HEARING OF THE HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE
SUBJECT: INDEPENDENT ASSESSMENT OF IRAQI SECURITY FORCES
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REP. JIM MARSHALL (D-GA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Hamre, is this report on-line, CSIS website?
MR. HAMRE: Yes, sir. And I just got a note that said it's been downloaded 18,000 times.
REP. MARSHALL: Okay, good. Well, people who are watching this and who've been trying to follow reports of the committee's report in the news media probably want to go look at the report itself --
MR. HAMRE: Yes.
REP. MARSHALL: -- because you'll get a very different impression if you read the report -- and you don't have to spend a lot of time doing it -- than the impression you would have from just looking at the headlines in some of the news stories that have covered this report. And it really is the case that it seems like the press is just anxious to find whatever seems to be a little bit negative and they just glide right over -- elide right over the positive aspects that we all should be hoping for in this circumstance, as opposed to the contrary, that we hope that all the news is negative, which is just a shame for the country.
And I have to follow up a little bit on Mr. Conaway's observation, that y'all are independent, you're described as independent commission. I'll just observe Dr. Hamre that you were deputy secretary of Defense under the Clinton administration, and you worked for many years as a staffer under Democratic administrations in the House -- or pardon me -- in the Senate.
MR. HAMRE: I couldn't get in the House I tried.
REP. MARSHALL: It was in the House you tried.
But -- and CSIS has been very careful to make sure that this group is not motivated by any sort of policy objective other than what's in the best interests of the United States and its security and its long-term national strategic goals, period, and not shilling for the administration. You're not Republicans, you're not Democrats, you're just trying to figure out what's really going on with regard to the issues that you've discussed.
Then I'd also like to -- well, let me quickly talk about one issue. There's a little bit of confusion about this 12 to 18 months where the army is concerned. I've been to the AO 11 times now, most of those visits in Iraq. Your report is consistent with what I see and what I hear consistently, and that is that there's been dramatic progress, particularly in the last year, with regard to the army.
And this 12-to-18-month reference, internal/external, I've always taken it to be the case that it's going to be really quite some time before Iraq is capable to defend itself against external conventional threats, and that we're going to have to help it, and largely, simply our presence saying, "Don't fool around with Iraq" is going to be sufficient to keep Iraq from having to deal with conventional external threat.
The question is the internal chaos. We really can't deal with the internal chaos as Iraqis can deal with the internal chaos. And do I take it from your statement that it will take 12 to 18 months before the Iraqi security forces are able to deal with the internal problems? Just the internal problems, which are the real tough ones for us. Is it 12 to 18 months for just the internal stuff?
GEN. JONES: Our response to the tasking was that at the current rate of progress over the next 12 to 18 months, that they will continue to make improvements to deny Iraq as a safe haven for terrorists and to combat the internal threats of the nation. We believe that they will continue to make significant improvement. The army has a plan to increase by a third just the next year, another three divisions. So that's --
REP. MARSHALL (?): Iraq.
GEN. JONES: I'm sorry, Iraq.
REP. MARSHALL: In --
GEN. JONES: (Inaudible) -- around those (too/two ?), I don't know.
REP. MARSHALL: In the last sentence in the report, and I hate to parse the language here, but it's a terribly important -- well, pardon me, next to last sentence in the report -- you talk about the importance of reconciliation. And the language, I assume, was chosen very carefully. And it talks about the government to begin the process of achieving national reconciliation, not accomplishing it, but you were very careful when you said to begin the process here. And then I'm a little confused by the next phrase. It says "and to ending sectarian violence."
Does the "begin the process" -- does that modify both the "achieving national reconciliation" and "ending sectarian violence"? Are we -- is the hope here is that at least we show some substantial beginning of reconciliation and ending sectarian violence?
REP. MARSHALL: I think one feeds off the other. At the political level, if they do get political agreement to begin the reconciliation in the broad sense, part of that is -- an important piece of that will be associated with ending sectarian violence.
REP. MARSHALL: And I'll just observe that you, I think, General Jones, said that there had been a stunning leap in the capacity of the Iraqi army -- the Iraqi military forces during the last year when there has been quite a bit of sectarian violence and no reconciliation whatsoever.
REP. SKELTON: (Sounds gavel.)
REP. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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