Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) released the following statement concerning the President’s address to the nation on Iraq:

    “The force reductions proposed tonight by the President, while welcome, do not take the necessary step of changing the mission of American forces in Iraq and getting our forces out of policing a civil war.  For our country’s sake, we need to begin a more significant redeployment of our troops from Iraq.  The burden our country has placed on our military personnel and their families is tremendous, and their sacrifices deserve to be honored with a policy that furthers American national interests at home, in the Middle East, and around the world.

    “We currently have more than 160,000 U.S. military personnel deployed to Iraq.  General Petraeus testified this week that since the beginning of the surge of troops, levels of violence are down from the catastrophic levels of late 2006.  But despite security improvements made possible by the dedication of our forces, the Government of Iraq has yet to achieve tangible progress toward national reconciliation.  Without political progress, no security gains made by American troops will matter.  

   “Beyond disappointment that the Iraqis have not done enough to achieve political accommodation at the national level, we must not allow our focus on Iraq to jeopardize other critical national security concerns.  This ongoing U.S. military commitment in Iraq has consequences, which include the strain placed on the health of the Army and the impact on U.S. military readiness should forces be needed to respond to other situations affecting our national interests.  Bringing troop levels down to pre-surge levels will help reduce some of the strain on the Army, but not enough to ensure that it is trained and ready to deal with any future threat.  I doubt it will also be enough to allow us sufficient forces for the hunt for Osama bin Laden and those who attacked us on September 11th.   

    “I remain unconvinced that placing U.S. military forces in charge of the counterinsurgency mission in Iraq, essentially fighting an Iraqi civil war, is worth the sacrifice in American lives, treasure, and the continued damage to the strategic ability of the United States to react to growing problems in other parts of the world.  I believe that a change in mission for our forces in Iraq, coupled with a substantial reduction in their number, is in the best interest of U.S. national security.  The Administration’s proposal of minimal troop reductions does not do enough to get us out of the civil war in Iraq and ready to deal with our many other strategic challenges.”