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Balance Important in Troop Strength Levels, Pace Says

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 25, 2005 – Maintaining a proper balance of coalition and Iraqi forces is the key to success in returning U.S. forces home at the right time, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Marine Gen. Peter Pace said coalition forces must support the Iraqi forces and the country's new government while preparing them to handle the responsibilities themselves.

"There's a real balance here between having sufficient forces to get the job done and having too many forces," Pace explained. "If they're Iraqi forces, they will not be too many. They'll be Iraqi citizens protecting Iraqi citizens. But understandably, Iraqis themselves would prefer to have coalition forces leave their country as soon as possible. They don't want us to leave tomorrow, but they do want us to leave as soon as possible."

Pace said it's important to respect Iraq's newly elected government while providing enough military help to ensure its success, but not so much as to prevent the Iraqis from being able to take over their own responsibilities.

The general said progress will show itself in a couple of ways. "Number one, you'll see it in announcements about the numbers of troops that we have and the reasons for being able to adjust those levels," he said. "You'll see it by virtue of turning over more and more territory on the ground so that, in reality, you'll be able to have a map of Iraq. You'll be able to have two colors on it: one that's currently controlled mostly by coalition forces, and the other that's currently controlled mostly by Iraqi forces, and watch the colors change."

Pace said the easiest way to change the colors on that map is "to go battalion by battalion, individual units that are about 500 troops to 700 troops, and the amount of territory that those battalions control, so that as Iraqi battalions stand up and take over their own territory, that sector will change color."

He explained, however, that a battalion operating in a city is capable of covering much less territory than in the open desert. "So a battalion-sized change won't be the same, depending upon where it is in the country," he said.

The general said the plan is to ensure force levels are appropriate for what's happening, with "off-ramps and on-ramps" based on the conditions on the ground.

"So if things go the way we expect them to, as more Iraqi units stand up, we'll be able to bring our troops down and turn over that territory to the Iraqis," he said. "But on the other hand, the enemy has a vote in this, and if they were to cause some kind of problems that required more troops, then we would do exactly what we've done in the past, which is give the commanders on the ground what they need. And in that case, you could see troop level go up a little bit to handle that problem."

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Gen. Peter Pace, USMC

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