Monday, May 01, 2006

Powell advised Bush to send more troops to Iraq

Powell advised Bush to send more troops to Iraq
By Vicki Allen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday defended the Bush administration's Iraq war planning after her predecessor, Colin Powell, said he had made a case to send more troops to deal with the war's aftermath.

Rice also said she did not "remember specifically" what instance Powell was referring to on his recommending to President George W. Bush that more troops be sent.

In an interview with a private British television station on Sunday, Powell said there had been debates about the size of the force and how to deal with the aftermath.

"I don't think we had enough force there to impose order," he said on ITV's Jonathan Dimbleby program.

"The aftermath turned out to be much more difficult than anyone had anticipated," said Powell, adding he had favored a larger military presence to deal with the unforeseen.

"I made the case to General (Tommy) Franks, to (Defense) Secretary (Donald) Rumsfeld and to the president that I was not sure we had enough troops," Powell said. But he said the military leaders felt they had the appropriate number.

Powell's comments come amid concern about the rising death toll in Iraq, which has been a factor in driving Bush's approval ratings to the lowest of his presidency.

Since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, the U.S. military death toll in Iraq has grown to 2,400. Iraqi military deaths are estimated at up to 6,370 and Iraqi civilian deaths at up to 38,600.

Rice, appearing on several Sunday talk shows, was responding to the Powell's comments that fanned the controversy over the administration's plans for the invasion's immediate aftermath. Critics say violence and looting set the stage for a bloody insurgency and sectarian killings over the last three years.

Asked on CNN's Late Edition if she remembered Powell's dissent, Rice said, "I don't remember specifically what Secretary Powell may be referring to, but I'm quite certain that there were lots of discussions about how best to fulfill the mission when we went into Iraq."

She said Bush relied on his military advisers, and that he "asked time and time again" whether everything needed to execute the plan was available, "and he was told 'yes'."

Rice added that there would have been "potentially a lot of problems with a very, very big footprint of coalition forces at the time of the liberation of Iraq."

On CBS' Face the Nation, she said, "I'm quite certain that there are things that, in retrospect, we would do differently. But that's the nature of any big complicated operation."

After the invasion, Rumsfeld said U.S. military commanders believed there were sufficient troops to contain insurgents and establish peace.

However, troop levels were later increased amid escalating violence and to establish security in time for elections.

Bush has not set a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal, saying American soldiers will pull out as Iraqi forces take over fighting Sunni rebels and sectarian violence which has pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war.

Rice praised progress made by Iraq's own forces. But to start withdrawing troops, she said on CNN, "We really do want it to be based on conditions on the ground; so do the Iraqis. If there is anything that they recognize, it's that they are not quite ready for these tasks. But they want to take that responsibility, and we should want them to take it.

(Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers in London)