Troop surge in Iraq

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This article is part of SourceWatch and Congresspedia coverage of the
Bush administration's war in Iraq
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The troop surge in Iraq, endorsed in December 2006 by supporters at the American Enterprise Institute[1], specifically called for a "large and sustained surge of U.S. forces to secure and protect critical areas of Baghdad" with "a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so." In early January 2007 it was reported that the military told President George W. Bush that it had 9,000 soldiers available for a surge (with 10,000 in reserve in Kuwait and the U.S.).[2]

In early July 2007, Bush "affirmed his commitment to his escalation plan, stating, 'I'm going to remind the people in the audience today that troop levels will be decided by our commanders on the ground, not by political figures in Washington, D.C.'" However, the DC Examiner reported July 25, 2007, "that 'a bunch of arm chair generals in Washington' from the American Enterprise Institute 'almost single handedly convinced the White House to change its strategy' in weekend meetings last December. The AEI escalation plan reportedly 'won out over plans from the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command'."[3]

"AEI military historian Frederick Kagan, retired Army Gen. John Keane and other surge proponents" made trips to the White House for meeting sessions which even included Vice President Dick Cheney. "'We took the results of our planning session immediately to people in the administration,' said AEI analyst Thomas Donnelly, a surge planner." "The Examiner adds that AEI still retains a strong influence on the Iraq war, as Keane (ret.) is an adviser to Petraeus and Kagan left for Iraq this past week."[4]

The "surge" has also been called the McCain doctrine, a label coined by John Edwards to describe a proposed surge in troop levels and escalation of the war in Iraq named after its "chief advocate", Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).[5][6]

Also see Congressional actions regarding President Bush’s 2007 proposed troop “surge” in Iraq.

Earlier troop "surge"

This, it should be noted, is not the first troop "surge". In 2003, "the rotation of troops for Operation Iraqi Freedom II, [was] a rotation known as the 'Surge'."[7]

Plan for the surge and debate on its level and feasibility

Kagan/Keane Plan vs. the Bush plan

At a January 5, 2007, American Enterprise Institute forum, Frederick W. Kagan, former Gen. Jack Keane, McCain and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) presented their plan for a surge. They called for a "large and sustained surge of U.S. forces to secure and protect critical areas of Baghdad." The surge would involve "at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so."[8]

In January 2007, CBS News reported that the military had told President Bush that they could produce 9,000 soldiers for the surge, with another 10,000 troops in reserve. This fell well short of the 15,000-20,000 that a State Department official said Bush had been considering. [9]

Bush administration's surge "is not our plan," says Kagan

"Even the architects of the new plan, Frederick Kagan and Jack Keane, seem rather concerned," Isaac Chotiner commented[10] January 29, 2007, for The New Republic Online's The Plank.

"These days, Kagan, in particular, has been careful to differentiate the AEI plan from what Bush actually proposed. The AEI blueprint advocated that American and Iraqi forces should work together -- with the more competent Americans in the lead and in control. The units would operate 'within a single command structure,' Kagan's written plan for a surge states. 'Unity of effort is essential for success in this kind of endeavor.' Small wonder that Kagan said about Bush's ideas in an interview, 'This is not our plan. The White House is not briefing our plan.'"—Mark Benjamin, Salon, January 29, 2007.[11]

Surge is re-packaging of longstanding Bush administration policy

"President Bush's new plan for Iraq sounds a lot like his old one," the Associated Press's Tom Raum wrote January 10, 2007. "Send in more troops, set goals for the Iraqi government and assure Americans it's better to wage war there than here. And now the U.S. military is back in Somalia, too, once again attacking suspected terrorist targets. Bush's challenge in Iraq: show what's different now.

"The plan the president will outline to the nation Wednesday night [January 9, 2007] is the latest repackaging of a program that's been wrapped and rewrapped many times," Raum wrote.

Second troop "surge"?

Unlike the January 2007 announcement—"without the fanfare that accompanied President Bush’s initial troop surge"—the Bush administration is "quietly on track to nearly double the number of combat troops in Iraq this year, an analysis of Pentagon deployment orders showed" May 21, 2007, Stewart M. Powell reported for Hearst Newspapers.

"The second 'surge' of troops to Iraq is being executed by deploying more combat brigades to the country, plus extending tours of duty for troops already there," Powell wrote. "When additional support troops are included in this second troop 'surge,' the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 – a record high number – by the end of [2007]."

