US military commanders are re-evaluating strategy in Iraq to determine what changes are needed "to get ourselves more focused on the correct objectives," the top US general said.
"I think we have to maintain our focus on what objectives we want for the United States, and then we need to give ourselves a good, honest scrub about what is working and what is not working, what are the impediments to progress, and what should we change about the way we're doing it to ensure that we get to the objective that we've set for ourselves," Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Friday on CBS television.
Although he declined to state specifically what would change, Pace said what changes were needed were being evaluated by General George Casey, the top commander in Iraq, and General John Abizaid,the head of the command that oversees US forces in the Mideast, as well as the joint chiefs.
"We're making our recommendations, we're having our dialogue, and we'll make the changes that are needed to get ourselves more focused on the correct objectives," Pace said.
The direction of US policy in Iraq was receiving renewed focus following Tuesday's midterm elections, which resulted in a shift of power in Congress from Republicans to Democrats. Republican lawmakers have been generally supportive of the administration of US President George W. Bush's efforts in Iraq while congressional Democrats have been highly critical of Bush's conduct of the war.
In a sign of possible change, Bush sought the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and on Wednesday nominated former CIA chief Robert Gates to replace him, saying a fresh perspective was necessary.
Bush and his national security team are meeting tomorrow with members of a blue-ribbon commission trying to devise a new course for the war in Iraq. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group, led by former secretary of state James Baker III and former Democratic representative Lee Hamilton of Indiana, was expected to report its recommendations before the end of the year.
Members of the group were scheduled to have a joint conference at the White House with Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.
The group will have individual meetings with Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte and CIA Director Michael Hayden. They also will talk with Zalmay Khalizad, the US ambassador in Baghdad.
Gates was resigning as a member of the Iraq Study Group and will not take part in tomorrow's meetings, White House press secretary Tony Snow said. Lawrence Eagleburger, secretary of state in the last two months of former president George H.W. Bush's term, will replace Gates on the commission, said Anais Haase, Eagleburger's executive assistant.
Eagleburger, 76, was deputy secretary of state to Baker during the first Bush's administration and had a 27-year career as a diplomat.