U.S. Marine General Peter Pace, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says he made several key mistakes in the days before the start of 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The nation's top military officer told reporters Friday he assumed the Iraqi people and the army would welcome liberation from the harsh rule of Saddam Hussein. General Pace also said believed the Iraqi army would stand up for the people and "serve the new nation."
The general says if he had known the Iraqi army would not hold together, he would have recommended deploying more U.S. troops. But General Pace says he still supports the decision to invade Iraq and topple Saddam.
The veteran Marine will retire when his two-year term as head of the Joint Chiefs, comprised of the heads of the U.S. military's major branches, ends October 1.
Speaking to reporters Friday with General Pace, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said it may be possible to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to 100,000 by the end of next year.
Such a reduction would go well beyond the troop cuts President Bush announced in a televised address to the nation, Thursday. Mr. Bush says nearly 6,000 troops will withdraw from Iraq by the end of this year, with a total of 30,000 out by the middle of next year.
Gates says he believes conditions on the ground could improve enough to allow much deeper cuts, the the secretary says he is only expressing his hope, not a specific plan by the Bush administration.