By Jim Garamone
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Oct. 5, 2006 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff got his audience's attention here yesterday at the Kirtland Partnership Committee luncheon.
"There are not yet enough troops in Iraq to get the job done," Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace said. After the general made that statement, there was a collective gulp by the listeners. But then he went on to say that there are not enough "total troops to get the job done," and it was obvious he was talking about training and deploying more Iraqi troops.
Pace said it is obvious that more troops and police are needed in Iraq because of the number of engagements coalition and Iraqi forces continue to have with the enemy.
"I am confident that we have the right number of U.S. troops on the ground," Pace said.
Pace said the number of Iraqi security forces will increase in the coming months. Some 302,000 members of the forces are "trained and equipped," Pace said. The capabilities of the forces are mixed, he said, because they are at different levels of training in different parts of the country.
The Iraqis must increase their capacity, the chairman said. U.S. troops cannot and should not impose security on the country. "We do not want to do so much that (the Iraqi government) becomes dependent on us," he said. "Provide security assistance to the government? You bet. But become a crutch for that government? No."
Pace said Americans can take pride in the performance of U.S. troops in Iraq, but they also should be aware of the sacrifices Iraqi troops are making in defense of their own country. He said insurgent forces target the Iraqi forces. "The Iraqi troops are standing up to this problem," he said. They have taken far more casualties than coalition forces, and Iraqis continue to enlist even after horrific attacks on recruiting stations.
The bottom line for Iraqis and Americans is that there are, "not sufficient troops collectively to get the job done, but we need more well-trained Iraqi troops, not more U.S. troops," the chairman said.