Hoyer Credits Surge for 'Decrease in Violence' in Iraq

By Kevin Mooney | July 7, 2008 | 8:32pm EDT

On the Spot (CNSNews.com) - House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Tuesday that the troop surge, which began in June, has had a significant impact on the situation in Iraq and noted that he had always been critical of the Bush administration for deploying an insufficient number of troops in previous years.

"Stability and a decrease in violence, they've done that - God bless them. I'm not surprised that they did," Hoyer told Cybercast News Service in response to a question about steadily declining U.S. casualty rates in Iraq.

Although the decline in causalities is "a very positive sign" -- U.S. casualties have been declining every month since June -- Hoyer said political reconciliation remains an elusive goal. Hoyer added that the Bush administration should have given more consideration to the Baker-Hamilton report released last year.

"I am not surprised, therefore, that when we send 20,000 additional troops and put them in an area of consequence that those 20,000 troops from the best army in the world, the best trained, best equipped army in the world brings a very heightened security," he said.

Despite the steady decline of combat deaths over the last five months in Iraq, only one number mattered to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

"I heard that we had the highest number of casualties this year of any year," Leahy told Cybercast News Service. "Make sure you get your numbers right, and I'll be happy to answer your questions." (Hear Audio)

On Tuesday, the Defense Department announced that five more U.S. troops were killed in Iraq, bringing the total to 853 troops this year, the most troops killed during any one year of the war so far.

However, the spike in deaths that came at the start of the year mostly occurred before the surge of 30,000 troops. Other members of Congress from both parties recognized the declining rates of combat deaths, reaching the lowest figure since spring 2006.

Cybercast News Service
previously reported on both a drop in casualties and a decline in the number of improvised explosives device fatalities.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) credited the new strategy by Gen. David Petraeus for the decline in combat deaths over recent months, adding that Petraeus wrote the manual for dealing with insurgencies. (Hear Audio)

The strategy, Sessions said, "placed our military far more at the ground level and working far more with local Iraqi leaders, and as a result confidence and partnerships developed and they more readily saw Americans as allies in creating a good Iraq."

Sessions believes the next step - the political solution - will likely have to come from the bottom up.

"Things function much better at the city and local areas than they do from Baghdad," Sessions said. "It's too much to hope, really, that this new government from Baghdad will be able to conduct sophisticated operations from every province, town, and village in the country."

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said he plans to find out the cause of the decline in casualties when he goes to Iraq later this month. (Hear Audio)

"I really don't know," Inouye said regarding why the decline in casualties has occurred. "Maybe it's good fortune. Maybe we're doing the right thing. I hope so. Whenever some life is saved, it's positive."

Former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) told Cybercast News Service that the war is sure to have a political impact in 2008. Although "a lot of work" remains to be done, he sees a "ray of hope" that was not apparent before that could begin to "seep into" the public consciousness. (Hear Audio)

"The better the numbers get, it encourages people to focus on the objective: and that's to win and leave Iraq in the right way," Watts said. "The more stable the war is the more progress you can make on the political front."

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