[Marxism] Top American General ignores Patrick Cockburn
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Dec 13 10:37:04 MST 2008
NY Times, December 14, 2008
General Sees Longer Stay for Some U.S. Troops in Iraqi Cities
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
BALAD, Iraq The top American commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno,
said Saturday that some American troops would remain in cities past
the June deadline for a withdrawal of combat troops that was called
for in an agreement with the Iraqi government.
General Odierno said that American troops would remain at numerous
security outposts inside the cities in a support role to Iraqi
forces. "We believe that's part of our transition teams," General
Odierno told reporters in Balad while accompanying Defense Secretary
Robert M. Gates, who arrived on an unannounced trip on Saturday.
General Odierno declined to say how many American troops might remain
in Iraqi cities past the summer and said the number still remained to
be negotiated with the Iraqi government. "But what I would say is
we'll maintain our very close partnership with the Iraqi security
forces throughout Iraq even after the summer."
Mr. Gates met with General Odierno for an hour later in the day and
then was scheduled to return to Washington. Before the meeting, Mr.
Gates held a question-and-answer session with American soldiers and
reiterated the Bush administration's pledge to the Iraqi government
of a complete troop withdrawal by the end of 2011.
But General Odierno said Saturday, as Pentagon officials have said
previously, that the agreement might be renegotiated with the Iraqi government.
"Three years is a very long time," General Odierno told reporters.
Mr. Gates arrived in Baghdad from Manama, Bahrain, where he warned
that foreign powers should not try to "test" President-elect Barack
Obama with a crisis in his first months in office.
Mr. Gates also said that Mr. Obama remained committed to the security
of the Persian Gulf and American interests in the region.
Mr. Gates, who was speaking at a conference on regional security,
said that Mr. Obama and his advisers had done more extensive planning
across the government for the transition than at any time he could
remember and asserted that they would therefore be prepared from
their first day in office. Mr. Gates, who is staying on as defense
secretary, has worked for seven presidents; Mr. Obama will be his
eighth. "So anyone who thought that the upcoming months might present
opportunities to 'test' the new president would be sorely mistaken,"
Mr. Gates said at the conference. "President Obama and his national
security team, myself included, will be ready to defend the interests
of the United States and our friends and allies from the moment he
takes office on Jan. 20."
In response to questions from audience members after his formal
remarks, Mr. Gates said that although the Pentagon would be sending
thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan over the next months,
he was ultimately worried about the size of the American presence on
Afghan soil. The United States plans to add some 20,000 troops in
Afghanistan in 2009.
"I am more mindful than most that with 120,000 troops the Soviets
still lost, because they never had the support of the Afghan people,"
Mr. Gates said, adding that, "I think that after we complete these
troop increases that we're talking about, we ought to think long and
hard about how many more go in."
Mr. Gates said Iran was destabilizing the Middle East and interfering
in Iraq and Afghanistan. He added, "The president-elect and his team
are under no illusions about Iran's behavior and what Iran has been
doing in the region and apparently is doing with weapons programs."
On the problem of piracy of commercial ships off the coast of
Somalia, Mr. Gates said he did not think the United States had enough
information to launch attacks on pirate bases on land, but he said
such attacks might be possible in the future.
The comment appeared to put Mr. Gates at odds for now with a United
Nations resolution that the United States began circulating in the
Security Council on Wednesday that would increase interdiction
efforts by permitting foreign forces to conduct land-based attacks.
On Friday in Bahrain, the commander of United States Navy forces in
the Middle East, Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, also expressed
skepticism about the resolution. He told reporters that he thought
attacks on pirates on land would result in civilian casualties
because pirates blend in well with local populations.
Mr. Gates said there were a number of "minimally intelligent things"
that ship captains could do when pirates approached, like "speed up"
and "pull up the ladders." Mr. Gates added, "This is not rocket science."
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