By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 13, 2006
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that he seriously considered a 2004 memo from L. Paul Bremer, then the senior U.S. official in Iraq, calling for tens of thousands more U.S. troops to quell the insurgency. But he said military commanders and service chiefs disagreed with Bremer.
Bremer's memo, dated May 18, 2004, urged Rumsfeld to dispatch as many as two additional divisions -- or about 30,000 troops -- to Iraq, to meet myriad demands, including fighting insurgents, border control and securing convoy routes. The request, disclosed in Bremer's new book on his year-long tenure in Iraq, reflected what he said was his fear that the United States was becoming "the worst of all things -- an ineffective occupier."
Rumsfeld, speaking yesterday at a Pentagon news briefing, recalled that he showed the Bremer memo to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff then, Gen. Richard B. Myers, saying: "This is a reasonable proposal from a reasonable person; let's look at it."
But after evaluating the proposal, the Joint Chiefs of Staff concurred with U.S. commanders responsible for Iraq that troop levels were adequate, said Gen. Peter Pace, who succeeded Myers as chairman of the Joint Chiefs and appeared with Rumsfeld at yesterday's briefing.
"We did a very thorough analysis of that recommendation, and when we got done, all the chiefs agreed with the commanders in the field that the numbers of troops in the field then, as now, was appropriate to what we were fighting," Pace said.
Rumsfeld said he then showed the response from the Joint Chiefs to President Bush. "The president, as he has consistently, said that he preferred to go with the judgments of the military commanders on the ground," Rumsfeld said.
In his book, Bremer says that Rumsfeld never responded to his recommendation to add more troops. Rumsfeld said he did reply, although not substantively.
"I thanked him for his suggestion and said we would look into it, and we did," Rumsfeld said. He said Bremer departed his post before the Joint Chiefs completed its response, and so Bremer did not receive that. "By the time he left he was . . . no longer in a position where it would be appropriate to have given him the outcome, and he never asked that I recall," Rumsfeld said. "So it's no big deal."
On a related topic, Pace was asked whether military planners had failed to anticipate the need for armored vehicles and body armor in the Iraq war.
"The short answer is no," Pace said. Up-armored Humvees and bulletproof plates were designed before the war, he said. But he said they were not stockpiled in the large quantities that were ultimately required when U.S. commanders decided that, rather than operating in tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, U.S. troops should be on foot or in Humvees to better interact with Iraqi civilians.
"We had people thinking about the right things," Pace said.