Thursday, February 03, 2011
In appreciation of Lindsey Graham (Ava)
I thought I'd do something tonight -- sorry, Ava here reporting on the Senate Armed Service Committee hearing and giving Trina a night off. I thought I'd do something that doesn't happen often on the left: Give a little appreciation for Lindsey Graham.
The Republican senator from South Carolina does not have a voting record I like and I honestly tend to boo and hiss him (silently) in many a hearing. But he did something today that I did appreciate.
In C.I.'s snapshot (posted in full after I'm done), she highlighted a section of the hearing because it was important and also to help set me up for my post tonight. Appearing before the hearing were General Lloyd Austin, top US commander in Iraq, and US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey. Democratic senator Carl Levin Chairs the Armed Services Committee. Now the excerpt:
Chair Carl Levin: Thank you. Is there any indication -- and I'll ask this of both of you -- that Iraq is going to request that any elements of our military forces remain beyond December?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: We have received, uh, no such request, Senator. We are working with the Iraqis, as the general said, on the security elements of our post 2011 presence which will include a large OSCI element for our security cooperation and the police training which will be a major program both of these are under the framework of the Security -- uh, the Strategic Framework Agreement which was the second agreement signed in 2008. It does not have a deadline and calls for a broad cooperation across the spectrum of bilateral relations including specifically security. So we're working with the Iraqis now on just what exactly the components of that would be, sir.
Chair Carl Levin: Do you expect a request beyond that from the Iraqi government?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: We haven't yet, sir, and I-I can't say what they'll do in the future.
Chair Car Levin: We don't have any indication that such a request is going to be forthcoming? As of this time?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: As of this time there's no specific request on the table. They will want to see how we will meet their training and equipping needs uh with the program that we set up.
Gen Lloyd Austin: Senator, I echo the Ambassador's comments. We haven't had any requests. And, again, I think he covered the entire gamut there so I would not add anything to that.
Let me note, in case you're recalling earlier this week, this was a hearing today. Tuesday night, I wrote about Jeffrey and Austin appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In the excerpt above, you'll note that the two witnesses sidestep. Graham penned them down in his exchange.
Senator Lindsey Graham: No, I'm not saying we're going to do it for them, I'm saying we're going to help them. Do they want our help?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: Yes, sir. It is in the Strategic Framework Agreement -- specifically political support. We of course support them in election uh monitoring and setting up elections and many other ways and a lot --
Senator Lindsey Graham: Does the general population want us to continue to be their partner in some fashion?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: Uh, the general population wants us to be their partner uh Senator.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Does the military want us to train the air force, General Austin?
Gen Lloyd Austin: They do, Senator Graham.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Okay. So we've got an Iraqi navy to develop too. They want us to help -- they want us to help them in that regard?
Gen Lloyd Austin: They-they do.
Senator Lindsey Graham: So we're not staying in a place where we're not wanted. Is that a fair statement? Whatever "staying" is.
Ambassador James Jeffrey: That's a fair statement, Senator, uh, but there are, uh -- Most polls say that the Iraqis, uh, population in general would like to see the military, uh-uh, presence to be withdrawn.
Senator Lindsey Graham: I understand that. Now that goes back to the what is penny wise and pound foolish from an Iraqi-American point of view. To carry out your mission in 2012 without US military security being provided, we're basically creating a small State Dept Army. Is that correct?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: Uh -- I would have a problem with two words, Senator. "Creating" and "army" and I'll explain it. Right now, we have some, uh, 27,000 security contractors and many hundreds of State Dept security personnel. That figure will go up significantly by -- but -- by an order of magnitude but we already have, the point I'm making is that we already have a large number of security personnel operating in Iraq under the --
Senator Lindsey Graham: Is it enough to do the job?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: If we get the money to have the additional security, it's enough to do the job.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Well let's talk about that additional security. Will it include MRAPS [Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles]?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: It will, Senator.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Okay. Will it include helicopters?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: Uh, it will include a large number of helicopters, Senator.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Okay. Will these helicopters be armed?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: Uh, they will not be armed, Senator.
