WASHINGTON – More
Iraqi troops should be committed to the fight against the
insurgency and sectarian violence in Baghdad and Anbar
before any decisions are made on the use of U.S. forces,
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter said
Hunter, R-Alpine, said thousands of trained and
equipped Iraqi soldiers are stationed in areas where there
is little or no violence and they should be sent where the
fighting is. He was reacting to reports that a Pentagon
study group created by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, was suggesting three options for
To increase U.S. troop
strength to end the violence quicker;
To reduce American forces but
prepare for a longer stay;
To pull out now.
“The real answer is to go Iraqi,” Hunter, who recently
announced he would seek the Republican presidential
nomination in 2008, said at a Capitol news conference.
Hunter said he and 32 other House Republicans sent a
letter to President Bush on Oct. 24, and he has spoken to
Pace, urging them to press the Iraqi government to commit
more of its troops to the deadly battle in Baghdad.
A number of news stories reported yesterday that the
Pentagon study group's options included substantially
increasing the more than 140,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq.
“I think it's a mistake to do that without deploying
the Iraqi forces that we have stood up, trained, equipped
and paid for,” Hunter said. “The idea of having Iraqi
battalions 20 miles away in barracks while mobilizing more
American troops to send makes no sense.”
Hunter said that 27 of the 113 battalions of Iraqi
soldiers that are reported to be trained and equipped are
in provinces that average less than one attack a day.
“They could be sent to the contested areas of Baghdad. And
they should be sent,” he said.
The underutilized Iraqi troops also should be sent to
Anbar province, Hunter said, where the battle against a
stubborn Sunni insurgency and foreign fighters has
resulted in dozens of U.S. casualties every month.
Word of the options under consideration by the Pentagon
stoked a lively debate several weeks before the
independent Iraq Study Group is set to release its
recommendations. The White House is mulling options of its
Hunter yesterday rejected a Democratic Rep. Charles
Rangel's call for restoring the draft, arguing that
conscription would erode the “ethic of patriotism” that is
filling the military's ranks with volunteers. He noted
that earlier this year, the House voted 402-2 against the