Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday that recent attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq “don't have the support of the general populace.”
Wolfowitz said the attackers are “remnants of a dying cause” and that U.S. troops must remain in the country.
“The Iraqi people have been liberated,” he said. “That doesn't mean everything is perfect.”
In a hearing called to discuss worldwide U.S. military commitments,committee members focused their questions to Wolfowitz and Gen. Peter Pace,vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,on Iraq.
Wolfowitz was responding to questions like the one from Rep. Loretta Sanchez,D-Calif.,who said she was interested in the “opportunity costs” of the war.
“We want to know about the soldiers,” she said. “Why are we losing one a day?”
Addressing a specific time-table for the reconstruction effort,Wolfowitz said that he does not know how long U.S. troops will be in Iraq because coalition forces are still in a stage in which they need combat strength.
“We will be able to reduce our level of effort in Iraq as the coalition completes the work of defeating the remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime and setting the conditions for reconstruction,” Wolfowitz said. “Our ability to do so cannot be driven by the calendar but needs to be determined by conditions on the ground.”
Pace said the military is analyzing “hundreds of data points” to enhance its ability to seek out terrorists.
Rep. Gene Taylor,D-Miss.,asked for evidence of weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration said a primary reason for the war was to find such weapons before Saddam Hussein could use them,but so far,none has been found.
Wolfowitz said that Iraq is a huge country with a capital the size of Los Angeles and that the search continues.
“If there's a problem with intelligence it doesn't mean anyone misled anyone,” he said. “It is because intelligence is an art,not a science.”
Rep. Jim Saxton,R-N.J.,asked if Wolfowitz and Pace would require more than the $54 billion allotted for the reconstruction effort.
Wolfowitz said that it is possible more money will be needed,but they will not know how much until the end of the year.
“I think we need more help from Congress to allow us to equip the Afghan and Iraqi force,” Wolfowitz said.
Although he said the United States is looking to its allies for help with the reconstruction effort,Wolfowitz said that he does not expect the contributions to equal contributions during the first Gulf War in the 1990s.
Wolfowitz did,however,agree with committee members that the United States needs international support for the reconstruction effort. He said that there is no reason a soldier defending Iraq must be an American soldier. Rather,that defense could come from U.S. allies or a U.S.-trained Iraqi army.
“It is much more politically the right thing to do to train Afghans or Iraqis to defend their own country than to have Americans do it,” he said.
Wolfowitz said that the United States has commitments for 20,000 coalition troops who are set to arrive in August or September.
Rep. Joel Hefley,R-Colo. and others raised the concern that reserve forces are being deployed too often for long periods. Hefley said that reservists are supposed to be used for emergencies.
“We owe them missions that are actually attainable,” Pace said.
Wolfowitz said the military needs to give troops a clearer picture of the amount of time that they can expect to be in Iraq and that the military is working on studies on this issue.
Wolfowitz said the military is working to change the way it calls up reserves and that he knows military leaders “can't keep coming back to the same people and expect them to stay in the reserves.”
Pace said most troops that are in Iraq now have been there since January or February.
“We're working diligently to get those who went first home soon,” he said.