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Joint Hearing of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees Subject: The Status of the War and Political Developments in Iraq

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Location: Washington, DC


JOINT HEARING OF THE HOUSE ARMED SERVICES AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEES
SUBJECT: THE STATUS OF THE WAR AND POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN IRAQ

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DEL. ENI FALEOMAVAEGA (D-AS): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to thank both of you gentlemen for your service to our country.

I keep hearing that our active duty and Marine forces are overstretched. And I also express the very serious concerns about the capacity of our current (ready ?) Reservists and National Guard organization, and which was confirmed by General Keane, who expressed some real serious concerns about the way we are using our (ready ?) Reservists and National Guardsmen.

And gentlemen, with the tremendous strain and shortages in military equipment, preparedness and training of our (ready ?) Reservists and National Guardsmen and women, who are obligated now to serve in Iraq, does our military currently have the capacity to fight two fronts, in Iraq and Afghanistan? And do we have enough added strategic reserves to fight another potential war front like Iran, the Taiwan Straits, or even to have the situation that's now brewing between the Kurds and our ally, Turkey?

With the crisis now brewing there in that northern part of the country in Iraq, I wanted to know if we have the capacity -- it seems like we have all the military personnel available to do what everyone wanted to do to perform the military mission. And I'd like to hear your professional judgment on that, General Petraeus.

GEN. PETRAEUS: Congressman, thank you.

First of all, I very much share the concern over the strain on our military forces, and in particular on our ground forces and other so-called high-demand, low-density assets.

As I mentioned, that was one of the factors that informed my recommendations to draw down the five Army brigade combat teams, the Marine expeditionary unit and the two Marine battalions, between now and next summer.

I also am on the record as offering the opinion that our ground forces are too small. And I did that before the approval of the expansion of those. And I am gratified to see, frankly, the support that this body has given to the effort to expand our ground forces because of the strain that has put on them and, by the way, of course, on their families.

With respect to your question, sir, again, with respect, I'm just not the one to answer that. I am pretty focused on the mission in Iraq and not really equipped to answer whether or not -- what else is out there for other contingencies, although I know in a general sense, obviously, that there is very little else out there.

DEL. FALEOMAVAEGA: Thank you, General.

I have the highest respect for our men and women in military uniform. And I could not agree more with my good friend from California when he mentioned statements by General MacArthur about duty, honor and country.

And General Petraeus, one of your colleagues, the former chief of staff for the Army, General Eric Shinseki, was vilified and humiliated by civilian authority because he just wanted to offer a professional judgment on the situation there in Iraq. He recommended that we should have at least 250,000 soldiers if we really wanted to do a good job from the very beginning. Now they put him out to dry. General Taguba also was another good soldier vilified and humiliated by civilian authority of what he felt was doing his job and his duty to our country.

It's been estimated that because there are 6 million people living in Baghdad that it would require at least 100,000 soldiers to bring security, real security, to the people living in that city. Could I ask for your opinion, General Petraeus, if you think that 160,000 soldiers that you now command is more than sufficient in capacity to do what you need to do right now in Iraq?

GEN. PETRAEUS: Congressman, there's never been a commander in history, I don't think, who would not like to have more forces, more money, more allies and perhaps a variety of other assets.

I have what we have in the military, what the military could provide for the surge. Beyond that, we certainly an increasing number of Iraqis, by the way. I might that add that in fact one of Prime Minister Maliki's initiatives has been to expand the number of forces in general and also the manning of each division so that it is at 120 percent of authorized strength so that with their leave policy, which is a must -- and remember, these guys don't ever go home except on leave with their pay. They are in the fight until it is over, and if they don't take their pay home at the end of the four weeks or so or whatever that period is that was worked out for them, they will not get that pay.

But I have also again recommended today reductions in our force levels that I believe will be prudent, based on what we have achieved and what I believe we will have achieved together with our Iraqi counterparts.

REP./DEL. : Thank you, General.

REP. SKELTON: I thank the gentleman.

The gentleman from American Samoa raises the issue of readiness. We have had in the Armed Services Committee extensive testimony and documentation, particularly in the Readiness Subcommittee under my friend from Texas, Mr. Ortiz, on the strains, particularly on the ground forces of the Army and Marines. And I tell my friend from American Samoa, it's very, very serious. Thank you for raising that issue.

Mr. Bartlett.

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