By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
July 16, 2007 – Militarily, the troop surge in Iraq is doing what it was supposed to do, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today. Marine Gen. Peter Pace arrived in Baghdad to consult with military leaders and to meet with U.S. troops.
His Baghdad assessment started with the flight from Baghdad International Airport to the heavily fortified International Zone downtown. "What you saw were lots of cars, lots of trucks, markets that were open, gas stations with lines and an awful lot of activity," Pace told reporters traveling with him.
There appeared to be more activity today than during his last visit, in April, he said.
Pace met with Multinational Force Iraq Commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, Multinational Corps Iraq Commander Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, and Army Lt. Gen. James Dubik, the man responsible for training the Iraqi security forces.
In a meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, Pace spoke about political progress in the country. He said the Iraqi parliament has passed more than 60 laws and continues to work on major bills that the coalition would like to see.
Several important pieces of legislation -- the Hydrocarbon Law for sharing the country's oil wealth, De-Baathification Law, Local Election Law, Reconciliation Law, and Constitutional Reform -- are contentious, and the government and the major political parties continue to work on these, Pace said.
"The surge is having very good, positive results on the streets of Baghdad," Pace said. "We have yet to see the political results you would hope to see, given the energy the Iraqis are putting in to their discussions with each other."
Military leaders are positive about the tangible aspects of the surge. Overall violence is down, and the additional forces have allowed coalition and Iraqi forces to go into neighborhoods where they formerly did not have a presence. The additional forces also are helping coalition and Iraqi forces to hold areas once they are cleared. Multinational Force Iraq officials said more than 50 percent of Baghdad has been cleared of terrorist groups and is being held.
Odierno told Pace that he is confident of the ability of the Iraqi army units with which he is working.
Military successes aside, officials still are concerned with morale and stress on families, Pace said. "The troops feel good about the job they are doing, but they do have families at home," he said. "This is an all-volunteer force, and we need to respect that fact."
The general said concern about families is not the only driving force, but it is a factor when he makes recommendations to civilian leaders. "We will look at all possibilities, then factor in reality, which include stress on the force, the political environment in Baghdad, it includes the political environment in Washington."
But, he added, military advice needs to be based initially on what's best to do militarily. "For me, that includes the long-term health of our armed forces," Pace said. "That's what I'm looking at: the actions to be taken on the ground, plus the impact of those actions taken on the ground to the long-term health and well-being of the force, and that includes our families."