Reports The Guardian, Aug. 24:
An American military commander in Iraq today said a senior Republican senator’s call for a troop withdrawal would represent “a giant step backwards” in one of the country’s most precarious regions.
Major General Rick Lynch, commander of troops south of Baghdad, told Pentagon reporters in a video conference from Iraq he did not back Senator John Warner’s call for George Bush to begin bringing some US troops back by Christmas.
“If coalition soldiers were to leave, having fought hard for that terrain, having denied the enemy their sanctuaries, what’d happen is the enemy would come back,” he said.
“He’d start building the bombs again, he’d start attacking the locals again and he’d start exporting that violence into Baghdad and we would take a giant step backward.”
He was replying to Mr Warner, who recently returned from Iraq and is widely respected by his Republican colleagues. He said yesterday: “We simply cannot, as a nation, stand and continue to put our troops at continuous risk of loss of life and limb without beginning to take some decisive action.”
The senator, navy secretary during the Vietnam war, first broke ranks with Mr Bush on Iraq in June, but the call yesterday went much further, coming in a week when Mr Bush had invoked the spectre of Vietnam to argue for a sustained US troop presence in Iraq and admitted “frustration” with the Iraqi government of Nuri al-Maliki.
Following Mr Maliki’s assertion Iraq could “find friends elsewhere” – almost certainly a reference to Iran – Mr Bush praised him. However, a National Intelligence Estimate published yesterday said Iraqi leaders were “unable to govern effectively”…
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is expected to advise President Bush to reduce the U.S. force in Iraq next year by almost half, potentially creating a rift with top White House officials and other military commanders over the course of the war.
Administration and military officials say Marine Gen. Peter Pace is likely to convey concerns by the Joint Chiefs that keeping well in excess of 100,000 troops in Iraq through 2008 will severely strain the military. This assessment could collide with one being prepared by the U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, calling for the U.S. to maintain higher troop levels for 2008 and beyond.