Pace Reminds Americans U.S. is a 'Nation at War'
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2003 The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the United States is winning the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and that America is making progress in the global war on terrorism.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace also said the rotation plan for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is a good one and a signal that the United States is in for the long haul.
Pace conducted a round robin series of interviews with television stations in Houston, Atlanta, Denver, Dallas and Seattle Nov. 6.
He said since Sept. 11, 2001, "we have been a nation at war and we are winning this war in Afghanistan. We are winning this war in Iraq. We are winning this war against the global networks and we will continue to do so. But it requires commitments of not only the individuals in uniform who are doing this, but our entire government and, indeed, our citizenry."
Pace praised Congress for passing the $87 billion supplemental request. The money includes $20 billion for rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of that money will go to training Iraqi security forces a goal of the Bush administration since the fall of Baghdad.
The vice chairman explained that the Iraqis taking over a greater share of the security burden will help the nation along the path to self-government. If all goes well the next force rotation will mean a cut in U.S. troops levels in Iraq from 130,000 today to about 105,000 in May 2004.
But the total number of security personnel will actually go up, he said. "We started out with about 160,000 U.S. troops and zero Iraqi troops and about 12,000 non-Iraqi coalition members back in May (2003)," he said. Today there are about 118,000 Iraqis participating in security forces in the country. Officials estimate that number will grow to about 150,000 Iraqis in June 1004 and to about 200,000 by the end of the year.
Iraqi security forces have taken over much of the policing, the border patrols and infrastructure protection. "Those are the kinds of security positions that the Iraqi forces will be replacing coalition and U.S. forces," Pace said. "There will still be three very, very capable, competent U.S. divisions on the ground in Iraq. There will still be two very capable and competent coalition force divisions on the ground. So our capability to take this fight to the enemy will be sustained."
Pace said President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have repeatedly told Army Gen. John Abizaid, the chief of U.S. Central Command, and Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, that they can have whatever resources it takes to win the war.
"These are the numbers that those commanders on the ground who are working this problem day to day say they need to get the job done," Pace said.
But security alone is not enough. Transferring governance to the Iraqi people is important so the Iraqis don't see the United States and its allies as occupying forces.
"We are there to turn over their country back to them with a constitution that they have written, with a form of government that they have selected, that will allow them to live free and be part of the community of nations," Pace said.
The general said the United States will continue to take the fight to the enemy, but will also work to improve infrastructure and speed the political process. All these must go hand-in-hand, he noted.
More than 47,000 reserve component service members are part of the next Iraq and Afghanistan rotation. Pace said recruiting and retention for the reserve components has remained high, but it is something DoD must keep an eye on. "We don't want to assume that just because right now the numbers are good that they'll stay that way," he said.
Pace said first, the DoD must ensure the missions assigned reserve component personnel are good ones. Second, DoD must be careful to not call on the reserve components too often. "Number three, we need to make sure that we take care of their families and that we respect the absolute right for them to know when they're going to be called up, how long they're going to be on active duty, and when we're going to let them go back to their civilian jobs," he said.
Pace commented on current operations in Iraq. He said there are always spikes in violence, but the American people must see the whole picture. He said there is more electrical power than under Saddam. The country is exporting oil again. The health system is up and working and receiving necessary upgrades.
"There are 97,000 Iraqi students who have applied to the university system," he said. "That's more than they've ever had in recent times. There are many, many ways you can measure progress in a country.
"This not to make light of a single death to a U.S. or coalition soldier. Each one of those is a tragedy. But we are winning this war," he concluded.