The U.S. Defense Department is conducting a new study on
troop and resource requirements in Iraq.
Officials said the Pentagon has begun a review of threat assessments
against the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq as well as force level requirements.
They said the study would be completed by next week.
The resource assessment comes amid rising British and U.S. casualties
from Iraqi insurgency attacks. Most of the attacks have been attributed to
Sunni insurgents, but Shi'ites are also said to have been demonstrating
increasing unrest, Middle East Newsline reported.
Lt. Gen. John Abizaid, nominated by President George Bush to be the next
chief of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that
the United States resolve is being tested.
"There are a lot of people in the Middle East that believe that our
weakness is our inability to stay the course, and they believe that two
casualties today, two casualties tomorrow, four the next day will eventually
drive us out," Abizaid said. "And it is a belief that they hold firmly, and
we need to be just as firm that we can't be driven out."
"We are certainly in for some difficult days ahead periodically,"
Abizaid said. "For the foreseeable future, we will require a large number of
troops for Iraq. The best protection that we can give our soldiers is an
offensive spirit in a tough place."
Still, committee members expressed dissatisfaction over what they termed
the paucity of Pentagon information regarding Iraq. Sen. Carl Levin, who
returned from Iraq last week, said he expects additional data, including
estimates of future force levels, when the Pentagon completes its resources
"I don't think the administration has been forthcoming in terms of how
many forces for how long," Levin said. "They're stranded with 360 degrees
exposure, often in ones and twos on the streets of Iraq, and they're
suffering the consequences."
U.S. officials have blamed Iran for inciting unrest among the Shi'ite
majority in Iraq. They said many Iraqi insurgents are believed to be armed
with man-portable surface-to-air weapons, which threaten U.S. military
Gen. John Handy, head of the U.S. Transportation Command, said the U.S.
Air Force has limited the type of cargo aircraft allowed to fly into Iraq.
Handy said on Wednesday that the only aircraft allowed to fly into Iraq with
supplies are the C-17 and the C-130, both of which are equipped with missile
warning and defense systems.
"There are still sufficient firings and reports of firings that we
remain very concerned," Handy said.
[On Thursday, a U.S. marine was killed and another was wounded in an
ambush when their vehicle was blown up by a roadside bomb near Baghdad
International Airport. Another marine was killed when his vehicle crashed in
connection with another attack.]
Abizaid said the number of American troops in Iraq will remain at about 145,000. He said the U.S. military presence in Iraq will be reduced as the coalition
rebuilds the Iraqi army and police.
Earlier, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told
Senate committee members that U.S. allies would soon contribute tens of
thousands of forces to Iraq. The general was quoted as saying that the
coalition will deploy two additional divisions of international troops in
Iraq by August.