Statement: Reyes Declares Opposition To Bush Troop Increase

[Statement by House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), January 24, 2007.]

I don’t support the President’s plan to send an additional number of troops to Iraq as this move is not tied to a specific strategy and will only needlessly endanger more soldiers. The greatest threat in Iraq is security, and this dangerous environment is directly attributed to the various armed militias in the country. The Maliki government has been unwilling to neutralize these private armies.

While the Bush administration understands that this is the top threat to stability in Iraq, the policy has been to defer to the Iraqi government.

In late summer to early fall of 2006, military leaders were of the opinion that if given the mission to neutralize these militias, they could do so with a temporary increase of 20,000 to 30,000 troops. My position then was that this would be a worthwhile investment that would result in a more secure environment for our troops, and would provide the Iraqi government a better chance to establish itself.

In late 2006, however, the security situation had badly deteriorated, as evidenced by the testimony of General John Abizaid before the Senate and the report of the Iraq Study Group, which both offered that an infusion of additional troops was not advisable.

Nonetheless, in his announcement and in briefings to members of Congress at the White House, the President indicated that the 21,000 troops would be working with the Iraqi military to clear and secure Baghdad under a plan supposedly initiated by Prime Minister Maliki. Given his past performance and inability to command the Iraqi military or order the disarming of the militias, the President’s support of this plan without specific benchmarks of accountability is unacceptable. When I met with the President before his announcement of the plan, I asked him if he intended to take the advice of the military leadership and use the troops for dealing with the militias; the President confirmed that his plan was not the same. Finally, General Abizaid’s retirement and change in military leadership shortly after the Senate testimony is troubling to me.

The solution is to make the Iraqi government accountable for both their own security, with U.S. support, and to find a political solution to the sectarian differences and subsequent violence, not to put additional U.S. troops in danger.