INTERNATIONAL

U.S. lawmakers want more troops for Iraq

Washington AUG. 26. Even as top lawmakers cutting across party lines are urging for the dispatch of additional troops to Iraq, top administration officials — civilian and military — are rejecting the demand for reinforcements, and instead, calling for better intelligence and cooperation with the local people as a way to meet rising attacks.

The Republican Senator, John McCain, who was a member of the Congressional delegation which toured Iraq recently, has called for the deployment of at least one more division of American troops, nearly 20,000 soldiers, while the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Biden, has said that the need would be between 40,000 and 60,000 more troops.

In addition to the call for more troops, senior lawmakers are also resigned to the fact that the Iraqi operations are going to cost the taxpayers billions of dollars stretched over a period of time. No one has a precise figure, but the estimate frequently floated around is $100 billions over a seven to 10-year period. The U.S. is spending about $1 billion every week in Iraq. Senior officials of this administration, on the one hand, argue that there is no need for the deployment of more American troops; but on the other hand, express the feeling that they would gladly accept foreign troops as long as it does not alter the present command and control mechanisms.

Countries such as France and India have told Washington that unless there is a specific United Nations mandate for peacekeeping operations, which addresses among other things, the issue of command and control, sending of troops is out of the question. But during the course of the Talk Shows on Sunday, both the top American civilian official in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, balked at the notion of the U.S. giving up control of the security environment even while saying that assistance from other nations to help stabilise Iraq would be welcomed. Mr. Bremer took the position that it was hard for him to see how the U.N. itself "can play a further military role, because the U.N., in my experience, normally insists on commanding its own troops". According to him, the need at this time was a way to "reconfigure" the deployment of the American forces in a fashion that made "more mobile" as a way to deal with the violence.

Administration officials have long been on the defensive on the subject of the number of troops required for the mission in Iraq.

In the run-up to the war, top military commanders had argued that "hundreds of thousands" of troops would be required in the post-conflict phase, an assessment that was literally laughed out of court by hawks in the establishment. And now, with their backs to the wall, the civilian and the military brass at the Pentagon are trying to make the point that Commander of the U.S. Forces, General John Abizaid, has not asked for additional troops, but if he did that request would be considered.

The number of U.S. troops deployed in Iraq at present is 140,000. "The analysis thus far says that we have sufficient forces to do the assigned missions", the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said in an interview.

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