- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (UPI) — Army Chief of Staff Gen. Erik Shinseki told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that "several hundred thousand soldiers" will be needed both to win a war with Iraq and then maintain control over the country.

"Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We're talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems," Shinseki said during testimony to the committee, in possibly his last appearance before he retires after four years as Army chief.

"It takes a significant ground-force presence to maintain a safe and secure environment, to ensure that people are fed, that water is disturbed, all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this," he said.

He said if the Army is required to maintain that presence in Iraq for an extended period it would have serious long-term consequences for a service already tested by war in Afghanistan, multiple peacekeeping duties in the Balkans, and a "forward" presence in South Korea.

"If it were an extended requirement for presence of U.S.-only Army forces, it would have significant long-term effect, and therefore, I think, the kind of assistance from friends and allies would be helpful," he said.

The military expects to have roughly 250,000 military personnel available to fight in Iraq, but more will be needed for peacekeeping operations that could last for two years or longer.

All four military chiefs of staff testified Tuesday to the committee and warned that elements of their services — particularly Special Forces — are under a great deal of strain from their high tempo of operations.

"There is stress today," Shinseki said.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Jumper said he needs more people for critical missions like combat search and rescue and Special Forces but so far is trying to find them from within the service.

"I do see a need to bolster up, especially in our combat search and rescue forces, which is the Air Force portion of this, and our combat controllers … to be able to sustain, especially in this war against terrorism, that kind of activity," Jumper said.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark said more than half of the Navy is deployed.

"I feel good about our readiness, but that doesn't mean that there aren't areas where you have real challenges," he said.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee echoed Clark's optimism, but also his concern.

"For the near term, we can maintain that. We will continue to watch that to see if we need to do any rotation," he said.

The Marine Corps is especially prepared for ground combat and the potential for Iraq to use chemical or biological weapons against U.S. troops. Hagee said the Marine Corps has three airtight suits for each Marine in the region and three filters for gas masks. Roughly 94 percent of the Marines have been vaccinated for smallpox and almost 85 percent have received three shots to protect against anthrax.

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