Ex-Army boss: Pentagon won't admit reality in Iraq
By Dave Moniz, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — The former civilian head of the Army said Monday it is time for the Pentagon to admit that the military is in for a long occupation of Iraq that will require a major commitment of American troops.
Former Army secretary Thomas White said in an interview that senior Defense officials "are unwilling to come to grips" with the scale of the postwar U.S. obligation in Iraq. The Pentagon has about 150,000 troops in Iraq and recently announced that the Army's 3rd Infantry Division's stay there has been extended indefinitely.
"This is not what they were selling (before the war)," White said, describing how senior Defense officials downplayed the need for a large occupation force. "It's almost a question of people not wanting to 'fess up to the notion that we will be there a long time and they might have to set up a rotation and sustain it for the long term."
The interview was White's first since leaving the Pentagon in May after a series of public feuds with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld led to his firing.
Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz criticized the Army's chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, after Shinseki told Congress in February that the occupation could require "several hundred thousand troops." Wolfowitz called Shinseki's estimate "wildly off the mark."
Rumsfeld was furious with White when the Army secretary agreed with Shinseki.
Last month, Rumsfeld said the United States would remain in Iraq as "long as it takes." But the Defense chief was not specific about the size of the force.
The Pentagon declined to respond to White's comments, but a senior official said it was too early to draw conclusions about the size or length of the U.S. troops' commitment in Iraq.
White said it is reasonable to assume the Pentagon will need more than 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq to provide stability for at least the next year. Pentagon officials envisioned having about 100,000 troops there immediately after the war, but they hoped that number would be quickly drawn down.