The situation in Iraq is a lot better, different than it was a year ago. The Iraqis held three elections. They formed a unity government. They are on the way to building a free and independent Iraq. Their military -- two-thirds of their military is now ready, on their own, to lead the fight with some logistical backing from the U.S. or stand up on their own totally.
So I am confident that the situation is improving enough on the ground that by the end of this year, we will begin to draw down significant numbers of American troops, and by the end of the next year more than half of the troops who are there now will be home.
In case you don't have access to a calendar or have been under a rock for the last week and a half, the end of that year has passed and Senator Lieberman now has this to say about troop levels in Iraq:
"After speaking with our military commanders on the ground," he said Wednesday in an e-mail, "I strongly believe that additional U.S. troops must be deployed to Baghdad."
Lieberman, D-Conn., visited Iraq last week with a Senate delegation.
I've just spent 10 days traveling in the Middle East and speaking to leaders there...[Aside: Check out the comments to the Wa-Po Editorial, here.]
After speaking with our military commanders and soldiers there, I strongly believe that additional U.S. troops must be deployed to Baghdad and Anbar province...
Greg Sargent, at The Horse's Mouth, wondered who the commanders were, noting that Gen. John P. Abizaid, the senior commander in the Middle East, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the senior American commander in Iraq, and Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the second-highest-ranking American officer in Iraq have all resisted a troop increase.
Senator Collins (R-ME), who was part of the same delegation of Senators in Iraq, wrote an Op-Ed for the Maine newspapers (not yet available online except on the Senator's webpage, here) and she apparently met with different commanders:
Needless to say, there was much discussion in all of our meetings - whether with Iraqi leaders, American or British commanders, or rank-and-file troops - about whether or not more American troops are needed. My conclusion is that it would be a mistake to send more troops to Baghdad. Prime Minister Maliki did not welcome the prospect of more American troops and indeed seemed frustrated that he did not have more control over his own troops. One American general told me that a jobs program in Baghdad would do more good than additional troops. And it seems to me that the Iraqis themselves need to step up to deal with the sectarian violence plaguing the Baghdad region. Ultimately, resolving the sectarian violence requires a political, not a military, solution in which the Sunni minority is more fully integrated into the government.
The one region where an American commander, General Kilmer, did specifically express the need for more troops was in Anbar province. General Kilmer told us that he could use another brigade (about 3,000 troops) or even two to build on the positive developments in the region. I agree with his assessment, but think that a reallocation of troops, rather than an overall increase, could meet his need.
So who did Senator Lieberman speak with, leading him to believe that the answer in Iraq is more troops? And was Senator Collins not included in those discussions or did she just draw radically different conclusions based on the same available evidence?
Or is someone not being entirely truthful?
Transcript, Lieberman, Lamont Spar in Conn. Primary Debate, Washington Post, July 7, 2006.
David Lightman, Lieberman Presses Case For More Troops In Iraq, Hartford Courant, December 21, 2006.
Joseph Lieberman, Why We Need More Troops in Iraq, Washington Post, December 29, 2006.
Greg Sargent, WHICH "COMMANDERS ON THE GROUND" PERSUADED JOE LIEBERMAN THAT MORE TROOPS SHOULD GO TO IRAQ?, The Horse's Mouth, December 21, 2006.
Susan Collins, Iraq and Afghanistan: An Update from the Field, Webpage, December 29, 2006 (released to Maine newspapers for publication as an Op-Ed)