Ex-General Wesley Clark: "US troops lack the language skills"

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Sun Jan 7 16:29:47 UTC 2007

US general points the finger over 'doomed' troop policy in Iraq

Ex-Nato chief, writing in the 'IoS', says sending 20,000 soldiers would be
'too little, too late' and may alienate Iraqis further

By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles Published: 07 January 2007

Wesley Clark, the former Nato commander who led the 1999 war in Kosovo, is
urging President George Bush not to send more troops to Iraq, saying the
"surge" in forces being considered by the White House would be too little,
too late and could only deepen the hole that the United States and its
allies have dug themselves. Writing exclusively in The Independent on
Sunday, General Clark said the time for a military solution was long past,
that US troops lack the skills and the political legitimacy to pacify the
conflict-ridden regions, and that the only way forward was a political
initiative encompassing the entire region.

"We've never had enough troops in Iraq," writes General Clark, who was the
Supreme Allied Commander of Nato forces from 1997-2000. "In Kosovo, we had
40,000 troops for a population of two million. For Iraq, that ratio would
call for at least 500,000 troops so adding 20,000 now is too little, too
late." "What the surge would do is put more American troops in harm's way,
further undercut US forces' morale, and risk further alienation of
elements of the Iraqi populace," he added. General Clark's words come just
days before a speech by Mr Bush, scheduled for Wednesday, in which he is
expected to outline a new strategy. The word "surge" suggests a short,
sharp injection of overwhelming military force, but even proponents of an
increased troop presence say the forces would need to stay at least into

Supporters such as Senator John McCain, widely touted as the Republicans'
hottest prospect to succeed President Bush, also worry that sending too
few troops would be worse than sending none at all. The Democrats who have
just taken over the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as
the majority of American voters, believe the time has come to plan for a
phased redeployment and withdrawal. "We are well past the point of more
troops for Iraq," the new Democratic leaders in the House and Senate wrote
to President Bush on Friday. "Surging forces is a strategy that you have
already tried and that has already failed. Like many current and former
military leaders, we believe that trying again would be a serious

General Clark, who ran for the White House on a Democratic ticket in 2004,
adds military authority to that point of view. "US troops lack the
language skills, cultural awareness and political legitimacy to assure
that areas cleared can be 'held', or even that they are fully 'cleared',"
he writes. "The key would be more Iraqi troops, but they aren't available
in the numbers required." Mr Bush says he is still making up his mind
about the new strategy.  Meanwhile, he has undertaken a major
housecleaning of key political and military advisers, purging those
opposed to increasing troop levels, and beefing up his coterie of personal
advisers in anticipation of congressional investigations into the
justification and conduct of the war.

Last week, he replaced his senior commander in Iraq, General George Casey,
and his senior commander in the Middle East region, General John Abizaid.



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