- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Four Republican lawmakers returning from Iraq yesterday said more U.S. troops are not the solution to improving security conditions in the war-torn country.

“We do not need more troops,” said California Rep. Ed Royce, who visited the nation with Reps. Peter T. King of New York, Steve Chabot of Ohio and Max Burns of Georgia.

Coalition ground forces commander Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez and others, including Maj. Gen. David H. Petreaus of the 101st Airborne Division, made “the same observation: We have sufficient troops here,” Mr. Royce said.

Other lawmakers disagree.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, on Sunday said that “In the short term, we may need more American forces there while we’re training these [Iraqi security forces].”

Mr. Biden’s comments came during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” where he was joined by Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, who agreed with his assessment. Both senators are the senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and recently went to Iraq.

Citing the estimated 600,000 tons of ammunition stashed “all over the country” in weapons dumps, Mr. Biden asked: “If we didn’t need more forces in there, why aren’t we able to guard these dumps?”

“What’s needed now very badly,” he said, “is an urgent call for trainers from NATO countries and to try very hard to further get NATO involved in this.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, himself recently back from Iraq where terrorists fired rockets at his hotel, reported on his trip yesterday in a speech to a conference in the District.

Mr. Wolfowitz focused on the positive aspects of his trip, saying he was struck by the emerging Iraqi economy — especially the open-air markets in the northern city of Kirkuk.

“The people we encountered were a mixed crowd of Arabs and Kurds, and some others,” he said. “The Arabs were vocal in their enthusiasm for liberation and their hatred of Saddam Hussein, as were the Kurds.”

Still, the wave of attacks hitting Iraq since the start of Ramadan on Oct. 26 has been the worst since President Bush declared the end of major combat operations on May 1. The attack on Baghdad’s Al Rasheed Hotel, where Mr. Wolfowitz was staying, came on the first day of the Muslim holy month. On the second day, dozens of Iraqis were killed by a series of suicide car bombings.

On Sunday, insurgents downed an Army helicopter, killing 16 American soldiers, and four persons were wounded yesterday when guerrillas fired mortar rounds into the headquarters area of the U.S.-led occupation forces in Baghdad.

The four Republican congressmen just back from Iraq said U.S. forces largely are facing a supportive population of Iraqis. The congressmen suggested a solid portion of the resistance is coming from foreign fighters who have entered Iraq since the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

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