Mullen worried about threats to security gains in Iraq

The top U.S. military official said on Wednesday that he worried that Iraq's political paralysis was threatening its recent security gains, highlighting Washington's growing fears that Iraq's inability to form a new government could trigger a new outbreak of violence.

"I'm extremely concerned about their inability to stand up this government," Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. "The politics there are from my perspective too slow ... and the longer that lasts, the more I and others worry about what does the future hold."

Iraq has faded from the front pages of the nation's newspapers as U.S. troops leave the country as part of the Obama administration's push to wind down the war. There are 50,000 American troops in Iraq, barely a quarter of the levels reached during the 2007-08 troop "surge" that helped end the country's civil war and sharply reduced its once-endemic violence.

Attention in official Washington has instead begun to focus almost exclusively on the intensifying war in Afghanistan, where tens of thousands of U.S. reinforcements have arrived in recent months. After years of being the forgotten war, Afghanistan is now the main American military focus, with many officials in the White House and on Capitol Hill arguing that the U.S. has effectively won in Iraq and can now safely leave the country.

But a countervailing view is taking root among many within the military, which worries that Iraq's failure to form a new government is threatening to unravel the country's security and economic improvements.

Earlier Wednesday, the top American military commander for Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Rob Baker, said the political stalemate was sparking new violence and leading ordinary Iraqis to reduce their security cooperation with U.S. and Iraqi forces, the Associated Press reported.

Millions of Iraqi voters braved the threat of insurgent violence to cast ballots for a new parliament earlier this year, but neither of the country's two leading political blocs won the 163-seat majority necessary to form a new government. The Iraqiya bloc led by former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi won 91 seats, narrowly surpassing a slate led by the incumbent premier, Nouri al-Maliki, which won 89 seats.

The two sides have spent more than seven months engaged in on-again, off-again talks about either forming a coalition government or standing aside so one of them could try to assemble a coalition with other political blocs. So far, there has been little to no discernible progress toward a deal.

Allawi, for instance, used a visit to Syria to reiterate Wednesday that he would not serve in any coalition government led by Maliki, a sign of the growing sniping between the two rivals.

"Regretfully, there is a determination to confiscate the will of the Iraqi people and prevent the Iraqiya bloc from ascending to power," Allawi said in a news conference in Damascus.

Mullen, for his part, said the U.S. had lost more than 3,400 military personnel to give Iraqis a chance for a better future, and said he was concerned that chance could be squandered by the infighting.

"There is a great opportunity for the political leadership and the Iraqi people that is there as a result of these sacrifices," Mullen said. "I just hope they take it."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.