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Gates Critical Of Iraqi Troop Increase In Baghdad February 2, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Military News, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–The extra troops that Iraq promised to send into Baghdad in a new U.S.-Iraqi military buildup are arriving on schedule but in inadequate numbers, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday.

Gates was asked at a news conference about Senate testimony Thursday by the outgoing U.S. commander in Baghdad, Gen. George Casey, who said the arriving Iraqi units have only 55 to 65% of their intended troops.

“Fifty-five percent probably isn’t good enough,” Gates said, but he left open the possibility that by the time the Baghdad crackdown begins in earnest, the Iraqi combat units will be at full strength.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who sat beside Gates in fielding questions at a Pentagon briefing for reporters, estimated that the arriving Iraqi units are at about 60% of their assigned strength.

“It needs to be stronger than that,” Pace said.

Administration officials have said they expect Iraq to meet the pledges it made, as the troop buildup proceeds, but they have not said explicitly what would happen if the Iraqis fall substantially short on troop contributions.

“Partly it will depend on how quickly they get back up to strength,” Gates said.

The defense secretary has publicly held out the possibility of slowing or stopping the flow of additional U.S. troops if the Iraqis fall short, as they have in the past; the Pentagon has announced plans to send five additional Army brigades, totaling 17,500 troops, to Baghdad by May. In addition, about 4,000 Marines are to be sent to western Anbar province.

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