Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, yesterday told a House committee initial estimates for keeping additional troops in Iraq through July for security reasons will cost about $700 million.

The money could be taken from other Pentagon accounts. “We’re in the middle of that analysis right now,” Gen. Myers said in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

The Pentagon plans to keep an additional 20,000 troops in Iraq because of anticipated attacks by insurgents in the weeks leading up to the June 30 deadline for returning partial sovereignty to a new Iraqi government.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, appearing with Gen. Myers, countered critics of the Iraq war at yesterday’s hearing.

“Some say we have no plan. We have a plan,” Mr. Wolfowitz said. On Tuesday, Mr. Wolfowitz introduced a three-phased plan to set up a constitutional democracy in Iraq by 2006.

As for providing more troops in Iraq if necessary, Mr. Wolfowitz said: “We are going to have to dig very deep if we have to add more.”

The comments came as car bombs in Basra, in southern Iraq, killed at least 68 persons and fighting continued in the central Iraqi city of Fallujah.

At the White House, Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the $87 billion supplemental spending bill passed last year should be enough for military operations in Iraq.

“If they need additional resources, as the president has said, they will get those resources,” Mr. McClellan told reporters.

Mr. McClellan said the president has “received assurances from Pentagon officials that the resources they have at this time are more than enough to meet their needs.”

Additional funding will be determined by commanders based on circumstances on the ground, he said.

Mr. Wolfowitz, at the House hearing, said the military is spending about $4.7 billion a month for operations in Iraq.

Rep. John M. Spratt Jr., South Carolina Democrat, said the current military budget is insufficient and that the military could require as much as $50 billion more.

On Syria, Mr. McClellan said Damascus must do more to stop foreign fighters and extremists from crossing the Syrian border into Iraq.

“We’ve made very clear to the Syrian government that it must better control borders to prevent Syria from serving as a transit point for foreign fighters and extremists,” Mr. McClellan said.

“Syria has a responsibility to prevent the transit of foreign fighters into Iraq and to play a constructive role in helping the Iraqi people build a brighter and better future for themselves. We’ve made very clear to them and we will continue to make very clear to them that there is more to do.”

Defense officials have told The Washington Times that Syria is facilitating the movement of foreign fighters into Iraq and is supplying them with arms and equipment.

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