Situation in Iraq Dynamic, Changing, Gates Says
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 22, 2007 The new security plan in Iraq has made progress in its early stages, but the security situation is never static, and additional capabilities may be needed in the future, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Gates said he believes the forces pledged so far to Iraq will be sufficient, but that the commanders on the ground may identify small numbers of forces required to meet specific needs.
“After all, it's not a static situation,” he said. “Somebody briefed me just a couple of hours ago that we moved something like 240,000 troops in and out of the area of operation in the last four months of 2006. So there's a steady dynamic and a flow.”
Progress in the Iraq security plan has been encouraging so far, Gates said. Provincial reconstruction teams are being fully staffed, with the State Department providing all the officers it pledged, he said. Some Defense Department volunteers are filling positions in the PRTs until contractors can be hired, he added.
DoD has also made progress combating improvised explosive devices, Gates said. He said retired Army Gen. Montgomery Meigs, head of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, recently told Gates that if the budget request now before Congress passes, he will have all the resources he needs to do his job.
The Army and the rest of the U.S. military have significant commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gates acknowledged, but the strain on ground forces will be relieved once the budget is passed and the Army receives more than $46 billion for equipment and reset, he said.
“It seems to me that with all these measures, as we proceed with them, the stress on the Army will be alleviated, even while we’re carrying out the kinds of deployments that we have, but it’s going to take a little time,” he said. “What’s important is for the soldiers and Marines out there, the ground forces, to know that help is on the way.”
Gates emphasized that the United States is still ready to respond to any other potential conflicts. Another major conflict would delay the achievement of goals in Iraq and Afghanistan, but wouldn’t prevent success, he said.
“Our ability to defend the United States, despite the heavy commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, remains very strong, and every adversary should be aware of that,” he said.