First Published: 2007-01-13

Gates: troops should stay even if Iraq plan fails

US Defense Secretary rejects Democrats call to withdraw from Iraq in four to six months time.


Middle East Online


Putting the responsibility of failure on the Iraqis

The United States should not withdraw troops from Iraq even if its plan to send in 20,000 extra forces to stabilize the country fails, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday.

In a second day of grilling before a skeptical US Congress, Gates acknowledged the new plan unveiled by President George W. Bush on Wednesday sets no timetable for disarming Shiite and Sunni militias behind the mounting sectarian violence.

"If we talk about the consequences of the American failure and defeat in Iraq, then saying, 'If you don't do this, we'll leave, and we'll leave now,' does not strike me as being in the national interests of the United States," he said.

"So the question will be: What different kind of strategy might we be able to come up with that would have some prospect of avoiding a failure or a defeat in Iraq?"

Democrats, who now control Congress, have called for a withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in four to six months time -- a proposal Gates rejected as little more than an invitation to the insurgents to wait it out.

"I think it is highly likely that there would be a significant increase in sectarian violence in Iraq, that the government would probably begin to come apart, that the army might come apart, and that you would probably have outside elements," he said.

But Gates faced persistent, skeptical questioning from both sides of the Senate Armed Services Committee over whether Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki is committed to the new strategy, which is deeply unpoular in the US.

The secretary acknowledged that the Shiite prime minister's record "is not an encouraging one," but he said the United States will learn within two months whether he is serious this time.

Key commitments the Americans will be watching is whether the government stops interfering in military operations and whether it sends three more Iraqi brigades to Baghdad, including two Kurdish units from northern Iraq.

But asked whether there was a timetable to disarm the Iraqi militias, Gates said: "Not that I know of."

A senior US military official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said Thursday the Iraqis have lifted restrictions on deliberate targeting of certain protected extremists leaders.

They also dropped restrictions on military operations in certain areas of the city such as Sadr City, the stronghold of radical cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr and his Jaish Al-Mahdi (JAM) militia.

But the official said US forces were unlikely to go head to head against militias, unless attacked. "There is not a military solution for the JAM," he said.

Both Gates and General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the success of the new plan would depend on Maliki.

"It's very difficult to see how this plan could succeed if they fail to deliver their commitments," Gates said at one point.

Asked about reports that the Maliki government had given only grudging endorsement to the plan, Gates said the prime minister had wanted the Baghdad operation to be conducted purely with Iraqi forces, without US troops.

After the Iraqis presented their plan, General George Casey worked out a plan with his Iraqi counterparts that involved committing the additional US troops.

"And so to the degree that the Iraqi government is grudging in this, I think it is perhaps -- and I'm speculating, frankly -- that they had hoped to do it themselves," he said.

The Iraqis, he added, "probably grudgingly came to the conclusion that they couldn't do it themselves based on the advice of their own security and military leaders and that developed in the course of filling in the gaps in the plan with our military planners."

Asked whether the Iraqis were now 100 percent behind the plan, Pace said: "Sir, I believe the Iraqi leadership is saying they're 100 percent onboard."

"I believe that the benchmarks in this that they should have attained by now on the military side have each been attained," he said.

"But the success of this operation is going to be based on their delivering on what they have said they will deliver."


Saudi to carry out nuclear power deal with or without US

Air strikes hit Ghouta despite rebel ceasefire effort

Three dead after suspected IS gunman takes hostages in France

US approves $1 billion in Saudi defence contracts

Exiled Syrian doctors treat refugees in Turkey

Iraqi asylum seeker gets life sentence for London bombing

UK says Israeli sentencing of Palestinian teenage girl "emblematic"

Israel ministers welcome US appointment of 'friend' Bolton

Sarkozy vows to clear name in Libya probe

Syria announces second evacuation deal for rebel-held Eastern Ghouta.

170,000 flee violence in Syria's Afrin

Norway proposes bill to ban full-face veils in education

Turkey says EU statements on Cyprus 'unacceptable'

In world first, flight to Israel crosses Saudi airspace

Saudi, US must pursue 'urgent efforts' for Yemen peace: Mattis

US, Jordan launch new counterterrorism training centre

Turkey’s largest media group to be sold to Erdogan ally

Rebels evacuate Syria's Eastern Ghouta

Two Hamas security force members killed in raid on bomb suspect

Turkey gives watchdog power to block internet broadcasts

EU leaders to condemn Turkey’s ‘illegal’ actions in Mediterranean

Sarkozy says life ‘living hell’ since corruption allegations

Hezbollah leader says debt threatens Lebanon disaster

Ahed Tamimi reaches plea deal for eight months in jail

UN launching final push to salvage Libya political agreement

Conditions for displaced from Syria's Ghouta 'tragic': UN

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote, denies excluding rivals

Rights Watch says Libya not ready for elections

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria