Some Iraq Report Changes Sound Familiar

By LOLITA C. BALDOR
The Associated Press
Thursday, December 7, 2006; 3:44 AM

WASHINGTON -- The new Iraq policy report calls for a broad swath of changes in the role U.S forces play in Iraq, but for military leaders, many of the proposals sound strikingly familiar.

After eight months of study, the Iraq Study Group urged a more aggressive military campaign of training and equipping the Iraqis _ an effort already under way. And it said most of the U.S. combat troops should be pulled out of Iraq by early 2008, depending on security developments "on the ground" _ a goal that echoes Pentagon officials' oft-repeated assertion that U.S. forces would be withdrawn based on the conditions in Iraq.

While the report unveils few new military options, it casts a greater sense of urgency on the transfer of combat responsibilities to the Iraqis. "Given the ongoing deterioration in the security situation, it is urgent to move as quickly as possible to have that security role taken over by Iraqi security forces," the authors wrote.

The report confirmed what many critics have warned about _ the deteriorating relationship between the military's top commanders and their civilian leaders, a charge long denied by outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

It also said U.S. military and intelligence officials have systematically underreported the violence in Iraq to suit the Bush administration's policy goals. It cited a day in July when U.S. officials reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence; further review found 1,100 acts of violence.

The Pentagon had little official comment Wednesday on the report.

"We're trying to reinforce success all the time," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. "We're adding to the training teams, we know they can be very valuable."

But in quiet rumblings defense officials have given the recommendations a dismissive shrug. They would argue there is nothing there they hadn't already thought of, talked about and, in many cases, put into play.

"Their recommendations range from the blindingly obvious, to the naive and simplistic, to the interesting but underdeveloped," said Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

And military analyst Anthony Corpsman described it as "an elephant gives birth to a mouse."

"We wasted three years so what are we going to do, demand instant success now?" he said. "One of the problems we have here is having sent the bull in to liberate the china shop, we are now blaming the china shop for breaking the china."

The Iraq panel lays out a plan to shift U.S. forces from combat jobs to largely supportive roles within Iraqi Army units, and it calls for a significant increase in the number of American troops embedded with the Iraqis.


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