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Rumsfeld Says More US Troops in Iraq Possible - 2004-07-21


With violence continuing across Iraq, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is refusing to rule out the possibility of sending even more American troops to the country, beyond the 140,000 currently deployed there. But U.S military officials continue to believe more troops are not necessarily the solution to Iraq's on-going security problem.

With the number of American troops killed in Iraq over the past 16 months now reaching the 900 mark, the Pentagon continues to face questions about whether military planners underestimated the number of American peace-keeping forces needed there.

Several members of the military coalition, the largest being Spain, have already pulled out of Iraq in response to terrorism or terrorist threats against their citizens.

But Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Wednesday brushed aside criticism about troop levels, including from influential voices like Senate Armed Services Committee member John McCain, who has consistently charged that the Pentagon has deployed too few peacekeepers to Iraq.

"There's no magical number. There's no formula for this," he said. "The Soviets had something like 200,000 or 300,000 people in Afghanistan. We had a few handfuls. The Soviets lost and we won."

American soldiers in Iraq continue to be killed nearly every day, and terrorist bombings and kidnappings have not ended with last month's hand over of power. If military commanders say they need more troops to battle the insurgency, Secretary Rumsfeld said they will get them.

"And one would think that over time, we'd be able to begin reducing those numbers. On the other hand, as I say what's going to determine that are the facts on the ground. And we're going to see this through and if it takes additional forces, it will take additional forces," he said.

But he says putting more troops in Iraq has to be weighed against the risk of increasing the visibility of the United States, and the feeling among Iraqis that they are under foreign occupation.