Mullen: Iraq Ground Conditions to Determine Redeployments
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2008 Conditions on the ground will determine troop redeployment out of Iraq, and more troops are needed in Afghanistan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today at a Pentagon news conference.
Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conducts a press briefing at the Pentagon, Feb. 1, 2008. Defense Dept. photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen said no decision has been made about a pause after the first tranche of surge forces return from Iraq. Staffs at U.S. Central Command, in Washington and in Iraq are working on recommendations about troop levels in Iraq for presentation to President Bush in April.
One of the five surge brigades has already redeployed from Iraq to the United States, with the other four scheduled to move out of the country by July. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of Multinational Command Iraq, has said publicly that he might want a pause to be able to assess the situation in Iraq after the surge brigades leave.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has said he hopes that further redeployments after July would be possible. The chairman said that while the secretary has recently restated that hope, “the hope is not going to drive a solution set.”
“Conditions on the ground will, of course, continue to remain an important factor (in scheduling redeployments),” Mullen said. “Today's bombing in Baghdad, which took nearly 70 lives, is a stark reminder of that.”
Neither Petraeus nor U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker has made any specific recommendations about future force levels in Iraq, the chairman said. “They're working it, thinking about it, and that's their job,” the admiral said.
In April, Petraeus, Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, the commander of U.S. Central Command, and Mullen will present their recommendations to President Bush for his decision.
“All of us, at all levels inside the military, remain committed to getting this right for the Iraqi people, for the American people and for our troops and their families,” Mullen said. “We aren't working in opposition to each other. In fact, there's quite a bit of collaboration going on. And we all know what the stakes are. But we are working with and from different perspectives, and that's how it should be.”
Petraeus is looking at the situation from his post in Baghdad. Fallon is examining it with respect to the entire CENTCOM region. Mullen and the rest of the Joint Chiefs will look at the situation and assess its global implications.
“Right now we need some time to gain these perspectives, and we'll continue to work very hard on it,” the chairman said.
The chairman also touched on the need for more NATO troops in Afghanistan.Mullen said he appreciates the challenges NATO is facing in Afghanistan.
“The U.S. military remains committed to our mission in Afghanistan and to helping our NATO allies defeat what I've described as a classic growing insurgency,” he said.
NATO countries are “challenged” to meet the number of troops that NATO commanders say they need. Some 3,200 Marines will deploy to the country beginning in March to take up some of the shortfall. Two battalions of Marines will join NATO combat forces in Regional Command – South and another battalion will help train Afghan security forces.
The chairman also wants to see caveats – restrictions – imposed by member governments lifted so troops of all nations can help conduct the missions in Afghanistan.
Mullen and Gates will continue to speak with NATO allies about fully manning the NATO requirement. Gates will meet with NATO defense ministers next week and President Bush will meet with NATO chiefs of state in April.