- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Congress yesterday that there had been “too great a willingness” at the Pentagon to think that Iraqi insurgents would stop attacking Americans once Saddam Hussein and his top leaders were killed or captured.

His remarks before the House Armed Services Committee came on top of previous testimony that before the war, he and other planners had underestimated the doggedness of Saddam’s followers to continue their attacks long after Saddam was captured.

He was asked yesterday by Rep. Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat, “What should have been done better? What should have been done differently?”

Mr. Wolfowitz answered, “It’s a truly evil enemy. And if you want to say what might have been underestimated, I think there was probably too great a willingness to believe that once we got the 55 people on the black list, the rest of those killers would stop fighting.”

The answer now, he said, is to continue training and retraining an indigenous force of some 200,000 Iraqis so they can take on more counterinsurgency missions.

“Getting Iraqi forces up and fighting for their country is the answer,” he said.

Pressed by Mr. Skelton for “other mistakes,” Mr. Wolfowitz said that before the March 2003 invasion, “I never heard anyone mention the name of Abu Ibrahim.”

Ibrahim is a leader of the Palestinian May 15 Organization, which Mr. Wolfowitz described as a “professional killer group” that was harbored by Saddam. Ibrahim is “still out there making bombs today to kill Americans,” Mr. Wolfowitz said.

“The fact is, you can second-guess a lot of decisions,” he said. “There were some that we might have done differently. There were some that were done brilliantly.”

He also rebutted the long-held criticism from Democrats and some military analysts that the occupation force of 140,000 is too small.

“I’m not sure how having many more troops would have helped us to root out these elements of the old intelligence service,” he said. “They are killers. Let’s recognize that they are, instead of trying to figure our where we did something wrong to create them. We didn’t.”

The deputy secretary declined to provide a date for an American troop withdrawal, saying the test is “when it becomes an Iraqi fight and the Iraqis are prepared to take on the fight.”

The transition includes setting up a network of joint command centers to ensure each side knows what the other’s military is doing after the June 30 transfer of sovereignty.

Mr. Wolfowitz also told the Armed Services Committee that the United States has agreed to consult with the new government before mounting “sensitive offensive operations.”

Mr. Wolfowitz just returned from a weeklong tour of Iraq, during which he spent hours with the new Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi, hammering out how 140,000 American troops will gel with the 200,000-Iraqi security force.

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