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Rumsfeld: Iraq costing U.S. nearly $4 billion a month

Senators question attacks on troops

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld testifies on Capitol Hill.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld testifies on Capitol Hill.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S.-led war and occupation of Iraq is projected to cost the Pentagon an average of nearly $4 billion a month through September, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a Senate committee Wednesday.

U.S. spending on Iraq has averaged $3.9 billion per month since January, a period that includes the invasion that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said he did not know if the Bush administration expected those figures to go up or down in the next fiscal year.

"I don't know what the administration intends to propose to the Congress by way of funding for that," he said.

The Defense Department is spending another $700 million a month in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are still hunting remnants of the al Qaeda terrorist network and trying to stabilize an interim government after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy Franks, the former commander of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, told senators that U.S. troops are fighting off continuing attacks by Iraqis opposed to the American-led occupation "in an orderly and forceful fashion."

And despite highly publicized struggles to restore some basic services in Baghdad, Iraqis are better off since April's ouster of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Rumsfeld said.

"The residents of Baghdad may not have power 24 hours a day, but they no longer wake up each morning in fear wondering whether this will the day that a death squad would come to cut out their tongues, chop off their ears or take their children away for questioning ... never to be seen again," he said.

Franks, who is on the verge of retiring from the Army, said the 145,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are not sitting around waiting to be attacked, but are out hunting down armed remnants of Saddam's Baath Party regime in a triangle around Baghdad.

"I suspect we are seeing increased violence in some of these areas because we are out looking for it, because that's our charter," Franks said.

He said no additional U.S. troops were needed, but the current force is likely to remain "for the foreseeable future."

"That footprint appears to us on the operational side to be about what that footprint needs to look like," Franks said.

Several committee members pressed Rumsfeld on efforts to bring more international troops into Iraq to take over peacekeeping duties. An estimated 12,000 such troops, mostly British, are in Iraq now, and that number is expected to grow to 20,000 by the end of the summer with the addition of a Polish-led division.

Rumsfeld said the United States has asked more than 70 countries to help provide troops to stabilize Iraq -- even Germany and France, which opposed the war.

"Our goal is to get large numbers of international forces from lots of countries, including those two," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld and Franks faced several questions from the committee about ongoing attacks on U.S. troops and when they would be coming home.

Rumsfeld said all three brigades of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, which led the advance on Baghdad in March and April, should be back home by September. Some soldiers from the division have been in the Persian Gulf region for more than nine months.

And he said the Pentagon is studying ways to cut back on its reliance on National Guard and reserve units for peacekeeping duties, saying, "We can't keep calling the same people up four, five, six times."

"We don't have enough of the right people in the active force to do those kinds of things," he said. "We will be coming forward with proposals in a relatively short period of time to see if we can't get the people portion of this right."

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