Gen. Peter Pace Sees Positive ‘Sea Change’ in Iraq In his most optimistic remarks since the U.S. troop buildup began, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday that Iraq has undergone a "sea change" in security in recent months, and that this will influence his recommendation to President Bush on how long to continue the current
After conferring with Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin and other commanders in this
provincial capital west of Baghdad, Pace told reporters he has gathered a
positive picture of the security environment not only here but also in
Baghdad, where he began his Iraq visit on Monday.
He was asked whether this would inform his thinking about whether to
continue the current strategy, with extra
troops battling to security
and Anbar province.
"It will because what I’m hearing now is a sea change that is taking place
in many places here," he replied. "It’s no longer a matter of pushing
al-Qaida out of Ramadi, for example, but rather – now that they have been
pushed out – helping the local police and the local army have a chance to
get their feet on the ground and set up their systems."
Pace said earlier in
military is continuing various
, including an even bigger troop buildup if President Bush
thinks his "surge" strategy needs a further boost.
Pace said the chiefs of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force are
developing their own assessment of the situation in
, to be presented to
Bush in September, that will be separate from a report to Congress that
month by Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander for
The military must "be prepared for whatever it’s going to look like two
months from now," Pace said Monday in an interview with two reporters
traveling with him to Iraq from Washington.
"That way, if we need to plus up or come down" in numbers of troops in
the details will have been studied, he said.
Pace, on his first visit since
commanders accelerated combat operations
in mid-June, said another option under consideration is maintaining current
troop levels beyond September.
There are now about 158,000
, reflecting a boost of about
30,000 to carry out the new strategy Bush announced in January. The plan is
focused on providing better security for Iraqis in
, but the intended
effect – political reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites – has yet to be
achieved, and many in Congress are clamoring to begin withdrawing troops
on Monday, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said he would
force the chamber’s first all-night debate on the
war Tuesday night in
advance of a vote Wednesday on whether to bring home all combat troops by
Republicans are using Senate rules to insist that the measure have 60 votes
to pass – a de facto filibuster since it takes that many votes to cut off
Pace conferred Monday with Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the No. 2
, who said he did not currently foresee requesting more
"Right now I can’t find an assessment where I would say I need more troops,"
Odierno said, adding that he is confident that by September he will be able
to give Petraeus his advice on how the troop buildup is working.
"My assessment right now is, I need more time" to understand how the
offensive targeting al-Qaida in Iraq is working and how it could lead to
political progress, Odierno said.
"I’m seeing some progress now here in
. We have really just started what
the Iraqis term ‘liberating’ them from al-Qaida. What I’ve got to determine
is what do I need in order to continue that progress so that the political
piece can then take hold and Iraqi security forces can hold this for the