WASHINGTON - It might be time to "redefine the goals" for Iraq, the admiral President Bush picked to lead U.S. forces in the Middle East told Congress yesterday .
Navy Adm. William Fallon, Bush's nominee to head the U.S. Central Command, told his Senate confirmation hearing that the time for finding solutions in Iraq was running out.
"What we have been doing has not been working," he said. "We have got to be doing, it seems to me, something different." He did not say what might change under his command.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, just returned from a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, told a news conference on Capitol Hill that her delegation saw no sign that U.S. efforts in Iraq were moving ahead with urgency.
"We went with the hope and expectation that what we would see in Iraq was some coordinated effort to have political solutions, to relieve the civil strife and violence there, and diplomatic efforts to bring stability to the region," she said. "We saw no evidence of either, sadly."
Rejecting Bush's troop buildup, Pelosi called for refocusing the U.S. military mission from combat to a combination of training Iraqi forces, protecting Iraq's borders, and fighting terrorists.
Fallon, whom Bush nominated to replace Army Gen. John Abizaid as head of Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he was not sure how he would go about changing the approach in Iraq.
"One of the things in the back of my mind that I'd like to get answered is to meet with the people that have been working this issue - particularly our ambassadors, our diplomats - to get an assessment of what's realistic and what's practical," Fallon said.
"And maybe we ought to redefine the goals here a bit and do something that's more realistic in terms of getting some progress and then maybe take on the other things later," he added without elaborating.
His spokesman, Capt. William Alderson, said later that Fallon preferred not to address the issue in more detail until after he had been confirmed by the full Senate.
Fallon told the senators, "I believe the situation in Iraq can be turned around, but time is short."
"I think that we would probably be wise to temper our expectations here, that the likelihood that Iraq is suddenly going to turn into something that looks close to what we enjoy here in this country is going to be a long time coming," he said.
One of the leading Republicans opposed to Bush's troop buildup, Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, said it appeared that Fallon was distancing himself from the Bush plan. He urged the admiral to consider other approaches in Iraq as he takes over for Abizaid, who is retiring.
Warner said he hoped Fallon would feel free "to point out those areas in this plan which you feel need flexibility, options that can be pursued, other than the rigidity of just 20,000 new troops right into the face of sectarian violence."
Fallon, 62, currently 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.
Read an Inquirer profile
of Admiral - and
Camden Catholic High graduate - Fallon via http://go.philly.com/fallon