November 30th, 2006 02:37 EST
Iraq Study Is Normal Process, U.S. General Says
Washington -- The Joint Chiefs of Staff have been conducting deliberations on U.S. strategy in Iraq since September, calling on the opinions of recently returned mid-level commanders as part of the process, says Marine General Peter Pace.
At a Pentagon press briefing November 29, Pace, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said his staff is doing its job in conducting these deliberations for the benefit of the nation's senior leadership. He said the Joint Chiefs meet several times weekly to discuss details and the overall picture of the global military environment.
"I've been a member of the Joint Chiefs now for just a little bit over five years. We meet one, two, three times a week, and this is what we do," Pace said.
What is different now, Pace said, is that since September, the chiefs began having some mid-level commanders – captains and colonels – recently returned from service in Iraq join their deliberations. Each service has designated two or three such officers, he said, and they "have been meeting with us and have been helping us think through the thorny parts of the issues and providing us recommendations."
Pace said the newcomers have been told that all their ideas are wanted, as many as possible, and to consider best and worst possibilities. The result is that the Joint Chiefs have used those ideas in considering input they have received from the rest of their staff and the service chiefs to give to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the National Security Council and the president -- as well as to the U.S. commanders in Iraq, Generals John Abizaid and William Casey, he said.
Asked about rumors that U.S. and coalition forces were considering pulling out of Anbar province in Iraq completely and leaving only Iraqi security forces in place, Pace said it is the coalition's goal -- eventually -- to turn every Iraqi province over to national security forces. However, there is "no immediate thought" to doing so, he said.
"It's not on the table," he added.
Pace also was asked about a proposal to move trained and equipped Iraqi security forces from Iraq's many quiet provinces into violent hotspots like Baghdad and Anbar. He said that the idea "has a good amount of appeal" for two reasons. One, because of Baghdad's importance to Iraq's government, Iraqi security forces "are the proper long-term solution to that problem." And, if Iraqi security forces anywhere in the country are not actively engaged, and if they can be shifted without causing an additional problem, "that's worth looking at," he said.
For more information on U.S. policy, see Iraq Update.
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