Senate Committee Grills Nominee for Top Iraq Military Post
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 24, 2004 The man nominated to command Multinational Force Iraq told senators today that if he decides the coalition needs more troops in Iraq, he will not hesitate to ask for them.
If confirmed by the Senate, Army Gen. George Casey will take over the coalition military effort in Iraq at a time when sovereignty is transferred to the interim government.
Casey said the relationship between the coalition and the interim government will change. "The relationship will be one of partnership," Casey said. "We will build the coordination mechanisms that will allow the close cooperation and coordination for all policy and operational matters that we will have to deal with."
The general will report directly to U.S. Central Command chief Army Gen. John Abizaid. He will have under his command all coalition forces in Iraq, including special operations forces and the Iraq Survey Group that's looking for weapons of mass destruction. He also will command the effort to train and equip the Iraqi security forces.
It is important for coalition forces to remain on the offensive against former regime sympathizers and foreign fighters, Casey told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "For me, an offensive mindset means that the leaders of the multinational force are constantly focused on the enemy, and constantly assessing his vulnerabilities, and what they can do to take advantage of those vulnerabilities," the general said. "That's a continuous process."
The U.S. forces may maintain a lower profile in Iraq, but they will stay focused on the enemy in an effort to develop intelligence to attack the foreign fighters and the dead-enders in the country, he added.
Casey said the greatest challenge is in the Sunni Triangle area between Baghdad, Ramadi and Tikrit. The general said the coalition must work to put down the insurgency in the region, and that intelligence is the best weapon for doing that.
"If you want to have intelligence in a counterinsurgency environment, you have to change the perceptions of the people first toward the insurgency and second toward the coalition forces," he said. "You do that through a variety of means where you apply all the elements of national power. Then you get the intelligence, then you get the security."
Now the Army vice chief of staff, Casey previously served as director of the Joint Staff and as director of politico-military affairs on the Joint Staff. He also has commanded the 1st Armored Division.
There is no greater honor for an officer than to serve in command, he said. "If I am given the privilege of commanding the Multinational Force Iraq, the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines from all coalition countries will have my unwavering and my untiring support," the general promised.