“This is the second full committee event on this subject. The first was a classified briefing on July 22 of this year. I doubt it will be our last event.
“Right now, the United States has over 120,000 combat forces in Iraq. Under the current plan, we will end this year with 11 combat brigades in Iraq, totaling somewhere around 100,000 personnel. In August 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end, and our military presence in Iraq will consist of six Advise and Assist Brigades, with about 50,000 U.S. military personnel.
“Reducing our military presence by over 50,000 people and thousands of vehicles in just a few months, while simultaneously closing bases, consolidating headquarters and continuing to conduct both combat and training operations, will not be a simple undertaking. Such an enormous operation, conducted in a complex environment, demands extensive planning and inspired execution.
“Assuming this phase of the redeployment goes smoothly, we will slowly withdraw the remaining brigades until we meet the terms of the U.S. Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, and there are no U.S. military personnel on January 1, 2012. This period, and the period immediately afterwards, could well provide a jarring transition.
“For starters, the Iraqis will have to assume full responsibility for internal security, and there are questions if they will be fully capable in that area by the time we leave. We have provided DOD with the requested authority to transfer some current U.S. military equipment to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and I hope our witnesses will address how that process will work, in particular how we will ensure that this process will not hurt the National Guard’s capability to respond to disasters and other emergencies in the United States. I also hope they will take a minute to discuss potential future requests for assisting the ISF. I hope our witnesses will also take a moment to discuss how Iraq will be provided protection from external threats, and how long such a commitment might last.
“Our military command in Iraq will also be transitioning a number of responsibilities to the U.S. embassy and the Government of Iraq during this point. Some of these, such as providing protection for Provincial Reconstruction Teams, may be relatively easy to move to the State Department. Others, such as providing for the training of Iraqi police or resourcing future military assistance through the Foreign Military Sales or Foreign Military Financing process may prove challenging for the State Department to manage, and I hope our witnesses can take a moment to lay out what major functions will have to transition and how this will happen.
“This is an ongoing process. I don’t think anyone on this committee thinks this will be the last hearing on this subject. We have been involved in Iraq for a long time, and I believe we will be involved there for a long time to come. We owe it to those brave men and women who have given their lives to get us to this point to make sure we get it right.
“I now turn to my good friend Buck McKeon, the Ranking Member, for his comments.”