Senate Democrats

The State of Iraq and America’s National Security

The Bush/McCain mismanagement of the Iraq war and their stubborn refusal to change course have exacted tremendous costs on America and left America less secure. The war has severely strained our military, and weakened our national security by distracting us from the main threats facing the United States. And in Iraq, little political progress is being made and violence levels are rising. Democrats believe that we must change course in Iraq so that we can refocus on the war on terror, rebuild our military, and strengthen our national security.

 America’s military readiness has been seriously degraded:

Admiral Mullen Said Military is Tired and Worn Thin by Wars. “The top uniformed military officer on Wednesday described a tired U.S. military force, worn thin by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and unlikely to come home in large numbers anytime soon. The assessment comes as President Bush decides whether to continue troop reductions in Iraq — possibly endangering fragile security gains made in recent months — or not, and risk straining ground forces further. ‘The well is deep, but it is not infinite,’ Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. ‘We must get Army deployments down to 12 months as soon as possible. People are tired.’” [Army Times/Associated Press, 2/8/08]

Army Vice Chief of Staff General Cody Said Army’s Readiness Is Being Consumed As Fast As It Can Be Built. “But today our Army is out of balance. The current demand for forces in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds our sustainable supply of soldiers, of units and equipment, and limits our ability to provide ready forces for other contingencies. Our readiness, quite frankly, is being consumed as fast as we can build it.” [Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Readiness, 4/1/08]

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Cody Said We Do Not Have Ready All the Ready Brigades We Need. “Right now, all the units that are back at home station are training, as I said before, to replace the next units in Afghanistan and Iraq. If the surge comes down the way we predict, and we get so many troops back and brigade combat teams back, and we can get the dwell time right, we will start getting those units trained to full spectrum readiness for future contingencies. I don’t know what those future contingencies are, but I do know that this nation and this Joint Force needs to have a division ready brigade, an airborne brigade ready for full spectrum operations, a heavy brigade combat team ready for full spectrum operations, and a Stryker brigade combat team ready for full spectrum operations. And we don’t have that today.” [Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, 4/1/08]

General Cody Testified He Has Never Seen Our Lack of Strategic Depth Be Where It Is Today. “Right now, as I testified, I’ve been doing this for six years. As you know, I was at G-3 of the Army and vice chief now for almost four years. And I’ve never seen our lack of strategic depth be at where it is today.” [Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Readiness, 4/1/08]

General Cody Testified Brigades Getting Ready to Go Back to Iraq and Afghanistan Are Not Where They Need to Be Regarding Equipment Readiness. General Cody, the Army Vice Chief of Staff testified to before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Readiness that, “The brigades that we have today that are getting ready to deploy are all going back to either Afghanistan or Iraq. They will all have 12 months dwell time. Many of them are at a readiness rate in terms of equipment, in an unclassified setting, of not where they need to be.” [Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Readiness, 4/1/08]

Mutiple, extended deployments have taken a toll on our soliders and the army’s recruiting:

Army Concerned About Mental Health of Soldiers On Multiple Tours.  “Army leaders are expressing increased alarm about the mental health of soldiers who would be sent back to the front again and again under plans that call for troop numbers to be sustained at high levels in Iraq for this year and beyond. Among combat troops sent to Iraq for the third or fourth time, more than one in four show signs of anxiety, depression or acute stress, according to an official Army survey of soldiers’ mental health.” [New York Times, 4/6/08]

27 Percent of Non-Commissioned Officers Who Had Served More Than 2 Tours Exhibited PTSD Symptoms, Much Higher than Among First and Second Tour Officers. “The Army study of mental health showed that 27 percent of noncommissioned officers — a critically important group — on their third or fourth tour exhibited symptoms commonly referred to as post-traumatic stress disorders. That figure is far higher than the roughly 12 percent who exhibit those symptoms after one tour and the 18.5 percent who develop the disorders after a second deployment, according to the study, which was conducted by the Army surgeon general’s Mental Health Advisory Team.” [New York Times, 4/6/08]

