06 October 2005

Bush's rosy spin.... but the reality just keeps getting more gloomy.

Of Iraq's 86 battalions, only one ready to fight.... alarming Senate committee.

The number of the Iraqi army's 86 battalions that can fight insurgents without U.S. and coalition help has dropped from three back down to one, top U.S. generals informed Congress on Thursday. They also said the security situation in Iraq has worsened and is too uncertain to predict large-scale American troop withdrawals anytime soon.

Gen. George Casey, who oversees U.S. forces in Iraq, said there are fewer Iraqi battalions at "Level 1" readiness than there were a few months ago. Both Republican and Democratic senators expressed deep concern that the United States is not making enough progress against a resilient insurgency.

Officials did not say specifically why two battalions are no longer rated at Level 1 and thus unable to operate on their own.

Rumsfeld, generals grilled...

Senators bristled at the disclosure that only one Iraqi army battalion is ready to fight on its own, including rare blunt criticism from Republicans. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he thinks the United States has not had enough troops to fend off insurgents permanently. McCain also chastised Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, who retires as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Thursday, for being overly optimistic because "things have not gone as we had planned or expected nor as we were told by you, General Myers."

Myers replied: "I don't think this committee or the American public has ever heard ME say that things are going very well in Iraq."

'Loss of public confidence'

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she was discouraged by the lack of readiness by the Iraqi security force. She said that it "contributes to a loss of public confidence in how the war is going," and that "it doesn't feel like progress when we hear today that we have only one Iraqi battalion that is fully capable."

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the committee, said he thinks that if Iraqis do not reach a political solution that is agreeable to minority Sunnis by the end of the year, the United States should consider a timetable for withdrawal.

"That's not setting a date for departure at this time," Levin said. "That's simply conveying clearly and forcefully to the Iraqis that the presence of our forces in Iraq is not unlimited."

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