Iraq Disorder Worries Senators

Thursday, 15 May 2003 04:26 by: Anonymous

  Iraq Disorder Worries Senators
  By Dan Morgan
  The Washington Post

  Thursday, May 15, 2003

  Rumsfeld Acknowledges Problems, Defends U.S. Military

  Veteran senators from both parties, expressing some of the strongest congressional concern to date about the civil disorder in Iraq, appealed to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday to quickly bring the situation under control.

  "I remain genuinely concerned that we are in a situation where we have won the war and we lose the battle," Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) said. Unless order is restored, he warned later, "[t]here is a real chance that the victory we claim is not a victory at all."

  Rumsfeld, who appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee to outline the Pentagon's $380 billion budget request for 2004, defended the performance of the U.S. military occupation force. He said he had been advised that "maybe two-thirds to three-quarters of the city [of Baghdad] is stable." But he acknowledged that "hooligans are out . . . trying to loot and do things. We've had people shot, wounded and killed in the last 48 hours in Baghdad."

  Until yesterday, most members of Congress had kept their concerns about the postwar disorder to themselves, preferring to give the Bush administration time to bring the situation under control. Democrats had appeared reluctant to criticize the president.

  Yesterday, however, Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) confronted Rumsfeld with a newspaper headline stating that "anarchy" in Baghdad had spurred calls for help. "We knew that military action would likely lead to mob action," Byrd said. He demanded to know what steps were being taken to improve security in the Iraqi capital.

  Rumsfeld responded that "the characterization of anarchy is not accurate -- it's a headline writer's phrase." He said Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the U.S. commander in Iraq, and his team "have put in place plans to provide for the security of that country."

  Rumsfeld said steps were underway to beef up the American military presence in Iraq by "plus or minus 15,000 additional U.S. forces" in the next seven to 20 days. According to Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who accompanied Rumsfeld yesterday, about 49,000 troops are in the Baghdad area and 20,000 are about to arrive in Iraq. But Rumsfeld said it would be up to Franks to decide what portion of this force to assign to the Baghdad area.

  Rumsfeld said U.S. forces in Iraq consist of about 140,000 troops, with allies contributing an additional 20,000. Pentagon officials have indicated in recent days that the planned departure from the Baghdad area of one brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division could be delayed until late May or June because of Baghdad's security situation.

  Disagreements over the size of the force needed to stabilize Iraq in the postwar period have simmered for some time in the Pentagon. Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, Army chief of staff, estimated in February that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be needed to secure postwar Iraq. But Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz quickly called that "way off the mark." He said the more likely figure was around 100,000.

  The disorder in Iraq has forced the administration to bring in more U.S. troops and to seek troops from other coalition countries. "We have had donors conferences and force-generation conferences in England and elsewhere to get coalition countries to come in and provide additional forces," Rumsfeld told the committee.

  "I can't stress enough that we do whatever is necessary to bring law and order to that country and that we establish some kind of a plan, quickly, for the orderliness of that society," Domenici said.

  Rumsfeld assured the senator that "the president has said publicly that the United States and coalition forces will put [in Iraq] whatever number of forces are needed for as long as they are needed." But he called for patience, saying of Iraq: "We can't make it like the United States in five minutes, and we know that."

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