  • More Army Recruits Required ‘Conduct Waivers.’  “The percentage of recruits requiring a waiver to join the Army because of a criminal record or other past misconduct has more than doubled since 2004 to one for every eight new soldiers. The increase reflects the difficulties the Army faces in attracting young men and women into the military at a time of war. ‘Each month is a struggle, for the Army in particular,’ said Bill Carr, a top military personnel official.” [USA Today, 4/7/08]

Al-Qaeda continue to be the main threat to U.S.:

NIE: Al-Qaeda Is Main Threat to U.S., Has Regenerated Key Elements of its Homeland Attack Capability. “Al-Qa’ida is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the Homeland, as its central leadership continues to plan high-impact plots, while pushing others in extremist Sunni communities to mimic its efforts and to supplement its capabilities. We assess the group has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safehaven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership… As a result, we judge that the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment.” [National Intelligence Estimate, 7/17/07]

CIA Director Gen. Hayden Said He Believed That Another Terrorist Attack on the U.S. Would Originate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Border Region. On Meet the Press, Tim Russert said, “Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, believes that there is–if there is another terrorist attack, it will originate there.” General Hayden responded, “We believe so, too.  We, we, we can see what’s going on… But it’s very clear to us that al-Qaeda has been able, over the past 18 months or so, to establish a safe haven along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area that they have not enjoyed before, that they are bringing operatives into that region for training, operatives that, a phrase I would use, Tim, wouldn’t attract your attention if they were going through the customs line at Dulles with you when you’re coming back from overseas.” [Meet the Press, 3/30/08]

Al-Qaeda Was on Brink of Defeat Before Iraq War Shifted U.S. Attention. “The United States appeared to have soundly defeated the terrorist organization. As Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown professor and one of the world’s leading authorities on terrorism, told me, ‘It’s difficult to recall the extent to which it was believed that a decisive corner had been turned in 2002 as a result of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. We believed not simply that Al Qaeda was on the run, but that it had been smashed to bits.’” [New America Foundation, 10/22/07]

Violence has increased in Afghanistan, but we do not have the troops needed to quell it because of high force levels in Iraq:

U.N. Report: Afghanistan Experienced More Violence in 2007 than Any Year Since 2001. “Afghanistan is currently suffering its most violent year since the 2001 U.S.-led intervention, according to an internal United Nations report that sharply contrasts with recent upbeat appraisals by President Bush and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai. ‘The security situation in Afghanistan is assessed by most analysts as having deteriorated at a constant rate through 2007,’ said the report compiled by the Kabul office of the U.N. Department of Safety and Security. There were 525 security incidents — attacks by the Taliban and other violent groups, bombings, terrorism of other kinds, and abductions — every month during the first half of this year, up from an average of 425 incidents per month in 2006.” [McClatchy, 10/1/07

Admiral Mullen Said There Are Force Requirements in Afghanistan that We Cannot Meet Because of Our High Force Level in Iraq. Asked during a Pentagon press briefing what the military cannot do because of high force levels in Iraq, Admiral Mullen responded, “Well, what immediately comes to mind is additional forces for Afghanistan.  And I’ve said Afghanistan is an economy-of-force campaign.  And there are force requirements there that we can’t currently meet. So having forces in Iraq don’t — at the level they’re at don’t allow us to fill the need that we have in Afghanistan.” [Pentagon Press Briefing, 4/2/08]

Iranian influence has increased in Iraq and in the region:

Many of the Shi’a Political Leaders Empowered by the U.S. Are Deeply Tied to Iran. “Many of the Shi’a political leaders, whom the United States has empowered, spent years in exile in Iran during Saddam Hussein’s rule. They maintain close political ties with Tehran. To take just one example, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), which represents one of the two largest Shi’a political movements in Iraq, was originally formed in Iran. In addition, there is little doubt that Iran has contributed weapons and tactical guidance to some of the insurgent groups that have attacked American forces.” [Rand Beers, Testimony Before the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, 2/28/08]