Senator Lindsey Graham: But you're going to have a helicopter fleet, you're going to have an MRAP fleet and, if something happens, do you have enough capacity to shoot your way out of it? Or are you going to have to rely on the Iraqi security forces if you're up in Kirkuk or Mosul and something bad happens?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: Uh, currently, Senator, both the US military and my own, uh-uh, convoys move with Iraqi security support in the cities. We assume that will continue.
Senator Lindsey Graham: How many -- how dependent are you today on American military security for your movements?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: Essentially all movements outside of, uh, Baghad -- that is, all PRT movements by agreement with the Embassy and Centcom are conducted by USF-I forces. That, of course, will change when the forces go.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Okay, so if all movements in Iraq to do your State Dept and other agency jobs require US Forces-Iraq to provide security and next year they're gone, who fills that vacuum?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: Uh, first of all, uh --
Senator Lindsey Graham: Well let me ask you this question: Would it be wise from an Iraqi - US point of view that that vacuum not be completely -- that we not create a complete vacuum? Would it make sense -- would it make sense financially, security wise to have a military foot print left behind -- if the Iraqis request -- to continue to provide security for US State Dept officials and others?
Ambassador James Jeffrey: We are always happy to have US military --
Senator Lindsey Graham: Thank you. General Austin, from a professional military point of view what lies ahead in Iraq is the holding and building. Do you believe it makes sense, given the security requirements that lie ahead for our State Dept officials and others to get out and about in Iraq, that it would be wise to have an American military contingent in 2012 in Iraq?
Gen Lloyd Austin: Uh, Senator, uh -- the Iraqi security forces have the ability to control the internal security in the country. Currently, as you know, they are leading the effort to do that now. And they do need continued work on logistics and intelligence capabilities, uhm, and-and so --
Senator Lindsey Graham: Do you feel comfortable with the Iraqi security forces as they exist January 1, 2012, to protect the thousands of Americans and other people in Iraq trying to provide assistance to that country. Can they do the job? Are you comfortable with them being able to provide that security?
Gen Lloyd Austin: Uh -- I think that, uh, adequate security will be provided provided the Ambassador is-is adequately resourced to --
Senator Lindsey Graham: Is it your opinion that we do not need, from a military point of view, any troops in Iraq in 2012?
Gen Lloyd Austin: Uh, Senator what we're -- what we're focused on now is, uh, abiding by the, uh, agreement --
Senator Lindsey Graham: I know. But you're advising Congress. You're somebody we respect. You've been on the ground a lot. Please put on the table what you see as reasonably necessary or an insurance policy for a lack of a better word. If you can construct the perfect scenario what would you have that scenario be regarding military involvement in Iraq in 2012 and beyond?
Gen Lloyd Austin: Uh, Senator, uh, I would, uh, prefer to, uh, avoid speculating on, uh, what we would be able to do and what we could provide because, uh, I think the Iraqis would have to make a request and then we would, uh, as a matter of policy, our government would have to --
Senator Lindsey Graham: My time is up but I totally understand what you're saying. If such a request were made by the Iraqi government that we'd love to have some military assistance here to help us with the boundary disputes, to train our air force, to help us develop better security for your people and ours' -- if such a request were made would you be favorably disposed to say "yes"?
Gen Lloyd Austin: If that is the policy of the American government --
Senator Lindsey Graham: No, I'm talking about you. Would you recommend to us to say "yes"?
Gen Lloyd Austin: Well, uh, again, Senator, that's beyond my pay grade to, uh, make that recommendation, Senator.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Okay. Thank you.
So you think the US military is leaving? Really? Even after the refusal to answer the question by Austin? Even after Graham's penned down the duties of the State Dept Army?
It was an illuminating hearing and so much better than the Foreign Relations hearing earlier this week. Senator Daniel Akaka also had a strong line of questioning regarding contractors and safety.
And this is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:''