U.S. Has People Problem In Iraq

Asked last week if he'd reduce U.S. troop levels in Iraq within a year, President Bush said that was a "trick question." A trickier question already facing U.S. commanders is how to replace soldiers rotating home if foreign countries don't step up.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said more international forces would help ease the burden on the 132,000 American troops in Iraq. Now, about 23,000 other troops from more than 30 countries are there.

Administration officials had hoped a U.N. Security Council resolution approved last month would persuade allies to send more forces. So far, it has not.

Turkey approved sending troops, but is balking at deploying them because interim Iraqi leaders have resisted the offer.

Already, about 15,000 Army National Guard troops have been mobilized for possible service in Iraq beginning early next year, to replace weary active-duty troops who already have been there close to a year.

The Pentagon might need to call up even more reservists in support units if Turkey or other countries don't end up sending troops, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers said recently.

U.S. officials have ruled out the idea of increasing overall U.S. troop numbers in Iraq, instead saying they will speed up the process of getting trained Iraqi security forces into the streets to deal with an increasingly sophisticated and deadly insurgency.

The Washington Post reports the top U.S. civilian in Iraq is warming to the idea of remobilizing some parts of the Iraq armed forces, which he disbanded earlier this year.

In other developments:

  • The Pentagon is trying to figure out whether the helicopter shot down in Iraq was equipped with anti-missile defenses required by the Army, officials said Wednesday.
  • The Syrian foreign ministry called on the United States to pull its troops out of Iraq, saying their presence has led to chaos and terrorism, according to remarks published Wednesday.
  • Spain is not withdrawing as many diplomats because of security fears as first reported. Only six embassy staff had been sent to Jordan, the ministry said, and two others were on vacation. The others remain in Iraq. The foreign minister had said Tuesday that 25 of the 29-member diplomatic staff would be withdrawn.
  • The Republican head of the Senate Intelligence panel is slamming a Democratic memo that spells out steps to make the committee's inquiry into prewar intelligence irrelevant by setting up an independent commission, and in the process attempt to "castigate" majority Republicans.
  • The White House may be drawing a clearer connection between the Iraq war and the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. In the past eight days, Mr. Bush has used the line "We must never forget the lessons of September 11" or a close variant at least eight times at eight different appearances

    American officials had pressed Turkey, the only majority Muslim nation in NATO, to approve sending up to 10,000 troops. Turkey's parliament voted last month to allow troops to join the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, Turkey's neighbor to the southeast.

    But Turkey's ambassador to the United States, Osman Faruk Logoglu, said his country will not send troops without an explicit invitation from the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, some of whose members, particularly Iraqi Kurds, vigorously oppose the idea.

    L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. diplomat who heads the American authority in Iraq, said Saturday that the issue of Turkish peacekeepers was solely between Turkey and the Iraqi Governing Council.

    State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Tuesday the United States still believes Turkish troops would make a valuable contribution, and U.S. officials continue talks on the issue.

    The new head of Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council said Wednesday he will visit Turkey later this month to "mend ties" with Iraq's northern neighbor. Jalal Talabani, a longtime Kurdish leader who assumed the one-month rotating presidency Saturday, said he would visit Turkey on Nov. 19.

    Talabani called again for giving security matters to Iraqis because they know the country better than Americans.

    "The Iraqi Ministry of Interior has a general plan to achieve peace and stability. We have asked coalition forces and coalition authorities to keep internal security for us and we can guarantee internal security if it was left to us and," he said.

    According to The Post, Bremer is softening his opposition to the creation of a paramilitary force consisting of former armed forces and police members, as well as militiamen from some of the organizations now sharing power in Iraq, such as the Iraqi National Congress.

    The newspaper reports Bremer would only assent to such a force if the members were well-trained and carefully vetted. U.S. officials have worried that giving security powers to former soldiers and political groups might result in repression of dissent.

    Violence continued Wednesday. U.S. forces in the northern city of Mosul came under attack as insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades at a military compound and a grenade exploded near a convoy in the town center.

    An Iraqi teenager was killed in the blast near Mosul's city hall, hospital sources said. Two others were slightly injured.

    One U.S. soldier was wounded in that incident, the military said. No casualties were reported in an earlier attack on a barracks by insurgents using rocket-propelled grenades, the U.S. military said.

    Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, had been relatively quiet in the past several months, but the security situation has deteriorated since October.

    Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division captured two former Iraqi Army generals in an early morning raid Wednesday in Fallujah, the military said. It said the two men were suspected of being "key financiers" and organizers of anti-coalition fighters operating in and around the city of Fallujah.

    And in a separate incident, a U.S. soldier died of wounds sustained from a "non-hostile gunshot" at a checkpoint in Baghdad, the military said.

    Britain's Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said Wednesday that the security situation in Iraq remains a concern, but he insisted most parts of the country and the capital Baghdad were "very calm."