Frustrated with the U.S.-picked Iraqi Governing Council, President Bush's national security advisers questioned the top American administrator in Iraq on Tuesday about how to break a political logjam in Baghdad and speed planning for the nation's political future.
L. Paul Bremer was summoned unexpectedly from Baghdad to a White House meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and other key officials.
There have been concerns about the performance of the governing council, a senior administration official said, particularly the lack of progress toward a Dec. 15 deadline to set a timetable for writing a new constitution and holding democratic elections. Bremer has expressed frustration to members of Congress that council officials are not working hard enough.
Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts reports the Bush administration is considering a change in plan: Some transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people before a constitution is written.
One idea being considered by the administration is to create an interim Iraqi leadership with authority to govern until a new constitution is in place and elections are held, officials said. It would be patterned after the model of Afghanistan, where the government of President Hamid Karzai was installed after a U.S.-led coalition ousted the hardline Taliban regime in late 2001. Elections are planned next June.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, voiced the frustration of many on Capitol Hill over the escalating violence claiming American lives.
"To announce a troop withdrawal while we're seeing an increase in killing and wounding of American servicemen and women is in my view not responsible,'' said McCain.
In other developments: America's top soldier in Iraq said Tuesday a "blanket of fear" that Saddam Hussein will return prevents Iraqis from giving U.S. troops intelligence vital to curb the growing insurgency — stepped up attacks underlined by a late night barrage on the heart of Baghdad. Despite the mounting violence, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez angrily dismissed comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam and said his soldiers will try to balance between the use of massive firepower and the need to win the goodwill of Iraqis.Late Tuesday, insurgents fired mortars toward the U.S. headquarters compound, known as the "Green Zone," in Baghdad. The Coalition Provisional Authority said there was no damage to coalition headquarters, located in the Republican Palace. After one detonation, white smoke could be seen rising from an area just north of the palace. U.S officials say there are no reports of casualties. As many as eight explosions were heard in the center of Baghdad after nightfall.Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said the U.S. military is holding 20 people with suspected links to al Qaeda. U.S. officials also have said they suspect foreign volunteers, including some from al Qaeda, have slipped across the borders into Iraq to take part in a "holy war" against the U.S.-led occupation.In Basra Tuesday, an explosion destroyed two cars on a road frequently used by British troops. Soldiers immediately blocked off access to the site, but Iraqi police said four civilians were killed and three injured in the blast.Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told the CBS News Early Show he hopes military commanders "are telling the truth" when they assure him no more troops are needed in Iraq, but he is willing to boost U.S. forces if top officers recommended it. "We're in a low intensity war that needs to be won and we intend to win it," he said. A soldier who refused an order to return to Iraq so that she could stay home with her seven children has been reassigned to Colorado. But she may still face criminal charges. A military spokesman says Specialist Simone Holcomb was reassigned to Fort Carson to give her time to find care for her children or get out of the Army. Holcomb is a medic in the Colorado National Guard; her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Vaughn Holcomb, has already returned to duty in Iraq. Simone has refused because the couple fears losing a custody battle to Holcomb's first wife, the mother of two of the children. Jessica Lynch and Shoshana Johnson, who became prisoners of war in the same ambush in Iraq last March, were in unusual company Monday as they joined the ranks of Women of the Year chosen by Glamour Magazine. Britney Spears is another of the honorees. The annual award recognizes professional achievement in a variety of fields including entertainment, politics, military service fashion, music, and sports. The Kurdish guerrilla group whose main fighting force of 5,000 is based in northern Iraq has decided on a new strategy. The group, which battled the Turkish army for some 15 years, announced Tuesday that it is dissolving itself and will form a new group that will likely be pan-Kurdish and will pursue Kurdish rights through negotiations. The announcement comes as the guerrillas face increasing pressure from Turkey and the United States, which both consider the guerrillas to be terrorists.The U.S. military said insurgents struck again late Sunday, firing a rocket-propelled grenade at a military police convoy near Iskandariya, 40 miles south of Baghdad and killing a soldier from the 18th Military Police Brigade. So far this month, 37 American troops have died in Iraq, and 151 have been killed in action since President Bush declared an end to major combat May 1. One hundred others have died outside of combat. Since the war began, 389 Americans and 56 foreign troops have died.
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