Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Yahoo! News - Bremer: U.S. Paid Price for Lack of Troops

Yahoo! News - Bremer: U.S. Paid Price for Lack of Troops: "

Bremer: U.S. Paid Price for Lack of Troops

Tue Oct 5, 7:43 AM ET U.S. National - AP

WASHINGTON - The United States did not have enough troops in Iraq (news - web sites) after ousting Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) and "paid a big price" for it, says the former head of the U.S. occupation there.

L. Paul Bremer said Monday that he arrived in Iraq on May 6, 2003 to find "horrid" looting and a very unstable situation.

"We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness," Bremer said during an address to an insurance group in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

The group released a summary of his remarks in Washington.

"We never had enough troops on the ground," Bremer said, while insisting that he was "more convinced than ever that regime change was the right thing to do."

Despite the daily reports of violence, "I am optimistic about the future in Iraq," he added.

In a statement Monday night to The Washington Post, Bremer said fully supported the Bush administration's strategy in Iraq.

"I believe that we currently have sufficient troop levels in Iraq," he said in the e-mailed statement, according to Tuesday's edition of the Post. He said references to troops levels related to the situation when he first arrived in Baghdad "when I believed we needed either more coalition troops or Iraqi security forces to address the looting."

Bremer addressed the Insurance Leadership Forum, at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. Portions of the speech were made available Monday night through a press release from the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers.

Bremer returned to the United States after Iraqi leaders retook political control in June.

His comments are similar in tone to criticism in March 2003 from then-Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki that the United States needed several hundred thousand troops to keep the peace in postwar Iraq. Shinseki's comments were rebuked by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other Pentagon (news - web sites) superiors.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (news - web sites) has fired similar criticism at the White House on the campaign trail.

Since no U.N. weapons inspection team had been allowed in the country for almost four years, there was a "real possibility" that Saddam would provide weapons of mass destruction to new terrorist groups, Bremer told the insurance group.

He also disputed criticism that the Bush administration had no plans for postwar Iraq.

"There was planning, but planning for a situation that didn't arise," he said, including a large-scale humanitarian or refugee crisis. "Could it have been done better? Frankly, I didn't spend a lot of time looking back.""

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