Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) released the following statement on recent comments by the Secretary of Defense concerning troop levels in Iraq:

 “I was disappointed by reports that Secretary Gates would currently support pausing the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq later this summer.  With the lives and the heroic efforts of our troops, we have tried to buy time for the Iraqis to bring their country together through reconciliation.  Unfortunately, the Iraqis have failed to take advantage of this opportunity and little progress is apparent.  In the meantime, our Army has become overstretched and becomes more overextended with each passing day. 

 “A rigid focus on Iraq that blinds us from other critical national security concerns does not protect American interests.  I strongly encourage the President and the Secretary to give major consideration to the overall health of our force and its ability to respond in the event we find ourselves faced with another threat.  We cannot afford to take on more strategic risk to buy more time for a government uninterested in reconciliation.”