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Pace Responds to Critics of Iraq Strategy

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2005 – Wouldn't the United States be better off if it simply left the terrorists alone and brought its troops home from Iraq? Wouldn't that stop the violence there? Don't we need more troops to do the job there? And why is just one Iraqi battalion capable of independent operations?

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Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses students, faculty and international fellows at the National Defense University on national strategic policy in Iraq, Dec. 1. The general emphasized military aspects of the strategy in Iraq first discussed by President Bush on Nov. 30 at the U.S. Naval Academy. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Sean P. Houlihan, USAF

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded today to these and other questions he often gets about operations in Iraq during a session at the National Defense University at Fort McNair here.

To those who question if the American people would be safer if the nation withdrew its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, Pace conceded, "That would be nice if it would work."

"But that's not the world we live in," he quickly added, noting that the United States was "leaving them alone" when terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001.

"That was the day we realized in the United States that we were at war," the chairman said. "Our enemies had declared war on us years before, but the attacks in New York, in the skies over Pennsylvania and here in Washington, D.C., brought home very clearly to us that we were at war."

Pace also refuted claims of those who believe the threat will go away if the United States stopped fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and stopped chasing down terrorists.

"I say, you need to get out and read what our enemies have said," he said. Before World War II, Adolf Hitler clearly outlined his intentions in his book, "Mein Kampf," Pace told the group. "He said in writing exactly what his plan was, and we collectively ignored that, to our great detriment."

Similarly, terrorists today have publicly stated their goals, both on film and the Internet, he said.

"(There's) no equivocation on their part," the chairman said. "They're not saying, 'If you stay home, we will not come after you.' They are saying their goal is to rid the Middle East of all foreigners, then to overthrow all governments that are not friendly to them, which means every single one of those governments."

But terrorists have made it clear that they don't intend to stop there, Pace continued. Their ultimate goal is to bring the whole globe under their domination within the next 100 years, he said.

Pace told the group - military, civilian and foreign military leaders being groomed for top positions in the future - that they and others within their ranks are helping stop terrorists from realizing their goal.

"(You) and all those others in uniform, and not in uniform, serving this country and all of our friends and neighbors around the world are the ones who are going to make a difference," he said. "And that's why it's important for us to realize that there is no option other than victory."

But to achieve that victory, Pace said, he's often asked if the United States has enough troops in Iraq.

"The answer is, we need more Iraqi troops," Pace said, putting added emphasis on the word "Iraqi." "And we are working on that."

Pace cited solid progress in developing Iraq's security forces, which numbered zero in May 2003, 100,000 in June 2004 and more than 200,000 today - a number he said is steadily growing toward 300,000.

But this progress can't be measured only by numbers, he said. It's also based on quality, and developing quality forces takes time.

"You all know as well as I do that it takes time to train an individual soldier, an individual policeman," the chairman said. "It takes time for small units to get cohesion. It takes time for larger units to develop the kinds of leadership they need and the kind of sustainment they need."

There's still a lot of work to do, but the 34 coalition countries in Iraq should take great pride in the progress Iraqis have already made, he said. "And yes, we do need to help them grow so that they can take over more and more of the responsibilities so that as they are ready to, we can hand them over and come home to our collective countries."

But why, Pace said many have asked him, is just one Iraqi battalion deemed capable of operating independently?

The truth is, in the interest of defining how to measure the Iraqi forces' progress, U.S. planners have done themselves a disservice, he said.

Even many of the most highly trained and capable U.S. military units aren't totally independent, a measuring stick being used to gauge the Iraqis' performance, he said. A top-drawer Marine unit still needs the Navy or Air Force to get to the war zone, Air Force air support once there and for long-term operations, Army logistics support, Pace said.

So for Iraqi battalions to require some outside support doesn't mean they're not capable, the general explained. A better measure is how many are controlling their own areas of operation - something a division headquarters, four brigade headquarters and more than 30 battalions are already doing. "That, to me, is a real measure of progress," Pace said.

In closing today, Pace acknowledged that the war on terror will be long and demand vigilance. "But failure is not an option," he told the group. "There is no way that we can lose if we maintain our patience and our will, our resolve."

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Gen. Peter Pace, USMC

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