Gates insisted that the military was not broken, noting the large size of the armed forces: “After all, we’ve got 2.1 million men and women in the United States armed forces. If the circumstances required it, other choices could have been made.”
Stephanopoulos continued to push Gates, asking, “So if General Petraeus comes back in March and says we’re making some progress, but we can’t continue to draw down right now, where would the troops come from?” Gates tried to back away from answering a “hypothetical,” but eventually conceded that they would potentially have to deploy more National Guard and Reserve forces.
The United States may have “2.1 million men and women” in the armed forces, but 1.6 million of them have already served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Approximately 525,000 troops have served more than once. Additionally, all “38 of the Army’s available combat units are deployed, have or are just returning or are already scheduled to deploy to Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere - leaving the U.S. without any available combat-ready units.”
Despite Gates’s claims, several current and former Bush administration officials have publicly warned for several months that current troop levels could not be sustained past the summer:
- Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace: Pace “is expected to advise President Bush to reduce the U.S. force in Iraq next year by almost half” and “is likely to convey concerns by the Joint Chiefs that keeping well in excess of 100,000 troops in Iraq through 2008 will severely strain the military.” [8/24/07]
- Army Chief of Staff George Casey: “Right now we have in place deployment and mobilization policies that allow us to meet the current demands. If the demands don’t go down over time, it will become increasingly difficult for us to provide the trained and ready forces.” [8/20/07]
- Commanding General Odierno: “We know that the surge of forces will come at least through April at the latest, April of ‘08, and then we’ll have to start to reduce…we know that they will start to reduce in April of ‘08 at the latest.” [8/26/07]
- Army Secretary Peter Geren:“[T]he service’s top official, recently said he sees ‘no possibility’ of extending the duty tours of US troops beyond 15 months.” [8/30/07]
- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell: “[T]hey probably can’t keep this up at this level past the middle of next year, I would guess. This is a tremendous burden on our troops.” [7/18/07]
Gates’s suggestion that the National Guard and Reserve could be further called upon is also unrealistic. The nation’s governors have confirmed that the Iraq war is straining their states’ abilities to respond to national emergencies. According to a recent report by a congressional commission, nearly “90 percent of Army National Guard units in the United States are rated ‘not ready,” largely “as a result of shortfalls in billions of dollars’ worth of equipment.”
FURTHER: The Washington Post reported this morning that one of the “best opportunities” for war critics “to change policy” in Iraq is an amendment by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), which would “mandate that home leaves for troops last as long as their deployments.” The measure failed in July to break a Republican filibuster, “but it appears to be gaining momentum in the Senate.” On Fox News Sunday this morning, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he would recommend that the President veto the bill should it pass.
Gates: "I think that it’s a well-intentioned idea. I think it’s really, pretty much, a back door effort to get the President to accelerate the drawdown, so that it’s an automatic kind of thing rather than based on the conditions in Iraq, with all the consequences that I talked about earlier. I think, if as I believe, the President would never approve such a bill. It would mean, if it were enacted, we would have force management problems that would be extremely difficult and in fact create, I think affect combat effectiveness, and perhaps pose greater risk to our troops."
LSB: Once again, Bush has no credibility, so he sends out someone else to deliver the bad news. He'll draw out these deployments through the rest of his term and then blame the incoming President for taking the action the American people demanded the Congress take in the last election. Bush is just a shithead. How many more of our nation's finest have to be killed before the Democratic Congress stands up to this asshole?