- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz yesterday repudiated an estimate from the Army's top general that it will take hundreds of thousands of troops to occupy postwar Iraq.
Mr. Wolfowitz said the estimate in congressional testimony by Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, was "wildly off the mark." He said it was difficult to understand how someone could predict that the occupation would require more troops than the invasion itself.
He said Gen. Shinseki's prediction came at a "delicate time" when the Bush administration is trying to piece together a broad-based coalition to support an invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein.
It is unusual for a senior Pentagon civilian to so thoroughly reject the testimony of a high-ranking military officer. A U.S. official said Mr. Wolfowitz's rebuke points out how unhappy the administration is with the general's testimony. The administration is sensitive to charges, especially in the Arab world, that the American military plans to rule postwar Iraq.
This "is not a good time to publish highly suspect numbers," Mr. Wolfowitz told the House Budget Committee during testimony on the Pentagon's $379.9 billion fiscal 2004 spending plan. Mr. Wolfowitz is a major advocate inside the government of using military force to dethrone Saddam as part of the broader U.S. war against terrorists after the September 11 attacks.
At a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Shinseki was pressed by Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, to estimate the size of an allied occupation force after victory.
"Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably a figure that would be required," Gen. Shinseki said. "We're talking about a post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems."
Mr. Wolfowitz yesterday called that number "way off the mark" and that it was premature to say.
This is not the first time a top military officer has been chastised by the staff of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, although the scolding usually takes place in private.
The Washington Times reported on an internal memo four weeks ago from Mr. Rumsfeld that criticized the quality of reports coming from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Asked later at a press conference about his direct management style, Mr. Rumsfeld said, "The Constitution calls for civilian control of this department. And I'm a civilian."
He added, "I have received on occasion from people military and civilian work that I was not impressed with, and have indicated that. And there have been times when I've sent things back six, seven times."
Mr. Wolfowitz yesterday refused repeated requests by House Democrats to give a range of estimates for the cost of both the war, and for post-conflict reconstruction and occupation.
"We don't know," Mr. Wolfowitz said, saying that the cost will depend on how long the war lasts, and whether Saddam sabotages his oil facilities and uses weapons of mass destruction. "It's so dependent on assumptions that picking a number is precarious."
But Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, said Mr. Wolfowitz knows President Bush this week received war-cost estimates from Mr. Rumsfeld and the White House Office of Management and Budget.
"I think you're deliberately keeping us in the dark," he told Mr. Wolfowitz.
Mr. Wolfowitz said it is wrong to believe that the United States will foot the bill for occupation. He said Iraq itself generates $15 billion to $20 billion annually in oil exports and has up to $20 billion in assets frozen because it invaded Kuwait in 1991.
"There's a lot of money there, and to assume we're going to pay for it is wrong," he said.


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