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White House expresses faith in Rumsfeld

Critics question war plan

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Amid claims that military commanders are frustrated that U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not send enough troops to Iraq, President Bush, through a senior administration official, expressed confidence in the man running the war and the plan he helped to develop.

"The president has tremendous faith in Secretary Rumsfeld, his generals and Secretary Rumsfeld's leadership, Secretary Rumsfeld's decisions. And it's borne out by what the president views as a successful military campaign," the administration official said Tuesday.

Battlefield criticism of Rumsfeld has been strong, even if anonymous. One U.S. Army colonel reportedly told The New York Times that Rumsfeld "wanted to fight this war on the cheap. He got what he wanted."

When asked if the president is irritated by the criticism, the senior official said, "the Pentagon is a big building, filled with a thousand colonels."

Sunday, Rumsfeld dismissed "hyperventilating" critics of the war in Iraq and called reports that he vetoed plans by top officers for a larger invasion force "fiction."

Rumsfeld said the plan was developed by Gen. Tommy Franks -- the chief of the U.S. Central Command -- in conjunction with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"I would be delighted to take credit for it. It's a good plan. It's a creative and an innovative plan, and it's going to work," Rumsfeld said, adding that "it's a little early for postmortems."

Rumsfeld's remarks over the weekend were in response to an article in the New Yorker magazine and other media reports that he had rejected requests from Franks and the Pentagon for more troops and hardware before starting a ground war against Iraq.

He told reporters Sunday that Iraqi resistance is "quite stiff" in pockets on the battlefield, and he suggested that "the most dangerous and difficult days" for U.S. and British troops lie ahead.

He added that -- unlike the 1991 Persian Gulf War -- there have been no masses of refugees fleeing Iraq and few civilian casualties. He said Iraqi attempts to set fire to the country's southern oil fields also have failed.

"A lot of good things happened and a lot of bad things were avoided because Gen. Franks decided to put forces on the ground fast and early," he said.

At the White House, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Bush does not "get involved" in the daily statements about the war.

"The president has faith in the plan, accepts the plan. The plan is working, and that's the president's approach," Fleischer said. "Undoubtedly, you're going to have others who are going to chime in, but that doesn't change how the president approaches it."

Bush's travels

On a separate note, Bush will travel to North Carolina on Thursday to rally troops at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, the home of more than 47,000 Marines and sailors, the senior administration official said.

This will be Bush's second visit to a military base since the war began. He appeared last week at MacDill Air Force Base, the Tampa, Florida, home of Central Command.

The officials said that during his trip the president will meet and have lunch with Marines, and "talk about the progress on the war."


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