Politics & Policy

Crass-Test Dems

The choice to delay troop funding has put the Army in a crunch.

For the past two weeks, the U.S. Army has been scrambling to find the money to support our troops in the field because of Democrats’ decision to delay the emergency war supplemental-spending bill to score political points.

A month ago, when the Senate first took up the president’s emergency funding request, military leaders warned that failing to finish the supplemental by April 15 would force the Army to begin cutting back on things like troop training and equipment. Despite this warning, Democrats insisted on delaying the bill by including an arbitrary deadline for withdrawal from Iraq, a provision they knew would guarantee a presidential veto.

Then, instead of immediately reconciling the House and Senate versions of the bill and getting a final bill to the president so it could be returned to Congress for reconsideration, House leaders delayed appointing conferees for almost three weeks—three weeks during which the deadline for getting this funding to the troops came and went. Democrats finally passed the conference report, but they have now further delayed matters by waiting until April 30 to send the bill to the president. Could it be this was intended to score political points by having its arrival coincide with the anniversary of the president’s “mission accomplished” speech?

Meanwhile, while the Democrats delay, the Army has had to start cutting back on non-essential equipment repair and training to ensure it is able to fund our troops in the field and provide support to their families. Plans are also underway to temporarily redirect money from Navy and Air Force pay accounts to the Army’s operating account to support our troops in Iraq.

If the Army fails to receive the money by May, it will be forced to take more drastic measures, including freezing new civilian hiring, releasing temporary employees, and canceling orders for parts, supplies, and services. An April 16 release from the Army notes that “[t]hese actions carry consequential effects, including substantial disruption to installation functions, decreasing efficiency and potentially further degrading the readiness of non-deployed units.”

Setting arbitrary deadlines for withdrawing from Iraq is dangerous policy. It tells the terrorists that all they have to do is wait us out. It tells our troops that their efforts will not matter, since we will pull out of Iraq no matter what successes they have on the ground. And it tells the Iraqi people that we are not really committed to standing with them as they seek to reclaim their country.

Our new strategy has shown early signs of success precisely because the Iraqi people have seen that we are committed to standing with them for the long haul. Previously our troops would enter an area, subdue it, and then pull out, allowing the terrorists to come back in. Now, our troops enter an area, subdue it, and then, with Iraqi troops, stay there to prevent the terrorists from returning.

A recent column in the Los Angeles Times illustrated the progress we’re making in Ramadi, where the Army has begun implementing our new strategy. Beginning last year with a build-up of U.S. forces near al-Qaeda strongholds in the city, U.S. soldiers and Marines joined Iraqis in an offensive to gain control of Ramadi. Throughout the process, U.S. troops established a number of bases and observation posts throughout the city to prevent the insurgents from returning.

The results of these efforts have been encouraging. Attacks have dropped from approximately 20 to 25 a day to two to four a day, and enlistment in the police force is increasing. The whole of Al Anbar province has seen marked improvement of late: Tips to Coalition forces have risen significantly, U.S. troops are defusing 80 percent of IEDs before they can explode, and attacks have reached their lowest point in two years. Announcing we are going to pull out in less than six months, no matter what the situation on the ground, would dishearten our Iraqi allies and undo much of the progress we have made.

Pulling out of Iraq now would jeopardize our national security and endanger the Iraqi people. If the terrorists feel they have defeated us in Iraq, they will not hesitate to attack us elsewhere. Pulling out of Iraq would also likely result in a civil war that would cost hundreds of thousands of innocent people their lives. We have an obligation to try to make sure the Iraqi government is as stable and secure as we can make it before we leave Iraq.

It is unconscionable to hijack the security supplemental funding bill to make a political point while the Army struggles to find the money to support our troops — but this is exactly what Democrats, through their delay tactics, have done. Congress needs to act immediately to send a bill to the president that funds our troops while leaving military strategy to our commanders on the ground.

– Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) is the chairman of the Republican Senate Conference.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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