WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today spoke before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the findings of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, chaired by General Jim Jones. McCain submitted the following statement for the Hearing Record.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to thank General Jim Jones and all the members of the distinguished commission for the work they have done on this report and for testifying before us today. General Jones, we know you to be a highly decorated marine, a consummate professional, and a great leader. We are grateful to you for once again serving your country by heading up this panel and providing us with an independent assessment of the Iraqi security forces face. Each of you on this commission brings great expertise to this task, and I thank for your service. I look forward to hearing your assessment of the critical effort in Iraq.
“Your conclusions come at a historic time, just ahead of the report offered by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker and before the Senate will take up, again, the Iraq debate. The members of this commission, I believe, are well aware of the consequences of failure in Iraq and of a precipitous withdrawal that would make failure inevitable. Given the enormous stakes, we cannot afford to lose this war, and I firmly believe that the Congress must not choose to lose it.
“The task in Iraq is very hard, and it has been long and will be longer still. Yet I believe that in formulating the best way forward in Iraq , we must keep firmly in mind the very serious consequences of both success and failure. The commission report makes an important contribution to this discussion, and I’d like to cite its conclusion. The report states that ‘. . . the strategic consequences of failure, or even perceived failure, for the United States and the Coalition are enormous . . . Iraq’s regional geo-strategic position, the balance of power in the Middle East, the economic stability made possible by the flow of energy to many parts of the world, and the ability to defeat and contain terrorism where it is most manifest are issues that do not lend themselves to easy or quick solution. How we respond to them, however, could well define our nation in the eyes of the world for years to come.’
“And yet it seems that we have sought easy and quick solutions since the beginning of this war. We invaded with too few troops and refused for four years to match troop levels to the mission our soldiers were asked to carry out. For most of the war we maintained a strategy that relied on insufficient forces, confined to bases distant from the battlefield, from where they launched search and destroy missions and trained the Iraqi military. This approach failed, and only now are we fighting a counterinsurgency strategy, which some of us have argued we should have been following from the beginning, and which makes the most effective use of our strength and does not strengthen the tactics of our enemy. This new battle plan is succeeding where our previous tactics have failed, although the outcome remains far from certain.
“Anyone who has traveled recently to Anbar Province , or to Diyala, or Yusufiya, or to Baghdad itself can see the improvements that have taken place over the past months. Violence is down, commerce is on the rise, and the bottom-up efforts to forge counterterrorism alliances are bearing tangible fruit. No one can be certain whether the new strategy, which remains in the early stages, can bring about ever greater stability. We can be sure, however, that should the United States Congress succeed in terminating the strategy this fall, then we will fail for certain.
“Key to this effort is developing a realistic assessment of the situation in Iraq , and that is why this commission is so important. For too long we have heard rosy scenarios and predictions of near term success, with too few honest appraisals of just how hard are the necessary tasks in Iraq . In 2005, Pentagon officials testified before this Committee and assured us that the Iraqi Security Forces would be the primary force fighting the insurgency. Your report indicates that, two years later, the Iraqi Security Forces are unable to fulfill their essential security responsibilities on their own and are unlikely to be able to do so for a year to 18 months. 2006, we were told, would be the “Year of the Police,” and yet in your report today you recommend that the National Police be disbanded and reorganized.
“I hope that, in the course of this hearing and in our subsequent floor debate, the Senate can deal with facts in Iraq as they are, rather than as we would like or fear them to be. We have great challenges, and the road is long and hard. But long and hard is not impossible, and we are making real progress on the security front and in political progress at the local level. So far, the Maliki government has not risen to the challenge, nor seized the opportunity presented to it by our increased security efforts. It must do so – this opportunity will not come around again. It is obvious that America is losing our resolve to continue sacrificing its sons and daughters, while the Iraqi government will not take the political risks to do what is plainly in the best interests of the Iraqi people. But we do not fight only for the interests of Iraqis, Mr. President, we fight for ours as well.
“We fight to avoid the terrible consequences of our defeat. For if we withdraw from Iraq, if we choose to lose there, there is no doubt in my mind that we will be back – in Iraq and elsewhere – many more desperate fights to protect our security and at an even greater cost in American lives and treasure. That would be a catastrophe.
“The road is long and hard, but it is not endless. If this strategy succeeds, U.S. forces, after working with their Iraqi counterparts to instill greater security, can increasingly hand over responsibilities to the Iraqi Security Forces, allowing American troops to begin to draw down. How and when we withdraw from Iraq is vitally important to the outcome there, and much depends on the adequacy of the Iraqi forces themselves. For that reason, I welcome all of the commissioners who have contributed to this report, and I look forward to your assessments and to your recommendations for action.