Members of the U.S. Congress are expressing concern about the continuing deadly attacks on coalition soldiers in Iraq.
Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee met with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to discuss the latest developments in Iraq.
The chairman of the committee, Senator John Warner of Virginia, told reporters after the meeting that "all Americans have a deep concern" about the continuing attacks on coalition soldiers.
"We expressed to the secretary and the chiefs of services our heartfelt concern for the loss of Americans still suffering casualties in the Iraqi theatre and indeed the Afghanistan area," Mr. Warner said.
Senator Carl Levin of Michigan called for the Bush administration to give the American people an idea of how many soldiers will be needed in Iraq, and how long they will need to stay.
"I have said a number of times that I do not think the administration has been forthcoming in terms of an estimate as to how many forces for how long," Mr. Levin said. "Obviously nobody can give us an estimate as to precisely how many months, or indeed how many years, we are going to need forces there and nobody can give us a precise number as to how many of our troops will need to be there for precisely how long. What has been missing in my judgment, and I have said this before, is some kind of a rough estimate."
Senator Levin says the Pentagon is assessing how many soldiers will be needed in Iraq to make the country secure and to assist in the reconstruction process.
The senator says he expects that assessment to be completed by the end of this month.
Another member of the Armed Services Committee, Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, says it is difficult to predict how long the U.S. military will have to remain in Iraq because a variety of groups are still attacking American soldiers.
"I think there has been an open invitation by the terrorist groups and the associated terrorist groups to come into Iraq. That is a new problem we must deal with," Mr. Roberts said. "There is the Saddam Hussein Fedayeen and then there is the Baath Party loyalists. Obviously as long as the question is still out there, with Saddam Hussein either being alive or dead, there is the fear factor. Then there is the support that gives to the Baath Party folks. So it is a little unpredictable to say how long we are going to be there."
Senator Roberts says a number of factors, including rebuilding Iraqi infrastructure, repairing the economy, upgrading the oil industry, and establishing a political system will determine how long allied forces will remain in Iraq.