Gates links US troop pull out to success of Bush's Iraq plan
Washington, Jan 13 (UNI) United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates has linked the US troop pull out from Iraq to President George W Bush's revised war plan, hoping that American troops may begin withdrawing from Iraq later this year if the plan leads to the reduction in violence in the country.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he defended President Bush's, plan announced last Wednesday, envisaging a dispatch of an additional over 20,000 troops to join 135,000 strong US force there.
He said the plan would not end sectarian violence altogether, but he said if it made significant progress toward that end, it could lead to a drawdown of troops later this year.
Secretary Gates, however, said the results of the plan would be known ''fairly quickly,'' and the effort to quell violence there has a reasonable prospect of success if the Iraqis fulfill a variety of existing commitments.
Several senators expressed doubts about the efficacy of the plan as it depended too much on the Iraqi government's performance which so far has been far from satisfactory.
Gates, however, told the committee that first of the five new US brigades would reach in Iraq in the middle of this month and US- Iraqi operations to stabilize Iraqi neighborhoods systematically will begin seriously ''around the first week of February.'' He said Iraq has reached ''a pivotal point,'' and overcoming its steep challenges required more than military muscle.
Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Peter Pace, who testified with Gates, agreed the strategy of increasing the number of troops in Iraq alone would not solve that nation's problems because there must be a change in the political environment as well.
Both Pace and Gates said the impetus for boosting the level of troops in Iraq came directly from the commanders in the region, not Washington.