However, "Army Gen. David Petraeus reportedly proposes a drop in troop levels from 150,000 to 130,000 by December 2008, with additional reductions in 2009. Lt Gen. Raymond Odierno proposes having an estimated 100,000 troops remaining in Iraq by the end of 2008," Mary Bruce reported June 3, 2007, for ABC News.

Support and opposition to the troop "surge"

Opposition from military and pushback from surge proponents

On November 15, 2006, General John P. Abizaid testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that he opposed the "surge" strategy: "I do not believe that more American troops right now is the solution to the problem. I believe that the troop levels need to stay where they are." The Washington Post reported on December 21, 2006, that "other generals have been equally resistant in public and private comments... The uniformed leadership has opposed sending additional forces without a clear mission, seeing the idea as ill-formed and driven by a desire in the White House to do something different even without a defined purpose." [1]

On December 20, 2006, Abizaid announced his retirement. As the longest-serving commander of the U.S. Central Command (who extended his service at the request of then-Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld), his retirement had been expected,[2] so it is unclear if he was forced out as a result of his statement of opposition to the surge. Since his testimony, Abizaid has refused to answer questions about his position on troop levels and that his retirement "has nothing to do with dissatisfaction." [3]

President George W. Bush has historically said that he would rely on the opinions of his generals on troop levels. For example, at a July 2006 press conference Bush said:

"General Casey will make the decisions as to how many troops we have there," Bush said, adding: "He'll decide how best to achieve victory and the troop levels necessary to do so. I've spent a lot of time talking to him about troop levels. And I've told him this: I said, 'You decide, General.'" [4]

However, after the reported opposition to the surge by some generals, Bush changed his public position. At a year-end 2006 press conference Bush said, "I agree with them that there's got to be a specific mission that can be accomplished with the addition of more troops before I agree on that strategy." Bush refused, however, to say that he would go by his generals' opinion on the troop surge. A "senior aide" later told the Washington Post: "He's never left the decision to commanders... He is the commander in chief. But he has said he will listen to those commanders when making these decisions. That hasn't changed." [5]

On December 21, 2006, newly installed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates held a photo-op breakfast with U.S. soldiers in Iraq in which they told him they all supported increased troop levels in Iraq. No soldiers at the event told Gates that U.S. forces should be brought home or that current troop levels were adequate. [6] A late December 2006 poll of active duty military soldiers (2/3 of which had served in Iraq or Afghanistan) by Military Times, however, shows Gate's sample does not reflect the actual opinions of active duty personnel: 39 percent think there should be the same, fewer or no troops in Iraq while 38 percent think there should be more. [7]

On December 24, 2006, a "defense official" told the Los Angeles Times that the top U.S. military commanders in Iraq, including Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., had now decided to recommend a troop surge. Casey had previously spoken out against the surge.[8]

In the December 29, 2006 Washington Post, Sen. Lieberman wrote an op-ed in support of the surge, and wrote that in a recent visit to Iraq he had "found that it was the American colonels, even more than the generals, who were asking for more troops." [9]

McCain-led 2006 trip to Iraq yields mixed opinions

McCain led a "blue-ribbon congressional delegation to Baghdad before Christmas" 2006 and "collected evidence that a 'surge' of more U.S. troops is needed in Iraq. But not all his colleagues who accompanied him were convinced. What's more, he will find himself among a dwindling minority inside the Senate Republican caucus when Congress reconvenes" January 7, 2007, Robert Novak wrote in the Washington Post.

McCain "was supported within the delegation by his ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the only Democrat on the delegation (though he now calls himself an 'Independent Democrat' after losing the Democratic nomination in Connecticut and being elected with Republican votes). But Sen. John Thune (S.D.) calls his support for the surge 'conditional.' Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) returned from Baghdad opposing more troops. Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois, the only House member on the trip, is described as skeptical," Novak wrote.

"What is happening inside the president's party is reflected by defection from support for his war policy after November's election by two Republican senators who face an uphill race for reelection in 2008: Gordon Smith of Oregon and Norm Coleman of Minnesota. Coleman announced his opposition to the idea after returning from a trip to Iraq that preceded McCain's," Novak wrote.

"Among Democrats, Lieberman stands alone. Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, as Foreign Relations Committee chairman, will lead the rest of the Democrats not only to oppose a surge but to block it. Bush enters a new world of a Democratic majority where he must share the stage.

