Troop levels, Bloggers, the war in Iraq
Bloggers on the left have championed General Zinni in the past. In today's New York Times, he states (see emphasis):
This is the case now being argued by many Democrats, most notably Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who asserts that the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq should begin within four to six months.Neither Zinni nor Senator Levin find themselves on the same page as the head of CENTCOM, CNN:
But this argument is being challenged by a number of military officers, experts and former generals, including some who have been among the most vehement critics of the Bush administration’s Iraq policies.
Anthony C. Zinni, the former head of the United States Central Command and one of the retired generals who called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, argued that any substantial reduction of American forces over the next several months would be more likely to accelerate the slide to civil war than stop it.
“The logic of this is you put pressure on Maliki and force him to stand up to this,” General Zinni said in an interview, referring to Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister. “Well, you can’t put pressure on a wounded guy. There is a premise that the Iraqis are not doing enough now, that there is a capability that they have not employed or used. I am not so sure they are capable of stopping sectarian violence.”
Instead of taking troops out, General Zinni said, it would make more sense to consider deploying additional American forces over the next six months to “regain momentum” as part of a broader effort to stabilize Iraq that would create more jobs, foster political reconciliation and develop more effective Iraqi security forces.
Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Abizaid said, "At this stage in the campaign we'll need flexibility to manage our force and to help manage the Iraqi force. Force caps and specific timetables limit that flexibility."
In opening remarks, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, said responsibility for Iraq's future should be put "squarely where it belongs: on the Iraqis. We cannot save the Iraqis from themselves.
"The only way for Iraqi leaders to squarely face that reality is for President Bush to tell them that the United States will begin a phased redeployment of our forces within four to six months," Levin said.
Abizaid said he was encouraged by what he saw when he visited the region recently.
"I remain optimistic that we can stabilize Iraq," he said.
"While sectarian violence remains high and worrisome, it's certainly not as bad as the situation appeared back in August," he said.
"I wouldn't say that we have turned the corner in this regard, but it's not nearly as bad as it was back in August, and I was encouraged by that."
Asked whether more troops are needed in Iraq, Abizaid said, "I believe that the troop levels need to stay where they are."