By Donna Miles
Nov. 14, 2006 – Last week's national elections will have no impact on how the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff carries out his job, including his recommendations about Iraq, Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace told National Guard troops here today. Pace told Kosovo Force 7 troops attending a town hall meeting here his recommendations are based on military assessments and guidance from commanders on the ground, so they'll remain consistent regardless of who runs Congress.
"From my perspective, nothing changes," the chairman said. "Our responsibility here is to look out at what we're doing, understand the objective and missions set for us, determine to the best we can the best military input to obtain those objectives, and get our best military advice to our civilian leadership."
That civilian leadership is "free to take it or leave it or modify it as they see fit," he acknowledged.
Pace described the process that led to the decision to keep 15 brigade combat teams in Iraq. Violence was down in July, fueling hopes that the force could be cut to 12 or even 10 brigade combat teams by the year's end, he said. Then sectarian violence began escalating in August, creating a situation in which he said "there's no way for us to walk away from."
Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, recognized the need, too, passing his request through Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, to keep 15 brigades on the ground.
"That said to me, 'OK, we need to support the commander on the ground, and we will,'" Pace said.
The final decision involved a close look at trends taking place in Iraq and an assessment of "what's going well and needs to be reinforced" and "what is not going well and needs to be changed or stopped," Pace said.
Ultimately, he said, it boiled down to a review of "where are we standing compared to where we want to be standing, and how do we get from here to where we want to be?"
These considerations are based directly on Iraq's security, its governance and its economy, he said, factors unrelated to politics.
"So the recommendations I am going to come forward with to the secretary of defense and to the president are going to be the same regardless of who is running Congress," Pace said.
Initially, Pace said, he expects to participate in more meetings and more dialog with new congressional leaders about the road ahead in Iraq, including a review of what's gone right and what hasn't.
These discussions are "part of our democracy," the chairman said, acknowledging that answering the tough questions "isn't always fun."
"But it is rewarding to sit as a member of the United States military in either the House or the Senate and participate in the process that was designed by our Constitution," Pace said. "When you sit there as a military man, even if the questions are tough, you have got to feel good about the fact that what we do with our lives makes it possible for our country's government to function that way."
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