A principal architect of the Defense Department's postwar strategy in Iraq announced yesterday that he will leave his post this summer.
Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, said he is leaving for personal reasons, citing the desire to spend more time with his four children. "For the last four years, they haven't seen me a lot," Feith said yesterday.
Feith is a longtime Washington lawyer and part of a group of neoconservative foreign policy experts known for strong support of Israel and who had long-held aspirations of unseating Saddam Hussein.
Supporters have praised Feith and the group, which includes former Reagan defense aide Richard N. Perle, for their willingness to take risks to confront autocracy in the Middle East and for their hard-line position against giving up Israeli-held land to the Palestinians.
Detractors have criticized Feith for being unrealistic about the cost and outcome of invading Iraq and have asserted that he played a critical, behind-the-scenes role in exaggerating the prewar threat from Hussein through a secretive office he set up, the Office of Special Plans.
Retired Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, once commander of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, called him "the stupidest guy on the face of the Earth" in his recent book. Feith and Franks tangled often, including over a proposal to train 5,000 Iraqi soldiers to be interpreters and guides during the war.
Feith said yesterday that "controversy about important national security issues is to be expected. That's part of the job." He counted as his greatest achievement his work in devising the Pentagon's overall counterterrorism strategy, including that used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I don't have any definite plans," he said of his post-Pentagon life. "I just have some notions."
Staff writer Bradley Graham contributed to this report.