“One of the mistakes I made in my assumptions going in was that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Army would welcome liberation, that the Iraqi Army, given the opportunity, would stand together for the Iraqi people and be available to them to help serve the new nation.”
— Gen. Peter Pace, on the Iraq War
On Friday, General Pace, outgoing and soon to be retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke publicly Friday about what he termed “mistakes made” at the onset of the Iraq War. Pace clearly admitted the assumption that the Iraqi Army would hold together and fight was wrong.
“They disintegrated in the face of the coalition’s first several weeks of combat, so they weren’t here.”
Pace said that if he had realized this disintegration would happen, he would have increased the number of troops deployed at the outset of the war. Pace said that he would not have escalated deployment of troops at the start of 2006 because he was working under the expectation of building and equipping an Iraqi Army and turning over security duties to it.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, also speaking out on Friday, said all the President’s senior military advisers are in agreement with those recommendations. Gates said the next steps taken by the United States in Iraq:
“… had to avoid even the appearance of American failure.”Pace’s comments continued with the notation that while the Iraqi Army was built up and equipped, bombing of one of holiest Shiite sites, the Golden Mosque, exploded tensions between Shiite Muslims and Sunnis in the region, “destabilizing” the region and shattering any plans of troop reduction by the United States. The ensuing bombings and revenge killings in the region has escalated substantially.
Pace couched his report with the statement that “given what I knew at the time, I’m comfortable with the recommendations that I made,” adding that officials are “learning” from their mistakes.
Pace withheld these statements until the long-awaited GAO report on the status of the War in Iraq was released and the testimonies of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker were presented to Congress earlier this week, and President Bush had the opportunity to address the nation about “progress in Iraq” and the possible drawdown of troops there.
“Twenty-six million Iraqis have the opportunity now. They are working their way through 3½ decades of being trod upon, held down, no opportunity at all for freedom of expression, for living their lives the way they wanted to, for picking [their] leaders.”
— Gen. Peter Pace
Pace said he supports the President’s plan for Iraq, which includes the start of a troop drawdown, and Gen. Petraeus’ assessment of the situation in Iraq.