Washington DC (AFP) Oct 31, 2006
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Tuesday approved a proposal by Iraq and US military commanders to increase the size of the Iraqi security forces beyond 325,000 and accelerate their training. The proposal came amid rising sectarian and insurgent violence that has forced the United States to maintain more troops than planned in Iraq to bolster Iraq's troubled security forces.
Rumsfeld would not say how many more Iraqi security forces would be added to a force that now stands at about 310,000 and had been slated to grow to 325,000.
The US television program CBS News reported Monday that General George Casey, the commander of US forces in Iraq, was expected to recommend an increase in the size of the Iraqi force of up to 100,000 troops.
Rumsfeld said the proposals were made by the Iraqi government and Casey along with Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey, the US general in charge of training the Iraqi security forces.
"I am very comfortable with the increases they have proposed and the acceleration in achieving some of those targets that they have proposed," Rumsfeld told reporters. "And I understand that the Iraqi government is as well."
"Therefore now it is simply a matter of our pressing forward and getting our portion of the budget up to Congress and working to see that it is executed," he said.
US strategy has long relied on standing up Iraqi forces to take over security duties from US and coalition troops, but the levels of violence and US and Iraqi casualties have continued to climb despite rising numbers of Iraqis in uniform.
US troop levels in Iraq this week hit 150,000, the highest it has been since January when the US force was beefed up for the Iraqi elections.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki has complained bitterly that Iraqi security forces are not well enough equipped and has pressed for direct control over Iraqi forces.
Asserting his authority as commander-in-chief, Maliki on Monday ordered the military to pull down a cordon around Sadr City, a stronghold of a militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
US and Iraqi troops had sealed off the area during a search for a missing Iraqi-American servicemember who was reported to have been kidnapped by the militia.
Rumsfeld said he had seen the reports but would not comment on the situation except to say the Iraqi government had a difficult job.
Details of the new proposals to increase the size of the Iraqi force were sketchy, with Rumsfeld refusing to talk about the numbers, costs or how long commanders believed it would take to achieve.
He said he doubted it would require more US trainers. About 5,000 US troops are current assigned to training missions, many of them embedded with Iraqi units.
Casey said on October 24 that it will take 12 to 18 months for the Iraqi security forces to assume responsibility for security throughout the country. Maliki has been quoted as saying it would take six months if he had more control.
Pentagon officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested the increase in the Iraqi security forces could be to fill chronically undermanned units.
Casey said that at any given time Iraqi units are 25 percent below strength because of a leave policy that allows soldiers to return home each month after being paid.
The Iraqi defense ministry has put in place a policy that will require commanders to increase unit manning to 110 percent "so when they take the people off for leave, there's still a credible enough force to put in the field."
Terrorism, the economy, the war in Iraq, immigration and U.S. foreign policy are the main issues that will drive American voters when selecting a candidate in the November midterm elections next week.
As Election Day rapidly approaches and with the Republicans running the risk of losing both houses of Congress to the Democrats, recent polls show that more than half of all Americans, 52 percent, found that the war in Iraq has decreased their confidence in the government. Additionally, American voters feel that the conflict in Iraq has decreased stability in the Middle East and placed America's allies -- Israel and the moderate Arab states -- at far greater risk.
While the war launched by the Bush administration to democratize the Middle East has failed to yield expected results, it may give the Democrats greater power in Washington.
A UPI-Zogby International poll focusing on the war in Iraq and the impact the conflict in Mesopotamia will have on voters in the United States revealed that Americans, at least high percentages of them, would make a choice at the ballot box based on the candidate's position on those key issues.
Still, the "values, morals and character" of a candidate remain a top priority for 42.6 percent of participants in the UPI-Zogby International poll.
More than one in four, or 27 percent, said the war in Iraq ranked third in importance behind the threat of terrorism (36 percent) and the economy (28 percent).
