The senior U.S. military officer has told Congress the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan limit his forces' ability to deal with any additional armed conflicts. But the officer, General Richard Myers, says the United States will prevail in any conflict anyway.
In a classified report to Congress made available to news organizations, General Myers said any additional U.S. military commitment would likely result in a longer conflict with more casualties than if U.S. forces were not already fighting in large numbers in Iraq and Afghanistan. But General Myers, who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said the U.S. military would win any conflict it is assigned to fight. He repeated that view Tuesday speaking to reporters.
"The timelines may have to be extended. We may have to use additional resources, but it doesn't matter because we're going to be successful in the end," he said.
According to accounts of the general's classified report, he cites particular problems with the supplies of sophisticated weapons and the already extensive use of U.S. reserve forces in Iraq as major factors that would make it more difficult for the United States to take on a further conflict.
The reports say General Myers believes the U.S. military might not meet expectations for speed or precision in any additional war, but would win. The general says efforts are being made to ease the strain on the U.S. military capability, but officials acknowledge those are mostly long-term efforts involving reorganization, retraining and resupply.
General Myers' comments seemed to contradict a statement made by President Bush at a news conference last Thursday, when the president quoted the general.
"The person I ask that to, at least, is to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, my top military advisor. I say, ‘do you feel that we've limited our capacity to deal with other problems because of our troop levels in Iraq?’ And the answer is, no, he doesn't feel we're limited. He feels like we've got plenty of capacity," said Mr. Bush.
On Tuesday, Pentagon officials sought to downplay any discrepancy between the statements by President Bush and General Myers. Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman says it should be obvious that there is some stress on the U.S. military, but equally obvious in his view that it remains highly capable.
He said General Myers' report to the Congress is a routine "risk assessment" designed to help officials make realistic plans.
"Risk assessment is management tool for the military so it can highlight timelines and resources, not outcomes. We need to be clear here, that the outcome of any contingency operation the U.S. military might find self-executing is very clear. It's very clear in that the United States military will prevail and succeed in all its assigned missions," Mr. Whitman noted.
Mr. Whitman says the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have also taught the U.S. military many lessons about modern warfare against insurgents, which will make it more effective in any future similar conflict.
Reports about General Myers' classified document indicate he told Congress that U.S. successes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and several operations against global terrorism, should be a deterrent to anyone who wants to attack the United States. The general also said he still has the flexibility to deter specific threats, including the decision to move some heavy bombers from bases in the United States to bases the Pacific to discourage North Korea from taking any aggressive action.