Some Americans ask me, if completing the mission is so important, why don't you send more troops? If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job. Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever, when we are, in fact, working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave. As we determine the right force level, our troops can know that I will continue to be guided by the advice that matters: the sober judgment of our military leaders.(Emphasis mine.)
If the Repulblican Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee wants to get a second opinion on how the war in Iraq is going, where does he turn? To the Pentagon, but not to the top brass this time. In an unusual closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill last week, Virginia's John Warner, joined by Democratic Senators Carl Levin of Michigan and Mark Dayton of Minnesota, sat across the table from 10 military officers chosen for their experience on the battlefield rather than in the political arena. Warner rounded up the battalion commanders to get at what the military calls "ground truth"--the unvarnished story of what's going on in Iraq.(Article via Andrew Sullivan.)
"We wanted the view from men who had been on the tip of the spear, and we got it," said John Ullyot, a Warner spokesman who declined to comment on what was said at the meeting but confirmed that some Capitol Hill staff members were also present. According to two sources with knowledge of the meeting, the Army and Marine officers were blunt. In contrast to the Pentagon's stock answer that there are enough troops on the ground in Iraq, the commanders said that they not only needed more manpower but also had repeatedly asked for it. Indeed, military sources told TIME that as recently as August 2005, a senior military official requested more troops but got turned down flat.
There are about 160,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq, a number U.S. commanders in the region plan to maintain at least through the Iraqi national assembly elections on Dec. 15. But the battalion commanders, according to sources close to last week's meeting, said that because there are not enough troops, they have to "leapfrog" around Iraq to keep insurgents from returning to towns that have been cleared out. The officers also stressed that the lack of manpower--rather than of protective armor or signal jammers--posed one of the biggest obstacles in dealing with roadside bombs, which have caused the majority of U.S. casualties in Iraq. The commanders, according to the meeting sources, said there are simply "never enough" explosives experts on the ground.