U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) said yesterday that his first trip to Iraq last week convinced him that the nation's new government has "no sense of urgency" to establish internal political peace or handle its own security.
The visit reinforced his view that it is time to begin a phased withdrawal of U.S. combat troops, Casey told reporters during a Center City news conference. "The American people are running out of patience. This has lasted longer than World War II," he said. Casey could not give a timeline for withdrawal.
Though the recent "surge" of 20,000 additional U.S. troops has helped calm some parts of the country, Casey said there has not been enough progress toward a political pact to ease the sectarian and ethnic violence among Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis. In addition, only 9,000 Iraqi troops are fully trained to take over U.S. patrols, he said.
Casey suggested that the fledgling Iraqi government has become dependent on the American military presence. But "[U.S.] troops can't force a government to be stable, troops can't force an Iraqi police force to put aside sectarian predispositions and enforce the rule of law," he said.
Casey said he would support leaving behind logistics and training units to help the Iraqis after combat forces are withdrawn.
Casey, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, traveled to Iraq last Wednesday and Thursday with U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.). They met with top U.S. commanders, including General David H. Petraeus, rank-and-file troops, high-level Iraqi officials and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
The pair then went to Jordan, where they met with United Nations and Jordanian officials and U.S. Ambassador David Hale about the influx of 600,000 Iraqi refugees in that country. The situation threatens to destabilize Jordan, a U.S. ally, Casey said.
Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Brham Salih and the nation's national security adviser, Mowoffak al-Rubaie, pleaded for more time in a meeting with the senators, Casey said. "Both referred to the Iraqi clock and the American clock being on different frequencies, as it were," he said, adding that they made it clear that Iraq has to speed up its clock.
Congress is waiting for a Sept. 15 report from Petraeus and Crocker on whether the surge strategy is working. Last month, Casey voted for an amendment offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) that would have required a phased withdrawal of troops beginning in April 2008.
But Casey cautioned yesterday that withdrawal will take time, and ought to be done carefully. "People think we can just snap our fingers and be done," he said.
The process of moving U.S. vehicles alone will be complicated, Casey said, noting that tanks and humvees must be decontaminated and covered in shrink wrap before they can be moved.