October 23, 2006
An Ongoing Question
Your editorial urging the administration to commit more troops to Iraq merits comment (“More Troops,” Oct. 9). As Secretary Rumsfeld has explained, determining troop levels is more an art than a science. But it is an art that requires a firm understanding of the present conditions on the ground.
Those with the best vantage point, the commanders in Iraq, have consistently said that American troops are at the level they believe is required. They say that they need more capable Iraqi forces, not American troops. As General Abizaid explained recently, “This notion that troop levels are static is not true, never has been true, and it won’t be true. We will ask for what we need when we need them. But it’s key that the Iraqi military take on more and more responsibility.”
U.S. troop levels have fluctuated as the conditions in Iraq have evolved. Recently, as your editorial noted, troop levels in Baghdad increased to help Iraqis quell sectarian violence. It is simply incorrect to suggest, as NR does, that the military and civilian leadership has been willing “to commit only enough forces not to lose.” The Department of Defense is committed to victory, and will continue to rely heavily on the advice of military experts with firsthand knowledge of the battlefield.
Bryan Whitman, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, The Pentagon