In testimony before the House Armed Forces Committee yesterday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said that that the Army is “out of balance” due to the war in Iraq and that it cannot respond adequately to another conflict. Casey said that the “current demand” on the military was not “sustainable”:
The current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply. We are consumed with meeting the demands of the current fight and are unable to provide ready forces as rapidly as necessary for other potential contingencies.
Asked by if the military is prepared to meet an unexpected challenge, Casey responded “I am not comfortable. We could not respond as rapidly as we would like to.” Watch it:
According to “Pentagon insiders” who spoke to the Boston Globe, “Casey’s apparent alarm about the Army heightened when he returned from nearly three years of duty in Iraq.” Casey also said that “Army support systems…are straining under the pressures from six years of war.”
Casey is not alone in his assessment. Several current and former Bush administration officials have publicly warned for several months that current troop levels cannot be sustained past next summer due to strain:
Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace: Pace “is expected to advise President Bush to reduce the U.S. force in Iraq next year by almost half” and “is likely to convey concerns by the Joint Chiefs that keeping well in excess of 100,000 troops in Iraq through 2008 will severely strain the military.” [8/24/07]
Commanding General Odierno: “We know that the surge of forces will come at least through April at the latest, April of ’08, and then we’ll have to start to reduce…we know that they will start to reduce in April of ’08 at the latest.” [8/26/07]
Army Secretary Peter Geren: “[T]he service’s top official, recently said he sees ‘no possibility’ of extending the duty tours of US troops beyond 15 months.” [8/30/07]
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell: “[T]hey probably can’t keep this up at this level past the middle of next year, I would guess. This is a tremendous burden on our troops.” [7/18/07]
Casey, who was formally the top military commander in Iraq, appears to be hoping his blunt assessment will push the Bush administration to change its military policy. In a “highly unusual move,” Casey requested the public hearing, apparently hoping to attract more attention to the issue of the depleted armed forces.