- The Washington Times - Monday, June 30, 2003

Several top congressmen from both parties yesterday endorsed having a multinational force take over the role of peacekeeping and maintaining order in Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, was one of a host of lawmakers appearing on the Sunday talk shows to say that the U.S.-led force now in Iraq should give way to a broader operation.

“We need to involve the world, the globe, because we’re talking about freedom not just for the United States, not just for Iraq, but indeed freedoms for people around the world,” Mr. Frist said on ABC’s “This Week” program.

“Right now there are about 150,000 troops there. Over time, I would like to see a lot of other nations contributing to the security of that region, as that infrastructure is being built,” he said.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and his party’s top Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, went further, saying that including other forces will be necessary to erase the view of Americans as occupiers in Iraq.

“I want to see French, German; I want to see Turkish patches on people’s arms sitting on the street corners, standing there in Iraq. That’s one way to communicate to the Iraqi people we are not there as occupiers. The international community is there as liberators,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Mr. Frist also said the United States should welcome participation from any country, even France, which blocked efforts to win U.N. backing for the war to depose Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

“I would say that anybody who really appreciates the freedoms and democracy that we in this nation [have], and that I think people around the world are at least moving towards; all of those nations, hopefully, will and can participate,” he said.

Mr. Biden was in Iraq two weeks ago along with Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, and committee member Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, as Congress tries to keep tabs on the extent and progress of the administration’s efforts in Iraq.

This week a group of senators from the Armed Services and Intelligence committees is traveling to Iraq and the Middle East.

Countries such as Poland and Spain, which supported the war, have promised small contingents to bolster the U.S. and British forces maintaining order. The alliance has also requested troops from other nations including Pakistan.

But Mr. Biden said he believes another 30,000 to 60,000 troops are necessary, and an international force would be best.

He also said U.S. officials in Iraq would like to have more than 5,000 police officers from European countries come to Iraq to help prop up local law-enforcement officials.

Criticism of the administration’s postwar plan for Iraq continues to grow, with Mr. Hagel saying on CNN’s “Late Edition” that he doesn’t “believe that the administration planned very well at all for a post-Saddam Iraq.”

On the same show, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and member of the Armed Services Committee, said he doesn’t think the administration is sharing enough information with Congress and the public about the situation.

Mr. McCain said he did not know whether the United States needs to send more soldiers, “But I do know this, that a lot of our soldiers are getting very tired.”

For his part, Mr. Hagel said an international force is inevitable.

“The forces of reality are going to eventually set in, if they haven’t already, to make those who have been reluctant to bring the U.N. in, NATO in and others, [face] reality,” he said. “In fact, that’s going to happen. That must happen.”

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, also said more troops are badly needed.

“We need to invite others around the region as well as the world to help us do that. We’re not doing that and the longer we wait, the greater risk is going to be posed by Iraq,” Mr. Dodd said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

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