General David Petraeus testified yesterday before the Senate Armed Service and Senate Foreign Relations Committees on the state of America's efforts in Iraq. Feelings about our military presence in the Middle East run high, and the presence of all three presidential candidates certainly added a level of political tension to the setting, but it is important that Congress and the American people not overlook the fact that Iraq is only one theater in which American service members are stationed. It is now painfully obvious to all that the global war on terror has stretched our military capabilities to the limits. If Congress is clear headed about addressing this problem it must repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
In his testimony General Petraeus told senators, "the strategic considerations include recognition that: the strain on the U.S. military, especially on its ground forces, has been considerable." He went on to recommend a 45-day "period of consolidation and evaluation" once the extra combat forces associated with the surge complete their pullout in July. He did not commit to a timetable for resuming troop reductions after the 45-day pause.
Under questioning by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), General Petraeus said he could not predict when troop reductions would resume or how many U.S. troops would remain in Iraq by the end of this year. There currently are 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and the pentagon projects that when the scheduled troop withdrawals are completed in July about 140,000 troops will remain.
Senator Levin asked General Petraeus when he would recommend further troop cuts, once the 45-day evaluation period ends in September. "It could be right then, or it could be longer," the general said. He declined comment further, saying he would recommend more cuts when conditions were right.
General Petraeus’s comments on troop reduction underscore the reality that America’s military personnel are stretched to their limits. Yet, the federal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” statute still requires military commanders discharge troops if they are honest and open about their sexual orientation. As a result of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law 12,000 troops have been dismissed from the military since 1994.
Congress needs to give all commanders every opportunity to recruit train and retain the best troops needed to accomplish the mission. Congress needs to change the law to ensure that military readiness is more important than promoting prejudice towards lesbians, gays and bisexuals.
To ensure military readiness and enhance our national security Congress must finally repeal the terrible “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” federal statute