The general who led U.S. forces to victory in Iraq has acknowledged American troops may need to remain in that country for several more years.
Army General Tommy Franks has already handed over command of U.S. forces in the Middle East prior to his retirement. But he appeared Thursday before the House Armed Services Committee to answer congressional questions about the war in Iraq and the ongoing attacks against American troops there that continue to claim U.S. lives.
Congressional concern about the ongoing deaths was perhaps best summed up by Democratic Representative Ike Skelton in remarks to General Franks as the session opened.
"I have a fear that the pattern that we see now, if left unchecked, we may find ourselves, general, in the throes of guerrilla warfare for years. I hope that doesn't come to pass," he said.
General Franks rejected suggestions that Iraq is descending into chaos following the war. But he did say he cannot predict how long U.S. forces will be required to stay on to ensure security and stability.
"We will be involved in Iraq in the future and, sir, I don't know whether that means two years or four years. I just don't know," he admits.
The session followed a similar one Wednesday before the Senate at which General Franks appeared together with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to face tough questioning about U.S. military involvement in Iraq.
Mr. Rumsfeld did not attend the House hearing, prompting criticism from Democratic Representative Ellen Tauscher.
"I wish Secretary Rumsfeld had been here today because I have many questions for him as I think many people do as to exactly what we're going to do, how long it's going to take and how long [how much] it's going to cost," Ms. Tauscher said.
During his Senate appearance, Mr. Rumsfeld said large portions of Iraq are stable. He also said in those areas where enemy fighters are still active, "the problem," as he called it, is being dealt with in an "orderly and forceful fashion by coalition forces."