News

Lawmakers Question US Official on Training of Iraqi Forces

A U.S. official has faced tough questions from members of Congress about progress in training Iraqi military and police. State Department Iraq Policy Coordinator Richard Jones appeared Wednesday before the Middle East Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives which examined the situation in Iraq.

The hearing took on more significance in the wake of President Bush's speech on Iraq on Tuesday.

The president said the United States will remain in Iraq only as long as it takes to put it firmly on the road to democracy, and enable Iraqis to defend themselves against terrorists and insurgents, but also rejected any timetable for a U.S. pullout.

Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the subcommittee, began by noting the progress achieved already in Iraq, including the election earlier this year and steps under way to draft a constitution.

"Challenges remain, but democracy has taken root.  Today the Iraqi people remain engaged in a process that we all hope will result in a unified and democratic Iraq," Ms. Ros-Lehtinen says.

But while many lawmakers agree Iraqis have taken important steps toward democracy, some believe the entire process is more vulnerable to failure because of problems in recruiting and training members of Iraq's new army and police force.

Gary Ackerman is the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee.

"The insurgency I see is anything but in its last throes," he says. "The level of attacks has been sustained over time, and they are getting deadlier and they are getting more sophisticated.  I can only conclude that we are not succeeding against the insurgency, and that our plan for training Iraqi forces and turning the fight over to them is not working."

Democratic and Republican lawmakers have complained that they are not getting a clear picture of how many Iraqi military and police have been trained, and more importantly how capable they are in day-to-day operations.

Pressed on this question, State Department Iraq coordinator Richard Jones gives a figure of over 100 Iraqi battalions, but acknowledges that far fewer than that are actually "functional."

However, he defended the U.S. strategy.

"We have a plan for organizing them into battalions, for training them at ever-increasing levels, for forming those battalions into brigades, and brigades into divisions," Mr. Jones says. "And then the responsibility for securing the country will be distributed among eight or 10 Iraqi divisions and we will begin working with them to transfer responsibilities.  There is a schedule, there is a plan."

Congressman Dennis Cardoza, a California Democrat, wasn't satisfied with that answer, saying he does not see a clear plan and complained about confusing information from the Bush administration.

"We continue to get conflicting information from the administration, some of which we can't even talk about because it is given to us in classified materials," Mr. Cardoza says. "But I will tell you that the information that we receive often times doesn't [agree] from one administrative agency to another.

In Wednesday's hearing, State Department official Richard Jones also discussed the coming trials of Saddam Hussein and other former officials of his regime.

He says the trials, for which preparations have been detailed and intense, should be a matter of pride for the Iraqi people, and that confirmation of the brutality of the Saddam Hussein regime could help to blunt the insurgency in Iraq.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs