|William Fallon's resignation has fueled criticism in Congress.|
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon yesterday ruled out including Admiral William Fallon as a witness before Congress when the top US military and diplomatic officials in Baghdad testify next month on the way ahead in Iraq.
Fallon's abrupt announcement March 11 that he was resigning, effective March 31, as chief of US Central Command overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan triggered accusations by Democrats in Congress that he was being forced out for publicly opposing launching a war against Iran.
In declaring that Fallon would not join General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker as witnesses before Congress next month, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the decision had nothing to do with Fallon's views on Iran or the reasons for his unexpected resignation and retirement.
"I know there have been requests, in fact, from members of Congress to have Admiral Fallon testify with General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, and I can tell you that Admiral Fallon will not be testifying" with them, Morrell told a Pentagon news conference.
Fallon was at the Pentagon on Thursday to join Gates in a video-teleconference meeting with Petraeus in which Fallon and Petraeus gave their views on troop reductions and other issues in Iraq, Morrell said. He said Gates met yesterday morning with the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, as well as Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to hear their views on Iraq.
The White House has said Bush plans to come to the Pentagon next week to consult with the Joint Chiefs, in the same manner as he did last summer and in the fall of 2006 prior to major Iraq war decisions.
Petraeus and Crocker are due to testify on Capitol Hill on April 8 and 9, and shortly after that, Bush is expected to publicly announce his decision on how to proceed with troop withdrawals in the second half of the year.
Although he is giving up his command, Fallon will remain on active duty until his retirement later this spring.
His deputy, Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey, is scheduled to become acting Central Command commander when Fallon leaves March 31. No permanent replacement has been nominated, and Morrell said yesterday that a successor is unlikely to be in place before May.
"We're at the very beginning stages of that process," the spokesman said.