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Adm. Mullen, the chief of naval operations, was chosen to replace Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace as the nation’s top military officer. Mr. Gates decided not to reappoint Gen. Pace for a second two-year term to avoid an acrimonious confirmation hearing over how the Bush administration has handled the war in Iraq.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to vote on Adm. Mullen’s nomination before Congress adjourns Friday for its August recess.

Adm. Mullen’s answers reflect the separation Mr. Gates wants to achieve. In one of the pre-hearing questions, Adm. Mullen is asked by the committee what he considers to be “the most significant mistakes the United States has made to date in Iraq.”

He listed seven mistakes, including the May 2003 decision to disband the Iraqi army, which he says was a “potentially valuable asset for security, reconstruction and provision of services to the Iraqi people.”

Turning the Iraqi troops loose, Adm. Mullen said, provided “a recruiting pool for extremist groups.”