More U.S. troops not needed in Iraq, commander says
By Otto Kreisher COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON – The top
U.S. commander for the Persian Gulf region said yesterday
that more U.S. troops are not needed in Iraq and actually
could be counterproductive by hampering the turnover of
security to Iraqi forces.
But Army Gen. John Abizaid said he did not expect any
reduction in the more than 145,000 U.S. troops in Iraq
until at least spring, instead of this fall as had been
Abizaid, head of the
U.S. Central Command, said he has enough troops in Iraq,
but he acknowledged that U.S. forces cannot deal
simultaneously with the deadly sectarian conflict in
Baghdad and the violent insurgency in Anbar province.
Abizaid said he was “aware that a Marine staff officer
wrote a paper where he expressed concern about the way
things are going” in Anbar, the sprawling western province
that is the responsibility of the Camp Pendleton-based 1st
Marine Expeditionary Force.
That was a reference to a report by Col. Pete Devlin,
the force's top intelligence officer, that concluded Anbar
was out of control politically and could not be won
“But Anbar is not the decisive point. Baghdad is,”
Abizaid said in a session with defense reporters.
The general said it was clear that “Anbar province is a
problem that has to be dealt with over time.” But Baghdad
has to come first, he said, adding, “Any commander that
tries to do everything will do nothing. “We'll get to
Anbar province. The Marines are doing a heck of a job out
there” with Army reinforcement.
While acknowledging that he did not have enough forces
to deal with all the security challenges in Iraq, Abizaid
said adding U.S. troops would be exactly the wrong thing
to do because it would interfere with the effort to get
Iraqi forces to take responsibility for their country's
“Every time Americans operate in large numbers, it
creates a dynamic where the Iraqis do less,” he said.
The key to victory is getting the Iraqis to take over
the fight for their own country, Abizaid said.
Abizaid said he and Army Gen. George Casey, commander
of coalition forces in Iraq, were concentrating their
effort on suppressing the sectarian violence in Baghdad.
To reinforce that effort, Casey sent in an Army brigade
that had been scheduled to go home and, with Iraqi troops,
has been conducting major sweeps through neighborhoods in
the sprawling capital.
In congressional testimony earlier this summer, Abizaid
said the sectarian violence in Baghdad was “as bad as I
Yesterday, he said, “The situation in Baghdad is
slightly better,” but added that the city “is not going to
clarify itself militarily for many months.”
“I do believe that the sectarian tensions, if left
unchecked, could be fatal to Iraq,” he said.