U.S. Should Redeploy, But It Won't Be Easy (Sen. Bob Casey)

The threshold question before the American people is this week, after the Petraeus and Crocker reports come out, should the Bush policy be continued? I answer that the same way I answered before: no, the Bush policy should not be continued.

The enemy will continue to be strong in Iraq; we know that. What we have to do is increase the strength and capabilities of the Iraqi Police Force. The thing that troubles me is that when you press people in our military, and we've pressed a couple people on this, you find that when you add up the number of Iraqi military forces at level one readiness -- which means they don't need the Americans and they're independent -- right now, by one estimate, it's no more than 9,000. That's not enough troops trained at that level to take on the enemy. So when you hear a lot of puffing about how well things are going, I think we should press on level one readiness.

I think the Iraqi government leaders are on a different time clock because they keep needing patience, and they keep harkening back to how long it takes for a stable government to fully bloom. The American people are running out of patience, and justifiably so. This war has gone on longer than WWII and we've spent half a trillion dollars, 3700 troops now are dead.

The longer we stay at a high troop level the more we enable them. It's human nature: the longer you receive help the longer you rely on the force that's helping. Mostly what has to happen is that the president and his administration have to put pressure on the Iraqi government. We cannot allow this government just to drift. They've had plenty of time, and they've had plenty of support from us, to get their government off the ground.

I think we have to have a phased redeployment. We should have a surge, very focused and strategic, on diplomacy. We've had starts and stops, kind of an ad hoc diplomacy, but not a sustained kind of thing. I hear there's going to be a summit within Iraq, and I hope that means some progress.

We also contemplated, in the war resolutions, having troops who stay in Iraq to preserve stability there and to be of help to the Iraqis. But there's no reason why, in the middle of 2008 or 2009, that we should have 160,000 troops in Iraq. They've been there long enough, and I think it's time to talk about a phased and responsible redeployment. With expert military planning, I think you can do it right.

We have built, in my judgment, an American city there. You have places where people are living, food, money, equipment -- and people can actually live there. Sometimes we forget that they actually live there. It's a massive deployment of people and resources.

People talk about redeployment as if you can snap your fingers. It is a long and difficult and complicated process. All the equipment has to be cleaned, to get the sand out and to make sure there are no germs, no pathogens, and to get soldiers out and make sure they're not carrying anything. Just to take one tank or one helicopter -- to cleanse it and then shrink wrap it and then get it to a C-130 or get it to a vessel to take it back to our country -- is a mess. Too many commentators in the press and too many politicians in this country have simplified it in a way that's blatantly irresponsible.

I don't agree with the general assessment that the political process in Iraq is proceeding with great success. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak, and you have Sunnis leaving the government, and you have problems not just in the government but in the police. You can't have government stability without law and order.

Sen. Bob Casey traveled to Iraq and Jordan earlier this month as part of a congressional delegation with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).