Iraq War Has Enhanced Iran’s Influence in the Middle East. According to Iran expert Ray Takeyh, Iran has “not only survived the U.S. onslaught but also managed to enhance Iran’s influence in the region. Iran now lies at the center of the Middle East’s major problems — from the civil wars unfolding in Iraq and Lebanon to the security challenge of the Persian Gulf — and it is hard to imagine any of them being resolved without Tehran’s cooperation.” [Ray Takeyh, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2007]

Political accomodation has not occurred, serious divisions persist:

Political Reality in Iraq Is a Weak and Divided Central Government “The emerging political reality in Iraq is a weak and divided central government with limited governing capacity.  Mistrust among leaders in Baghdad remains high.  Key ministerial posts have remained unfulfilled for months.  Important legislation – on de-Ba’athification, amnesty, provincial powers and the budget – has passed, but implementation is uneven.  The Iraqi security forces have been strengthened but remain far from able to sustain themselves or fight insurgents and militias on their own.  Mixed loyalties within the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) continue to pose a threat.” [U.S. Institute of Peace, Iraq After the Surge: Options and Questions, April 2008]

Iraqi Politicians Have Papered Over Fundamental Differences on Power-Sharing Agreements to Give Appearance of Meeting Benchmarks. “Iraqi politicians have merely papered over fundamental differences on power-sharing arrangements that are necessary for long-term reconciliation in order to give the appearance of meeting the benchmarks President Bush, Prime Minister Maliki, and the U.S. Congress agreed are necessary to bring about reconciliation.” [Center for American Progress, Where Does This End?, April 2008]

  • De-Ba’athification Law and Provincial Powers Laws Are Vague, Will Depend on Implementation. “The Iraqi parliament has achieved some but not all of the benchmarks set out for it by the administration.  The laws that it has passed, such as de-Ba’athification and provincial powers, are vague, and much will depend on their implementation.  Iraqi leaders focus on the benchmarks to satisfy the U.S., but their priorities are elsewhere: for example, providing basic services, managing Iraq’s detainees and, to a lesser extent, dealing with Iraq’s displaced population.” [U.S. Institute of Peace, Iraq After the Surge: Options and Questions, April 2008]

Recent Developments Have Exacerbated Tensions Among Iraq’s Competing Sectarian and Ethnic Factions. “Indeed, the developments over the past year have actually exacerbated rather than lessened tensions between Iraq’s competing sectarian and ethnic factions.  Consequently, the Bush Administration has sacrificed its stated long-term strategic goal in Iraq – creating an Iraq that can govern, sustain, and defend itself – for some short-term unsustainable security gains and token legislative progress.” [Center for American Progress, Where Does This End?, April 2008]

General Petraeus Said Just 25 Percent of Concerned Local Citizens Will Be Absorbed Into Iraqi Security Forces, Leaving the Rest at Risk of Returning to Their Old Ways. “Of the roughly 80,000 concerned local citizens currently working alongside U.S. forces, only 25 per cent can be absorbed into the army and police. For the rest, there must be jobs, or they risk becoming disillusioned, frustrated, and perhaps returning to their old ways. Gen. Petraeus told CBS News a week ago that this, above all else, was the thing that kept him awake at night.” [CBS, 3/19/08]

  • Maliki’s Government Continues to View CLC’s as a Direct Challenge to Its Authority, Has Been Slow to Integrate Them Into ISF. “Maliki’s government believes the tribal awakenings and CLC militias are a direct challenge to their authority. As of the end of 2007, only 1,700 of over 43,000 sahwa members in Baghdad have been integrated into the Iraqi security forces. Defense Minister Abdul Qadir Muhammad Jasim al-Ubaydi warned in late December that the government would not allow the sahwa movement to become “a third security entity in Iraq.” Maliki recently told a London-based Arabic newspaper that his government was not moving to integrate the sahwa forces into Iraq’s security forces because of concerns about infiltration by individuals opposed to the central government.” [Center for American Progress, “Awakening to New Dangers in Iraq, 2/08]

