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Iraq--DOUBLE Your Money

Gen. Tommy Franks said Wednesday that violence and uncertainty in Iraq make it unlikely that troop levels will be reduced from the current 145,000 ``for the foreseeable future,'' and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld nearly doubled the estimated military costs there to $3.9 billion a month.
Posted on Thu, Jul. 10, 2003

Iraq cost estimate doubled
TROOP LEVELS UNLIKELY TO BE CUT IN NEAR-TERM

By Thom Shanker
New York Times

WASHINGTON - Gen. Tommy Franks said Wednesday that violence and uncertainty in Iraq make it unlikely that troop levels will be reduced ``for the foreseeable future,'' and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld nearly doubled the estimated military costs there to $3.9 billion a month.

``We have about 145,000 troops in there right now,'' Franks told the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said he had talked to ``commanders at every level inside Iraq,'' and found that the size and structure of those forces were appropriate for the current situation.

Franks' troops estimate is a sharp contrast to pre-war Pentagon estimates that the occupation force could be quickly cut to about 50,000 troops, and also is more specific than Bush administration officials have been in recent statements.

Rumsfeld has never laid out a timetable for bringing U.S. troops home, and has repeatedly pledged that the forces would stay as long as required, but no longer. Even so, Wednesday's acknowledgment of the scope of the long-term military commitment to Iraq was the strongest indication to date that the reconstruction effort requires the continued deployment of large numbers of troops to Iraq -- and that the undertaking carries a hefty price tag.

With U.S. forces suffering almost daily attacks in Iraq, the Bush administration's handling of the Iraqi occupation came under sharp questioning Wednesday from Democratic senators.

``I'm now concerned that we have the world's best-trained soldiers serving as policemen in what seems to be a shooting gallery,'' said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

Rumsfeld's public appearance on Capitol Hill was his first following several weeks of grim news from Iraq. The U.S. military's casualty rate has spiked, with a death rate of almost one a day last month. Iraqi attacks on U.S. forces have grown in sophistication, with a series of mortar attacks on fixed U.S. posts and pistol killings of individual U.S. soldiers in Baghdad.

Attackers have killed 29 American and six British soldiers since President Bush declared major combat over May 1.

Under intense questioning from Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W. Va., Rumsfeld or his aides telephoned Pentagon financial officers during a break and reported back to the committee that cost estimates for the Iraq campaign have reached $3.9 billion a month, on average from this January through September.

A Pentagon official said that the $3.9 billion figure ``is the estimated cost to maintain the current force level in Iraq,'' which includes expenses for military operations, including fuel, transportation, food, ordnance and personnel, but not reconstruction costs.

The $3.9 billion figure is almost double the $2 billion a month estimate issued by administration officials in April. In addition, the cost of operations in Afghanistan are now $900 million to $950 million monthly, Rumsfeld said.

During a grueling four-hour hearing, committee members alternately complimented the military's war plan and expressed support for rebuilding Iraq but criticized the Pentagon's planning for the postwar stabilization of the nation.

In particular, Rumsfeld was pressed to detail efforts to reach out to allies -- including those like France and Germany that opposed the war -- for contributions of troops to replace battle-weary Americans.

Franks, who stepped down this week from the top job at U.S. Central Command, gave no indication that commanders are requesting more troops to combat guerrilla-style attacks and looting. When pressed to predict how long a force comparable to the current deployment would be needed in Iraq, he said, ``It is for the foreseeable future.''

Moments later, Rumsfeld sought to erase the impression that those comments meant that the U.S. commitment could not shrink more rapidly. ``The numbers of U.S. forces could change, while the footprint stayed the same, in the event that we have greater success in bringing in additional coalition forces, in the event we are able to accelerate the Iraqi army,'' he said.

Rumsfeld said 142,000 military personnel already have been sent back to their home bases, although most of those serve in the Air Force and Navy, leaving the burden in Iraq to be carried by U.S. ground forces. And he announced the withdrawal of one high-profile unit from the war zone, saying that all three brigades of the 3rd Infantry Division, which spearheaded the attack on Baghdad, will be out of Iraq by September.

In Iraq on Wednesday, U.S. forces reported that they had captured Iraq's former interior minister and that a top-level Baath party official had surrendered, the latest arrests from a list of 55 most-wanted fugitives from Saddam Hussein's ousted regime. Thirty-four of those on the list have now been detained.

Mizban Khadr Hadi, a high-ranking member of the Baath party regional command and Mahmud Diab al-Ahmed, the former interior minister, were taken into custody Tuesday, the Central Command said.

Hadi, No. 23 on the U.S. most-wanted list, surrendered in Baghdad. Ahmed, No. 29, was captured, Central Command said in a statement, which provided no further details.

In sketching how Iraqis will help stabilize their nation, Franks said that 35,000 Iraqi police officers have been hired and that plans call for training a new Iraqi army of 12,000 within 12 months and 40,000 within three years.

Rumsfeld and Franks said that 19 nations now have forces supporting the Iraq effort, that 19 others have promised troops, and that discussions are under way with 11 more. Those allied forces already in Iraq, and those committed, total 30,000, they said.

Despite repeated questioning, Rumsfeld refused to issue a concrete schedule for withdrawing U.S. forces.

``Nobody knows the answer to that question, how long it will take,'' he said. ``It will take some time.'' But he said that ``when it's done, it's going to have been darn well worth having done.''


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The Washington Post and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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