The Army's top general yesterday repeated his estimate that a postwar occupying force in Iraq could be as large as several hundred thousand troops, a number disputed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki told a House subcommittee on defense appropriations the military could only estimate what forces might be needed after any invasion of Iraq. "It could be as high as several hundred thousand," he said, but added, "We all hope that it is something less."

Shinseki explained to reporters after the hearing that he did not mean to suggest the postwar force would be all U.S. troops. "That doesn't presume that it will be done all by us," he said.

Last month, after Shinseki voiced the same estimate in another Capitol Hill hearing, Rumsfeld told reporters that the number "is far off the mark," especially for U.S. troops. The defense secretary said other countries had promised to take part in any stabilization effort in the event of a war.

Rumsfeld also said he did not think it was logical that it would take as many forces after the conflict as it would to win the war. Defense officials say there are more than 200,000 U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf region ready for any order from President Bush to launch an invasion.

Shinseki told reporters yesterday: "This is just an estimate of what it might take. There are no specifics about what it [the postwar force] would do; those tasks are yet to be determined."