Nominee to head Central Command says ‘new and different’ action needed in Iraq

Published 7:44 pm Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Stabilizing Iraq will require “new and different actions” to improve security and promote political reconciliation, the Navy admiral poised to lead American forces in the Middle East said Tuesday.

Adm. William Fallon, at his confirmation hearing, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he sees an urgent need to rescue the situation in Iraq.

“I believe the situation in Iraq can be turned around, but time is short,” he said.

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Fallon, who currently is commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, said he saw a need for a comprehensive approach to Iraq, including economic and political actions to resolve a problem that requires more than military force.

“What we have been doing has not been working,” he said. “We have got to be doing, it seems to me, is something different.”

President Bush nominated Fallon to replace Army Gen. John Abizaid, who is retiring after nearly four years as commander of Central Command.

Fallon said he did not know how many extra troops will be needed in Iraq to successfully implement the new strategy Bush announced Jan. 10. Bush approved the deployment of an additional 21,500 troops between now and May.

Asked by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the committee, whether the flow of additional U.S. troops would be tied to progress by the Iraqis on political and other commitments they made to Bush, Fallon said he had not yet studied the plans in detail, given his continuing responsibilities as Pacific Command chief.

“I’m surprised you don’t have that understanding going in, frankly,” Levin said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the senior Republican on the committee, said he hoped Fallon intended to give Congress his unvarnished view of conditions in Iraq and elsewhere in his Central Command region.

“Too often administration officials came before this committee and the American people and painted a rosy scenario when it was not there,” McCain said, referring to Iraq.

“We need candid assessments, and you’ll get them from me,” Fallon said.

In addition Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was expected to consider the nomination of John Negroponte, the first director of national intelligence, to become deputy secretary of state.

Fallon and Negroponte’s confirmations were not expected to rouse Senate protests, despite bitter opposition in Congress to Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

Public sentiment has turned strongly against a war that has dragged on for nearly four years with more than 3,000 American dead and violence unabated by insurgents and sectarian militias.