Wednesday, July 23, 2008
House Armed Services Committee: Hearing on the Comptroller General’s Progress Report on Iraq
Ike Skelton, Chairman
For Immediate Release: July 23, 2008
Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO)
Hearing on the Comptroller General’s Progress Report on Iraq
Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following opening statement during today’s hearing on the Comptroller General’s Progress Report on Iraq:
“Today the Armed Services Committee meets to hear from Mr. Gene Dodaro, the Acting Comptroller General of the United States, about the work recently conducted by the Government Accountability Office assessing progress in Iraq and calling for a new strategy to govern our efforts there. Mr. Dodaro is accompanied by Mr. Joseph Christoff, who I understand is present to answer questions but will not be making any opening statement. Gentlemen, welcome, and thank you for being here.
“Before we begin, I should make an administrative announcement. This hearing will be followed by a classified briefing on work regarding the Joint Campaign Plan that was conducted by GAO. That briefing will happen in 2212 Rayburn, and best guess is that it will start about 12:30. It will be at the SECRET level, so 9(c) staff are welcome to attend.
“GAO has done some excellent work for this committee and the Congress on Iraq over the years, and I think all my colleagues would join with me in thanking you for that. The most recent report on Iraq continues the tradition of raising important questions that Congress, and the Administration, should be considering as we move forward.
“The recent GAO report comes to a simple conclusion, that we need to develop a new strategy in Iraq. The report makes the case by noting that the “New Way Forward” strategy announced by the President in January 2007 is coming to an end with the departure from Iraq of the Surge brigades, and that we should be working on what’s next. I posed the “what’s next” question to General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker when they came before this committee in April. The answer is unclear.
“But the next question we should consider, and I hope Mr. Dodaro will weigh in, is if we should be undertaking a new strategy in Iraq right now. I and many others have long been in favor of changing our approach in Iraq. For the good of Iraq and the health of our military, we should be finding ways to take advantage of the Iraqi desire for real sovereignty and to hand over more responsibility for their security. This would provide a clear path towards the redeployment of the U.S. combat troops in Iraq. This is what the Iraqis clearly want, and it is what the American people clearly want. Any new strategy in Iraq should take into account the Iraqi desire for more sovereignty, as well as the health of the U.S. military and competing demands in Afghanistan.
“It is, however, worth asking if this is the right moment for a full, interagency effort to write a new strategy document. Iraq is undergoing a political transition. General Petraeus is conducting his analysis and evaluation following the redeployment of the surge brigades. The U.S. and Iraq are also deeply involved in negotiations on a status of forces agreement. And Iraqi leaders have endorsed goals for the redeployment of U.S. combat forces.
“Ideally, the Administration would have conducted a full, interagency effort to develop a new strategy well in advance of the end of the New Way Forward. Unfortunately, they did not. And we are left trying to muddle through the current changes. But, we have to answer, if pushing for a new strategy document that may well be obsolete by the time it’s done makes sense, or if we are better off waiting for a short period of time. I hope this hearing can help answer these questions.
“I now yield to my colleague, the Ranking Member, Duncan Hunter for any comments he cares to make.”