New Acting CentCom Commander Opposed Surge, Is A ‘Fan Of Transition’ In Iraq

dempsey353.jpgYesterday, CentCom commander Adm. William Fallon resigned — a day before an Esquire article that points out stark policy differences between he and the Bush administration hits newsstands. Fallon’s interim replacement will be his top deputy, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who previously led the training of the Iraqi security forces.

In the past, Dempsey has made statements suggesting a critical approach to the administration. In a hearing on the Iraq escalation on Nov. 15, 2007, then-CentCom commander Gen. John Abizaid said Dempsey in fact opposed the “surge”:

I’ve met with every divisional commander. General [George] Casey, the corps commander, [Lt.] General [Martin] Dempsey — we all talked together. And I said, ‘In your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq?’ And they all said, ‘No.’

“I’m all about transition,” Dempsey urged on Dec. 25, 2006. In an interview with the National Journal last June, he again emphasized that the U.S. needs a “transition scheme” with Iraqi forces. Dempsey added that the administration should come clean on future force levels, something which it has yet to do:

To some extent, I am a fan of transition. After we move to protect the Iraqi people with this surge, at some point we’ll need to go back to transitioning responsibilities. … I think we need both a stated transition scheme and a long-term security agreement with Iraq. Because at some point, the United States is going to move from its present posture of 20 brigades on the ground to something less.

I don’t know what the eventual U.S. force level will be, but we need to know what it is, and the Iraqis do too. That way, a future commander in my job can build forces to that established need.

When he testified to Congress last June, Dempsey said Iraqi forces were still “riddled with sectarianism and corruption” and will be incapable of being fully independent for “many years.”

Nevetheless, in a December 2006 interview with Bill O’Reilly, Dempsey said he thinks the Iraq war was “absolutely worth it” despite the costs.

UPDATE: The Washington Post reports today that for the permanent position, a “likely successor to Fallon is Petraeus, some defense experts said.”