"Just as the president is ready to address the nation on Iraq, Biden next week begins three weeks of hearings on the war. On the committee, Biden and Democrats Christopher Dodd (Conn.), John Kerry (Mass.), Russell Feingold (Wis.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) will compete for intensity in criticizing a troop surge. But on the Republican side of the committee, no less probing scrutiny of Bush's proposals will come from Chuck Hagel," Novak wrote.

Congressional opposition to "surge" of troops in Iraq

  • Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.): "We’ve tried the military surge option before and it failed. ... If we try it again, it will fail again." [10] See CNN transcript, December 29, 2006; one of chief architects of resolution to oppose troop increase. [11]
  • Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.): "What good is that going to do? I have seen nothing so far that would push me to think a surge is a good idea." [12]
  • Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.): "'I do not believe that sending more troops to Iraq is the answer,' Brownback said while traveling in Iraq. 'Iraq requires a political rather than a military solution.'" [13]
  • Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.): "The president simply has not gotten the message sent loudly and clearly by the American people, that we desperately need a new course. The president has not offered a new direction. Instead, he will continue to take us down the wrong road, only faster. ... Based on the president's speech tonight [January 10, 2007], I cannot support his proposed escalation of the war in Iraq." [14]; called "for the United States to cap its troop level in Iraq at the number present in the country on Jan. 1, but also to send more American forces to Afghanistan." [15]
  • Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.): "[Coleman] said today after a two-day trip to Iraq that he would not support an increase in the number of soldiers in Baghdad. He said he would 'stand against' any effort to send a surge of more troops to Baghdad unless there’s a clear vision that it will help end sectarian violence in the city. 'I think it would create more targets. I think we would put more life at risk,' he said." [Inactive link]
  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.): "I don’t think the addition of new American troops in a situation plagued by sectarian strife is the answer ... I think more American troops will present more American targets." [16][17]
  • Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.): "[Dodd] wrote in a recent op-ed in The Des Moines Register that 'searching for military solutions in Iraq today is a fool's errand.'" [18]; "said that he would introduce legislation to bar any further increase in troop levels in Iraq without explicit congressional authorization." [19]
  • Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.): "long-time critic of the administration’s handling of the war" [20]; "It's Alice in Wonderland ... I'm absolutely opposed to sending any more troops to Iraq. It is folly." [21]
  • Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio): "[Kucinich] said Bush appears to be setting the stage for a wider war in the region. ... 'He has blamed Iran for attacks on America. The president is vowing to disrupt Iran. He is going to add an aircraft carrier to the shores off the coast of Iran. He has promised to give Patriot missiles to 'our friends and allies.' Isn't one war enough for this president?' Kucinich asked. 'It is time the media and the Congress began to pay attention to this president when he talks aggressively about Iran and Syria.'" [22]
  • Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.): one of chief architects of resolution to oppose troop increase. [23]
  • Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.): "I think that we should take a look at what mechanisms we have available to prevent the president from pursuing a wrongheaded strategy, ... He's commander in chief; he has a lot of discretion; but at some point our democracy is structured in such a way when a president takes a wrong course that there is an ability to correct it." [25]
  • Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.): " ... a short term increase in troop strength in Iraq would be a mistake ... such a move wouldn't change anything and 'could actually exacerbate the situation even further.'" [26]
  • Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.): "I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that any more. I believe we need to figure out not just how to leave Iraq but how to fight the War on Terror and to do it right." [27]
  • Sen. John Warner (R-Va.): "'I personally, speaking for myself, have great concern about the American G.I. being thrust into that situation, the origins of which sometimes go back over a thousand years,' Warner said." [28]
  • Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.): "... initially a staunch supporter of the war in Iraq", said December 30, 2006, "she opposes sending additional U.S. troops to the violence-torn nation and that the situation in Baghdad is 'not improving.'"

Other prominent opinions on the troop surge

  • Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.): "... believes the Arizona Republican is 'dead wrong.'" [29] See Edwards on YouTube.
  • "'I think it’s a mistake to have this McCain doctrine adopted as a policy by the United States,' he said. 'I think what it does is it sends a signal that we’re going to be there forever, or for a long time. It takes responsibility away from the Iraqis.'"—Hardball, December 29, 2006.
  • "It would be an enormous mistake to adopt the McCain doctrine and escalate the war," Edwards said at a December 29, 2006, speech in DesMoines, Iowa.
  • Retired General Jack Keane: Previously "a leading advocate of additional troops," wrote in the Washington Post: "Increasing troop levels in Baghdad for three to six months would virtually ensure defeat."[30]
  • Retired Lt. Col. Oliver North: "A 'surge' or 'targeted increase in U.S. troop strength' or whatever the politicians want to call dispatching more combat troops to Iraq isn't the answer. Adding more trainers and helping the Iraqis to help themselves, is. Sending more U.S. combat troops is simply sending more targets." [31]