Violence has spiked amid fighting between Shi’a led government and Mahdi armyL

Violence in Iraq Soared Last Week to the Highest Levels Since June, Particularly in Baghdad. “Attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces soared across Baghdad in the last week of March to the highest levels since the deployment of additional U.S. troops here reached full strength last June, according to U.S. military data and analysis… Over the week that began March 25, when the offensive began in Basra, there were 728 attacks against U.S. coalition forces, Iraqi security forces and civilians across Iraq, according to U.S. military data obtained by The Washington Post. Of these, 430 — or almost 60 percent of the attacks — occurred in Baghdad, the major focus of last year’s buildup of 30,000 additional U.S. troops. The forces have begun to withdraw, and the rest are to be gone by the end of July.” [Washington Post, 4/2/08]

  • 1,000 Iraqi Soldiers and Police Refused to Fight Shiite Militias in Basra. “More than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen either refused to fight or simply abandoned their posts during the inconclusive assault against Shiite militias in Basra last week, a senior Iraqi government official said Thursday. Iraqi military officials said the group included dozens of officers, including at least two senior field commanders in the battle. The desertions in the heat of a major battle cast fresh doubt on the effectiveness of the American-trained Iraqi security forces. The White House has conditioned further withdrawals of American troops on the readiness of the Iraqi military and police.” [New York Times, 4/4/08]
  • Serious Planning Gaps Were Apparent in Maliki’s Offensive. “Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker first learned of the Iraqi plan on Friday, March 21: Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki would be heading to Basra with Iraqi troops to bring order to the city. But the Iraqi operation was not what the United States expected. Instead of methodically building up their combat power and gradually stepping up operations against renegade militias, Mr. Maliki’s forces lunged into the city, attacking before all of the Iraqi reinforcements had even arrived. By the following Tuesday, a major fight was on.” [New York Times, 4/3/08]

Maliki’s Basra Offensive Unraveled a Seven-Month Freeze on Armed Operations by the Mahdi Army Which Was Crucial to Reduced Violence. “The military campaign in the southern port of Basra, which the government says targeted all armed groups, unraveled a seven-month freeze on armed operations observed by the Mahdi Army that had been considered pivotal to Iraq’s recent reduction in violence.” [Los Angeles Times,4/7/08]

  • Mahdi Army Declared Victory in Basra Fighting, Has Renewed Confidence. “The Baghdad district of Sadr City bears the scars of recent fighting, but those loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr are showing a renewed confidence after his Madhi Army militiamen rose up against an Iraqi government crackdown last week in the southern city of Basra… The fighting, which began in Basra but soon spread to Baghdad and elsewhere, ended when al-Sadr issued a statement Sunday calling his militiamen off the streets. He also demanded the freeing of security detainees not formally charged and a halt to the arrests of his supporters — two issues that led to the latest violence. A top Mahdi Army commander, speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals from the government forces, claimed al-Sadr’s forces interpret the outcome in their favor.” [Associated Press, 4/2/08]

Officials Foresee No Ebb in Shiite Violence in Iraq. “When Gen. David H. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker brief Congress this week, they will be hard-pressed to depict Iraq as moving toward stability in the wake of recent violence that sent deaths soaring to their highest level in seven months… ‘We are now locked in a battle,’ said a high-ranking Iraqi government official, who predicted more confrontations in the coming months. ‘I think this will be a hot summer in Iraq.’” [Los Angeles Times,4/7/08]

Even the Green Zone Has Been Attacked Amid Sharp Spike in Iraqi Violence. “Sharp fighting broke out in the Sadr City district of Baghdad on Sunday as American and Iraqi troops sought to control neighborhoods used by Shiite militias to fire rockets and mortars into the nearby Green Zone. But the operation failed to stop the attacks on the heavily fortified zone, headquarters for Iraq’s central government and the American Embassy here. By day’s end, at least two American soldiers had been killed and 17 wounded in the zone, one of the worst daily tolls for the American military in the most heavily protected part of Baghdad. Altogether, at least three American soldiers were killed and 31 wounded in attacks in Baghdad on Sunday, and at least 20 Iraqis were killed, mostly in Sadr City.” [New York Times, 4/7/08]