WASHINGTON, DC – Today Ranking Member Ike Skelton (MO), released the following statement congratulating Secretary Gates and expressing reservation about the proposed increase in troops levels deployed to Iraq.

“I congratulate Secretary Gates on his official assumption of office.  I look forward to working with him to meet the needs of our military today and preparing for the challenges that lie ahead.

“One of those challenges will be Iraq.  What we do to solve that situation is one of the most pressing questions facing the new Secretary.

“The recent speculation in the press regarding an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 or even 50,000 troops in Iraq has left me with many concerns.  Everything I’ve heard and everything I know to be true lead me to believe that this increase at best won’t change a thing, and at worst could exacerbate the situation even further.  I am also extremely concerned about the additional burden that would be placed on the Army and Marine Corps.

“The Iraqis need to understand that responsibility for the future of that country is theirs.  Beginning the redeployment of some number of American forces would send that message.  I urge the President to carefully consider this option to help move the political situation in Iraq forward.

“However, I will withhold judgment until Secretary Gates and General Pace come over and fully explain the rationale behind any decision that is ultimately made.  I expect to be shown that any decision on future troop levels is based on a realistic assessment of the situation on the ground and sound strategy, not political assumptions and wishful thinking. 

“Whether they come to make the case for an increase, or to maintain the current troop level, or even some other option, they must be able to demonstrate a compelling need for each and every person deployed to Iraq.”