Powell Doubts Need to Raise Troop Levels


New York Times

December 18, 2006

WASHINGTON. Dec. 18 — Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state and former chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday that the Army was “about broken” and that he saw nothing to justify an increase in troops in Iraq.

“I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppression of this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work,” he said in an interview on the CBS News program “Face the Nation.”

“But if somebody proposes that additional troops be sent,” Mr. Powell said, “if I were still chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my first question to whoever is proposing it: what mission is it that these troops are to accomplish?”

Mr. Powell said heavy demands on the Army had meant “a backlog of equipment that is not being repaired” and “repetitive tours” for soldiers assigned to Iraq. “So if you surge now,” he said, “you’re going to be bringing in troops from the United States who have already been kept there even longer.”

Mr. Powell said the United States should be talking directly with the governments of Syria and Iran in an effort to stabilize the region — a contrast to the policy of the Bush administration, which has not engaged in such talks.

In a separate interview on the ABC News program “This Week,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the incoming Democratic majority leader, said he could support a troop increase only if it were temporary. “If it’s for a surge, that is, for two or three months, and it’s part of a program to get us out of there as indicated by this time next year, then, sure, I’ll go along with it.”

Mr. Reid added: “The American people will not allow this war to go on as it has. It simply is a war that will not be won militarily. It can only be won politically.”