As might be expected, the war in Iraq is the top issue among Democrats, Progressives and Liberals. On the other side of the political aisle Republicans, Conservatives, ultra-Conservatives and Libertarians list the war in Iraq between sixth and seventh place, giving far greater importance to terrorism.
"Give diplomacy a greater chance and make better use of it before resorting to armed conflict," close to 57 percent said. Many Americans feel diplomatic avenues were not exhausted and that war in Iraq could have been averted.
The poll further demonstrates that the country remains largely divided among blue (Democrat) and red (Republican) states. Given the choice of two options, one in five respondents leaned towards a candidate who opposed the war (22 percent), while 19 percent favored one who supports it. And again, there exists a large divide between Democrats, Progressives and Liberals, who list opposition to the war as most important; and Republicans, Conservatives and ultra-Conservatives, who list support for the war as most important.
As for the way the war should be conducted, 55 percent said the United States should remain until goals are achieved, while 39 percent believe U.S. troops should be pulled out immediately. But most were unclear as to what those goals are. Many seemed confused by what the president means when he says "stay the course" or "finish the job." A large percentage -- 43 percent -- believes the president means Iraq's ability to handle its own security. As for the time it may require to finish that job, the majority says more than two years are needed, while 34 percent believe it will never be finished.
As for the civil war analysts have predicted would erupt and now believe is unfolding, 60 percent believe that Iraq is currently in a state of civil war. The Bush administration insists there is no civil war in Iraq.
Nearly half of those polled disagree with the Bush administration's view that the Iraq war has increased the prospects of democracy. Rather, 48 percent believe the war has increased the threat of terrorist attacks.
A pervasive pessimism with the war in Iraq was evident throughout this survey; a pessimism that extends beyond the war in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. The U.S. military -- which in the past prided itself as being capable of fighting in two separate theaters of operation, such as in Asia and Europe simultaneously -- is finding it is having a hard time fighting two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, in the same general operational theater.
More than 50 percent of Americans believe the United States would be unable to open a third front today, if it had to. "Given current deployment, if another conflict arose today, would the U.S. military be able to fight another war?" Of the military personnel asked, 46 percent said "no."
As always, the divide between Republicans and Democrats was wide. On the side of the Democrats, 83.1 percent disagreed that the military was ready, while 64.1 percent of Republicans said it was.
The general feeling among voters seems to be pessimism and uncertainty surrounding not only the war, but also the impact of the war on the country's security and future. And of Israel, 44.2 percent of respondents fear it is less secure today as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Ditto for Washington's allies in the Arab world -- Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- who nearly half (45 percent) feel are less secure.
While some of the poll's results are self-explanatory, others might provide social scientists a better understanding of the American psyche. For example: terrorism rated 52 percent as a worry factor for people who shop at Wal-Mart every week. For those who never shop there, it only rates 14.9 percent. But when it comes to the economy, those two diverging groups share the same preoccupation: 28.3 percent for the Wal-Mart shoppers and 28.1 percent for the others.
And finally, those who do their shopping at Wal-Mart are twice as likely to worry about immigration -- 22.4 percent -- as opposed to those who shop elsewhere, where the worry drops to 12.6 percent.
The UPI-Zogby International Poll was an interactive opinion poll of what the mood of American voters might reflect when they cast their ballots. The poll is based on a sampling of 8,097 voters in the United States and was conducted between Oct. 20-23. It has a margin of error of +/-1.1 percentage points.
Source: United Press International
Source: Agence France-Presse
Iraq: The first techonology war of the 21st century
Iraq Exit Strategy
Washington DC (UPI) Oct 31, 2006
The Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, named after part-time diplomatic illusionists James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, doesn't have an Iraq exit rabbit to pull out of the hat. ISG's volunteer helpers have been told mum's the word until the American people have spoken Nov. 7. But some are speaking out, albeit anonymously. They feel precious time is being wasted at a time when each day counts for the inevitable shift in strategy.
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