reasonable political progress, U.S. forces would gradually shift to an overwatch role as currently envisioned by in the current military campaign plan, on a timetable determined by the extent of political accommodation and conditions on the ground. More specifically, it envisions a gradual transition of U.S. forces from protecting the Iraqi population to advising, training, and assisting Iraqi Security Forces in doing so.” [Michelle Flournoy’s Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]

  • Flournoy Asserted Bush Administration’s Strategy Provides Little Incentive for Iraqis to Make Tough Decisions, Is Unsustainable. “Unconditional engagement would be a continuation of the Bush administration’s policy of giving the Iraqi government an open-ended commitment of support for as long as it takes, whether they make progress toward stated goals or not. This all-in approach is all carrots and no sticks, and provides little incentive for Iraqis to make the hard choices that are essential to their future. It is also unsustainable for the U.S. military, the U.S. treasury and the American people.” [Michelle Flournoy’s Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/2/08]
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