Contact: Josh Holly; 202.226.3988
Washington D.C. – U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, released the following opening statement regarding the committee’s posture hearing for the U.S. Central Command’s Fiscal Year 2008 budget request:
“Thank you to our Chairman, Ike Skelton, for holding this hearing and welcome to Admiral Fallon in his first appearance as the Commander of U.S. Central Command. We place great value on your continued commitment and service, particularly in such important areas of responsibility as the Pacific and, now, the Middle East.
“Recent security-related debates here in Washington have focused almost exclusively on Iraq. In this committee, we have talked with Administration officials and outside experts about the President’s plan to push combat troops into Baghdad and al Anbar province. As a Congress, we have discussed milestones and benchmarks relating to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s commitments for progress on several fronts – political, security and reconstruction. General Pace has referred to the U.S. strategy as a three-legged stool, which depends on these three elements. And we have debated the utility of setting timetables for withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Iraq theater.
“This committee is, of course, interested in all three aspects of this situation in Iraq. We understand that Prime Minister Maliki and other senior Iraqi officials must follow through on the commitments necessary to secure their nation and improve the lives of their people. They must treat perpetrators of sectarian violence – whether Sunni or Shi’a – equally, and I am hopeful that they will find forward-leaning, tolerant team players to replace the six recently-departed ministers.
“Most importantly, the Iraqi government must develop a capable, national military force that is combat-tested and accountable to its civilian leadership. Toward this end, you may be aware that I have forwarded to President Bush a strong recommendation to ensure that all Iraqi battalions experience combat tours in ‘hot-spot’ areas like Baghdad to grow and validate capabilities. This plan would involve:
- “Implementing a rotation schedule that requires every Iraqi combat battalion to participate in a three-month combat rotation. Such rotations will develop unit cohesion, leadership, confidence, capabilities and the chain of command;
- “Providing Iraqi forces with modest training and basic equipment, including small arms, communications gear, transportation and medical gear. They may develop more advanced capabilities while they operate side-by-side with U.S. forces and also after U.S. forces leave, and
- “Identifying ‘enabling capabilities’ that Iraq should develop and determining a schedule for doing so. Training and equipping efforts have focused on combat capabilities with some attention paid to enablers such as logistics, intelligence, air support, and medical capabilities. Neighboring countries and coalition members can provide some support of these enablers.
“I am interested in your thoughts both on this plan and on the progress that you have seen, in your brief time, of the Iraqi Security Forces’ willingness and ability to accept an increased role in that nation.
“Of course, your area of responsibility extends far beyond the borders of Iraq. In addition, I welcome your insights into how the current and planned coalition naval presence in the region may act as a deterrent to Iranian aggression and your thoughts on how best to address the range of challenges presented by Iran.
“Also, regarding Afghanistan, I would appreciate your advice on how to create a sustainable alternative to opium as a cash crop. Finally, please provide your perspective on outside influences within your area of responsibility. For example, we have heard that Chinese officials and companies are approaching developing nations within the Horn of Africa. In your view, what are the practical effects of these relationships on U.S. national security interests?
“Admiral, we Members of Congress appreciate all that you – and your fellow servicemembers and your families – sacrifice to protect American national security interests around the world. Thank you for your service and for the service of those who serve under the auspices of U.S. Central Command.
“Finally, I thank my partner on this committee for holding this important hearing, and I look forward to an open, forward-looking discussion.”