By Jim Garamone
Nov. 29, 2006 – Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are looking at the whole spectrum of conflict and the various options open to them regarding troop deployments, Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace said here today. "Whether it's been reported that we're looking at beefing up or it's reported that we're looking at 'skinnying' down, (we are doing) as you would expect your military planners to do: We're looking at the whole spectrum of possible military actions," Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Pentagon news conference.
Pentagon leaders are not considering abandoning Iraq's Anbar province and moving the 30,000 U.S. Marines and soldiers in that province to the battle in and around Baghdad, as has been reported by some media outlets, he said.
"Why would we want to forfeit any part of Iraq to the enemy? We don't," Pace said. "We want to provide security for the Iraqi people. You want to be able to assist the Iraqi government in providing good governance and providing economic opportunity."
He also said U.S. officials have no immediate thoughts to moving coalition forces out of Anbar and leaving the security situation to Iraqi security forces. "It's not on the table," he said.
In addition, discussions on whether Iraq is in a civil war are wasted effort, Pace said. He said the Iraqis do not call the conflict in the country a civil war; the Iraqi government is operating; and the Iraqi military and police are answering to that government. "The level of violence that's being inflicted by al Qaeda and the like is specifically designed to create a civil war," he said. "It is specifically designed to create an ungovernable condition so the terrorists can then set up shop and rule those people the way they want to.
"It's much more important that we focus on how to defeat the enemy that is trying to create the civil war than it is we spend a lot of time dancing on the head of a pin as far as what particular words we should use to describe the environment which is currently unacceptable," he continued.
Military leaders in the Pentagon are looking at all aspects of the war on terror, and observers should not think a leaked piece of information is the be-all and end-all of strategy, Pace said.
The chiefs analyze the action against the desired outcome, get input for the rest of the staffs, apply their own experience, and then apply their best military judgment, the chairman said. Pace would not say what the chiefs' advice on the size of the force in Iraq was. He did confirm that Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, is moving "a couple" of U.S. battalions into Baghdad. Pace did not say where the battalions are coming from.
The chiefs' advice will be weighed alongside advice from the Iraq Study Group, led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. Pace said he is not concerned about bumping into the group's recommendations. "This is a very complex problem, and the more 10-pound rings we can bring to bear on the problem for our nation the better," he said. "And the fact that somebody's wearing a uniform and not wearing a uniform doesn't impact whether or not they have a good idea."
Many different options are being considered, and no decisions have been made, despite media reports to the contrary. Bits and pieces of the deliberations are being reported, and some reporters are assuming that every item is the one way forward, Pace said. While it is true that the chiefs may be examining an option, it is just one of many.
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