Pace Denies Troop Reduction Reports

Joint Chiefs chairman insists he has not yet decided on troop issue.

ByLUIS MARTINEZ

Aug. 24, 2007 — -- Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace is labeling as "wrong" and "purely speculative" a report in the Los Angeles Times Friday that he is expected to recommend to President Bush that U.S. troop levels in Iraq next year should be cut by nearly half.

An earlier statement released by Pace in response to the report labeled the article as "purely speculative" but did not explicitly deny that a significant troop reduction was an option under consideration by the Joint Chiefs of Staff as they develop a strategic assessment on the way forward in Iraq. That led to news reports that the troop reduction was still open.

Pace's new statement adds that "I have not decided on or made any recommendations yet."

Citing unnamed administration and military officials, the Los Angeles Times article said Pace is concerned that keeping a military force significantly larger than 100,000 troops in Iraq through next year would be a severe strain on the military and would compromise its ability to respond to other worldwide threats. There are currently 162,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

The Times article said the Joint Chiefs would favor the troop reduction because they are concerned that the Iraq War "has degraded the U.S. military's ability to respond, if needed, to other threats, such as Iran."

Pace's updated statement said, "The story is wrong. It is purely speculative. I have not decided on or made any recommendations yet. The Joint Chiefs and I always review a wide range of options on any issue. I take very seriously my duty to provide the best military advice to the president. I provide that advice privately to the president."

The article raised eyebrows among Pentagon officials who are highly anticipating next month's report from Gen. David Petraeus, the top American military commander in Iraq, on the future course of military action in Iraq. It also comes a day after influential Republican Sen. John Warner proposed sending some U.S. troops home by Christmas in an effort to show the Iraqi government that the U.S. military commitment in Iraq is not open-ended.

The Joint Chiefs are developing their own strategic assessment of the way forward in Iraq that will incorporate the information in the assessment being crafted by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

During his Senate confirmation hearing to be the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen said the assessment was "part of the internal deliberations ... to support advice to the president."

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Bush "had received no recommendations regarding our future force posture in Iraq." He also cautioned that until the Petraeus report is presented, "We're going to see a lot of reporting about what different people are recommending, what they're not recommending, more troops, less troops, stay the same…The most important thing is to wait for Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker to return from Baghdad and make their report to Congress, the president and the American people."

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