Foreign Troops 'Gear Up' to Enter Iraq; as Many as 20,000 to Relieve Americans Fighting Terrorists

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 1, 2003 | Go to article overview

Foreign Troops 'Gear Up' to Enter Iraq; as Many as 20,000 to Relieve Americans Fighting Terrorists


Byline: Bill Gertz, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Two divisions of international troops will begin moving into Iraq by the end of this month to help relieve the nearly 150,000 American troops now working to stabilize the country, Pentagon officials said yesterday.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the international troops - up to 20,000 of them - are "gearing up" to go to Iraq.

One division will be led by the United Kingdom and the other by Poland, and there is a potential for a third division, he said.

"The flow would start in probably July, August and probably finish out in September," Gen. Myers told reporters.

Gen. Myers said "five or six countries or more" will add troops to the divisions. A third international peacekeeping division could be led by India, defense officials said.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the foreign troops would reduce the burden on the U.S. military.

"The more that are there, the fewer of U.S. troops we have to have," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "So we won't know precisely what [Central Command is] going to want ... whether they like what they have or they want fewer or more.

"But whatever it is, we will fill in with as many international forces as we can, and we will then be able to rotate some of our forces out and give them a rest."

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Congress last month that Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Denmark, Ukraine and Hungary have said they would take part in an international force in Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld, who met reporters with Gen. Myers yesterday, said 70 nations were asked to contribute forces to stabilization forces. He said four nations are already involved inside Iraq and another six have agreed to join.

Negotiations and discussions are taking place with 14 other nations that might participate and another 15 to 20 nations have said they are willing to discuss sending forces, Mr. Rumsfeld said.

"We have been working for weeks to bring in additional countries' forces into Iraq," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Almost 150,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, along with slightly more than 12,000 British troops.

Asked about plans by the Central Command to reduce or augment forces in Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld said the issue of troop levels is being reviewed by the new commander, Army Gen. John P. Abizaid.

Troop reductions or additions also will be based on assessments by L. Paul Bremer, the current U.S. administrator in Iraq, and on the needs of Army Maj. Gen. Keith Dayton, head of the intelligence search team looking for Iraq's hidden arms, Mr. Rumsfeld said.

"We don't have anything pending that has not been deployed and provided," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Asked about cutting or adding troops, Gen. Myers said: "I'm going to wait until Central Command does their analysis and gets back to us, I think, before we answer that in any definitive way."

Rotating troops out of Iraq and replacing them with fresh forces also is part of the review, Gen. Myers said.

Mr. Rumsfeld said he does not view the ongoing, low-level conflict in Iraq as either a guerrilla war or an endless "quagmire," like Vietnam.

Attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq are more like terrorist attacks being carried out by criminals, foreign terrorists and officials from the ousted government of Saddam Hussein, he said.

"There are so many cartoons where people, press people, are saying, 'Is it Vietnam yet?' hoping it is and wondering if it is. …

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