Support for the surge

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) resident scholar Frederick W. Kagan, in association with former acting Army chief of staff Gen. Jack Keane, has been a prominent supporter of the surge. On January 5, 2007, Kagan and Keane presented their surge plan at an AEI event in Washington, DC. Also presenting "Reports from Iraq" at the even were Sens. McCain and Lieberman. The plan calls for "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq." The study calls for a "large and sustained surge of U.S. forces to secure and protect critical areas of Baghdad." [32] In a December 27, 2006, op-ed in the Washington Post, Kagan and Keane said the surge "is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so." [33]

  • Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Republican presidential contender: "[Giuliani] said he supported the troop increase, but insisted on a regular measure of whether the new strategy was working." [34]
  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Republican presidential contender: "[Romney] also lined up behind a troop increase this week, saying he would add five brigades in Baghdad and two regiments in Al-Anbar province." [35]

Conditional support for the surge

A "senior Republican leadership aide" told the Los Angeles Times in early January 2007 that for Congress to support a surge its supporters "would have to show that the surge itself was limited... It would have to be six months or a year, tops." The Times reported that five to ten Senate Republicans were expected to make such a time limit a condition for their support of a surge. [36]

  • Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the new Senate Armed Services Committee chair in 2007, stated in early 2007 that he could support a surge if the Iraqi government first took concrete steps toward a political reconciliation between the country's major factions: "That at least puts pressure on Iraqis... That's what I would call 'hard conditionality,'" Levin said. [37]

Sen. John McCain and the "surge"

Measuring the success of the surge

June 2007 Pentagon report

In the congressionally mandated quarterly report on the war, released on June 13, 2007, the Pentagon disclosed that attacks on coalition forces, Iraqi forces and civilians were at their highest rate since early 2004. Also at an all-time high were civilian and Iraqi forces casualties, but coalition casualties were about the same as in 2004. [12]

Weekly attacks on coalition forces, Iraqi forces and civilians, April 1, 2004 - May 4, 2007. Source: Pentagon

Average daily casualties of coalition forces, Iraqi forces and civilians, April 1, 2004 - May 4, 2007

When the June 2007 Pentagon report was released, White House spokesman Tony Snow cast it in a positive light, saying the increase in attacks “fit a pattern that we see throughout the region, which is that when you see things moving towards success, or when you see signs of success, that there are acts of violence.” [13]

Civilian casualties in July measured by Iraqi government

The number of Iraqi civilians killed in the war increased to by more than one-third to 1,652 from June to July in 2007, according to figures compiled by the Iraqi health, defense and interior ministries. The total was slightly higher than February's, when the surge began. [14]

July 2007 GAO investigation on missing arms in Iraq

A July 31, 2007 Government Accountability Office investigation reported that the American military could not account for 190,000 weapons issued to Iraqi security forces in 2004-2005, including 110,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 pieces of body armor and 115,000 helmets. The report warned that a January 2007 review of military records found that while tracking had improved, there were "continuing problems with missing and incomplete records." [15]

US Special IG report on reconstruction projects

A July 2007 report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction concluded that the system for transferring finished public works projects to the Iraqi government from the U.S. military was "broken" and faced a "corruption epidemic" inside the Iraqi government. The I.G. found that the Iraqi government "has not formally accepted a single" project since June 2006. For example, one Baghdad power station that had undergone a $90 million renovation broke down when inexperienced Iraqi engineers used parts from one plant to fix another and both broke down. [16]

September 2007 GAO report on the surge

In early September 2007, the Government Accountability Office released its report on progress in Iraq. The report stated that only three of eighteen benchmarks were met, leading the Republican leadership to try to discredit the results, and the Democratic leadership to use the report as evidence of the flaws in Bush's Iraq policy.[17] The following are, according to USA Today, the eighteen benchmarks and the level of completion according to the GAO:

  1. Constitutional review Unmet
  2. De-Bathification reform: Unmet
  3. Oil revenue sharing: Unmet
  4. Guidelines for semi-autonomous regions: Partially met
  5. Enact electoral reform: Unmet
  6. Enact insurgent amnesty laws: Unmet
  7. Disarming illegal militias: Unmet
  8. Baghdad security: Met
  9. Establish three trained Iraqi brigades to support Baghdad: Partially met
  10. Eliminate political interference with Iraqi military commanders: Unmet
  11. Ensure that Iraqi Security Forces are even-handed: Unmet
  12. Ensure no safe-haven for outlaws, regardless of religion: Partially met
  13. Reduce sectarian violence and eliminate illegal militia: Unmet
  14. Establish joint security stations across Baghdad: Met
  15. Increase Iraqi security force independence: Unmet
  16. Ensure the rights of minority legislature political parties: Met
  17. Spend $10 billion in Iraqi revenues for reconstruction: Partially met
  18. End Iraqi political undermining of Iraq security forces: Unmet[18]

GOP House leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that the report was flawed, and that it "really amounts to asking someone to kick an 80-yard field goal and criticizing them when they came up 20 or 25 yards short."[19] Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stated that the Petraeus report, expected to be released on September 15, was the only Iraq progress report that mattered. Both Boehner and McConnell had voted for the bill ([H.R. 2206]) that mandated the GAO report be written.[20][21]

August 2007 "Petraeus report"

Petraeus report

External links:

Resources and articles

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. George Lakoff, " Escalating Truth," BuzzFlash, February 14, 2007.
  2. Nico Pitney, "CBS: Military Tells Bush It Has Only 9,000 Troops Available For ‘Surge’," Think Progress, January 5, 2007.
  3. Satyam Khanna, "Bush’s Escalation ‘Hammered Out’ By ‘A Bunch Of Armchair Generals’ From AEI," Think Progress, July 25, 2007.
  4. Satyam Khanna, "Bush’s Escalation ‘Hammered Out’ By ‘A Bunch Of Armchair Generals’ From AEI," Think Progress, July 25, 2007.
  5. "Edwards Back In For '08," The Virginian Pilot, December 28, 2006.
  6. John Dunbar, "Lugar: Bush, Congress Should Discuss War. Sen. Richard Lugar Says Bush Should Consult With Lawmakers Before Changing Iraq War Strategy," Associated Press (ABC News), December 31, 2006.
  7. Spc. Bryce S. Dubee, "Outgoing C-9 Officer Reflects on Third Army Experiences," Third U.S. Public Affairs Office, June 27, 2005.
  8. "Iraq: A Turning Point," With Reports from Iraq from Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, American Enterprise Institute, January 5, 2007.
  9. Nico Pitney, "CBS: Military Tells Bush It Has Only 9,000 Troops Available For ‘Surge’," ThinkProgress, January 5, 2007.
  10. Isaac Chotinen, "Kagan/Keane Not Pleased with Kagan/Keane Plan," The Plank/The New Republic, January 29, 2007.
  11. Mark Benjamin, "Hawks knock surge plan's command structure. Buried in the Bush escalation plan is a who's-in-charge nightmare that violates U.S. military doctrine. Now even John McCain and Frederick Kagan are balking," Salon, January 29, 2007.
  12. Carolyn O'Hara, "How's the surge going?" (blog post), Foreign Policy, June 14, 2007. Blog links to Pentagon report.
  13. Nico Pitney, "Snow: Intense New Levels Of Violence In Iraq Are ‘Signs Of Success’," ThinkProgress, June 14, 2007.
  14. Joseph Krauss, "Iraqi deaths spike five months into US troop surge," Agence France-Presse, Aug. 1, 2007.
  15. Joseph Krauss, "Iraqi deaths spike five months into US troop surge," Agence France-Presse, Aug. 1, 2007.
  16. Joseph Krauss, "Iraqi deaths spike five months into US troop surge," Agence France-Presse, Aug. 1, 2007.
  17. Greg Sargent, "Republicans Criticize GAO Report's Terms -- Even Though They Voted To Mandate It," TPM Election Central, September 4, 2007.
  18. Kathy Kiely, "Critical GAO review starts series of reports on Iraq," USA Today, September 4, 2007.
  19. Greg Sargent, "Republicans Criticize GAO Report's Terms -- Even Though They Voted To Mandate It," TPM Election Central, September 4, 2007.
  20. Greg Sargent, "Republicans Criticize GAO Report's Terms -- Even Though They Voted To Mandate It," TPM Election Central, September 4, 2007.
  21. "Roll Call Vote 425," House Clerk, May 24, 2007.

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