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Joint Chiefs Stand In Unison On Iraq Withdrawl

Joint Chiefs oppose Iraq pullout

By Rowan Scarborough

THE WASHINGTON TIMES
November 30, 2006

All six members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, amid an ongoing Pentagon review of strategy for Iraq, oppose pulling out U.S. troops now, and are also against a specific withdrawal timetable, a defense source said yesterday.

"The chiefs are solid. They want victory," the source said. "There is no dissent."

The Joint Chiefs -- which includes Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman, along with a vice chairman and the heads of the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy -- have been meeting several times a week to review a list of Iraq options for President Bush.

The Pentagon has said all options are open for consideration during the far-reaching review. But on the question of withdrawal, the issue is settled in favor of Mr. Bush's position, the source said.

"We are looking at the whole spectrum of possible military actions," Gen. Pace said yesterday. "I'm not going to say to you where I am personally, nor where the chiefs are, because our responsibility is to give our best military advice." A Pentagon spokesman said he had no information on the chiefs' positions.

At a press conference, Gen. Pace endorsed the idea of shifting more Iraqi forces into violence-wracked Baghdad, where Shi'ite and Sunni terrorists are on a killing spree to gain control of the capital. A number of lawmakers, including Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and House Armed Services Committee chairman, advocate sending more Iraqi battalions to the capital.

"I think that idea has a good amount of appeal for multiple reasons," Gen. Pace said. "Because Baghdad is extremely important to the Iraqi government, and their armed forces and their security forces are the proper long-term solution to that problem. "

Gen. Pace said that putting into practice a Baghdad redeployment depends on whether Army Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki think they have sufficient personnel from a total force of more than 300,000 .

"The question is, when they move them from where they are, what condition does that create from where they moved them," he said.

The Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission of former officeholders, completed work yesterday on its final report to Mr. Bush. The report will be released Wednesday, the day after Senate confirmation hearings begin for Defense Secretary-designate Robert M. Gates.

Mr. Bush is not likely to warmly embrace the study group's centerpiece proposal -- direct diplomatic engagement with U.S. adversaries Syria and Iran, which are fueling the various insurgency groups in Iraq that are killing U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians by the thousands.