U.S. Faces Growing Fears of Failure
Some military officers are also concerned that Washington is now cutting back on its original goal of eliminating major flash points in Iraq before June 30. They say the United States has basically retreated in Fallujah, handing over control of the Sunni city to a former Iraqi general who is now commanding some of the very insurgents U.S. forces were fighting -- again, in the name of expediency.
"What we're trying to do is extricate ourselves from Fallujah," said a senior U.S. official familiar with U.S. strategy who would speak only on the condition of anonymity. "There's overwhelming pressure with the Coalition Provisional Authority and the White House to deliver a successful Iraq transition, and Iraq is proving uncooperative."
In his testimony, Wolfowitz expressed optimism about trends in Iraq. "We're not trying to suggest by any means that this is a rosy scenario, but we do think that Iraq is moving forward toward self-government and self-defense, and that's the key to winning," he said.
But in response to persistent questioning, Wolfowitz said the United States had been "slow" in creating Iraqi security forces and too severe in its early policy of de-Baathification, or barring from government jobs and political life tens of thousands of Iraqis who were members of Hussein's ruling Baath Party.
He listed other shortcomings in planning, including underestimating the resilience of Hussein or his supporters, their postwar operational capabilities and financial resources. Wolfowitz also said he did not know how many U.S. troops would remain posted to Iraq over the next 18 months. "It could be more, it could be less" than the level of 135,000 troops the Pentagon has said it plans to keep in Iraq through 2005.
And he conceded that the question of how Iraq will operate after June 30 remains unsettled, adding that officials would have a better idea of how Iraqi sovereignty will work "as soon as we know who our counterparts are."
In Britain, the closest U.S. ally in Iraq, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also conceded that the Iraq situation is more troubled than the coalition predicted. "It's palpable that the difficulties which we faced have been more extensive than it was reasonable to assume nine months ago," he said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp.
Researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.
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