US troops are defeating the stubborn insurgency in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insisted Thursday, rejecting calls that the Pentagon create a timetable for scaling back the US forces there.
"Any who say that we've lost this war, or that we're losing this war, are wrong. We are not," said Rumsfeld, who appeared with his top military commanders at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Still, General John Abizaid conceded to the panel that "there's a lot of work to be done" to break the resolve of a resilient and determined insurgency."
"I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago," Abizaid said.
The Pentagon officials made their comments as Iraq's Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari met at the White House with Vice President Dick Cheney, and one day before his talks with US President George W. Bush.
Responding to calls by some in the Congress -- including some from the president's own Republican party -- for a firm deadline for a US troop withdrawal from Iraq, Rumsfeld said such a move would be counterproductive to US military objectives, and would only serve to embolden America's enemies.
"It would throw a lifeline to terrorists, who in recent months have suffered significant losses and casualties, been denied havens, and suffered weakened popular support," he said.
Rumsfeld's remarks came with lethal insurgent attacks in Iraq at an all-time high, and as officials in Washington confront the continued challenges posed by global terrorism.
"Terrorism of the magnitude the world is confronting today has no precedent in history. They are today's enemy," Republican Chairman John Warner said.
Democrats at the hearing remained unconvinced by Pentagon assertions that the US military has the situation in Iraq under control.
Senator Ted Kennedy, one of Congress's most vociferous Iraq war critics, slammed the military effort as "consistently grossly mismanaged," and, holding Rumsfeld personally responsible, called on him to resign.
"The American people, I believe, deserve leadership worthy of the sacrifices that our fighting forces have made, and they deserve the real facts," the Democratic senator said.
"I regret to say I don't believe that you have provided either."
Democratic Senator Carl Levin, a perennial critic of the war -- although one who rejects setting a timetable for a troop pullout -- said nevertheless that a radical change in US Iraq policy is needed.
"Staying the course is not only hollow-sounding rhetoric, it is an unacceptable policy. We need to change the current dynamic in Iraq," he said.
And while Levin agreed that it would be a mistake to set a deadline for a US pullout, he said it would also be inadvisable to stay as long as the fledgling Iraqi government would like.
"An open-ended commitment to the Iraqis that we will be there ... lessens the chances that the Iraqis will make the political compromises necessary to defeat the jihadists and the insurgency and become a nation," Levin said.
That view was seconded by Republican Senator Susan Collins.
"I'm convinced that a political solution is the key to ending support for the insurgency," said Collins, adding that it could be necessary to send a message that "there would be consequences if progress is not made."
Recent polls also show declining US support for the war, with some 59 percent of Americans expressing disapproval at how Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, and 51 percent saying the United States should never have invaded the country.
Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman said declining public support is one of the greatest challenges facing the administration.
"I fear that American public opinion is tipping away from this effort," he said.
US troops, he added "face a brutal enemy, but one that will never, never defeat the American military on a field of battle. they will only defeat us ... on the field of American public opinion."
Republican Lindsey Graham, of the conservative, pro-military state of South Carolina, agreed.
"I am here to tell you sir, in the most patriotic state I could imagine, people are beginning to question," he said, of the eroding public support.
"I don't think it's a blip on the radar screen, I think we have a chronic problem on our hands," Graham said.
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US Will Likely Begin Drawdown Of Iraq Force Next Year: General
Washington (AFP) Jun 21, 2005
The US military will probably begin withdrawing some forces from Iraq by March 2006, a top US commander said Tuesday, predicting the insurgency will be defeated if the country's political factions come together.
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