Saturday, September 20, 2003

Two U.S. soldiers stood guard today on a road leading into Tikrit, Iraq, part of increased security in the area after a patrol was ambushed Thursday, killing three soldiers. Former U.S. Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki said last night the war in Iraq "didn't have to be this difficult."

Shinseki criticizes
U.S. fight in Mideast

The former Army chief of staff
says more aid from allies is needed

Former U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki says America's fight in Iraq and Afghanistan "didn't have to be this difficult."

Addressing the National Speakers Conference, a meeting of state House speakers in Waikiki, Shinseki noted that three more U.S. soldiers died yesterday in an ambush in Iraq.

"We are in a tough fight in Iraq and also in Afghanistan. It didn't have to be this difficult. We are better than this," Shinseki said.

Shinseki, a 38-year career Army officer who retired in July, did not expand on his critique. However, in February he told a congressional committee that the United States would need up to 200,000 troops as a peacekeeping force in Iraq. There are about 145,000 U.S. troops there now.

Shinseki said yesterday that while America has "what it takes to seize the initiative and begin to turn this problem (in Iraq) around," he added that "we will need the help of others, our friends, our allies and even our former adversaries."

"I want to assure you, we are going to prevail, and when we do it will be because of the American soldier," Shinseki concluded.

The speech at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel drew two standing ovations from the crowd of about 300, including 31 state House speakers, their aides, spouses and Hawaii legislators and lobbyists.

After his speech, Shinseki told the Star-Bulletin that America will "have some tough days ahead of us" during the occupation of Iraq. A total of 298 American troops have died in Iraq since the United States launched its attack in March. More than half of those deaths have come since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1.

"We are taking casualties, and we are challenged to try to get some momentum here quickly in terms of going in and taking control and decisively making things different," said Shinseki, who was born on Kauai and graduated from Kauai High School.

As chief of staff, Shinseki presided over the Army's nine combat commands and served as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In February, after Shinseki's concerns about the limited number of troops slated for Iraq became public, the Washington Times reported that political leaders said the four-star general had also warned them privately.

Rep. Curt Weldon, a Pennsylvania Republican and vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Shinseki differed with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"Unfortunately, there was a big battle between Shinseki and Rumsfeld," Weldon told the Washington Times. "I thought Shinseki was in the right direction to kind of redirect the Army. It was Shinseki who told us both privately and publicly we weren't providing enough security in postwar Iraq. I happen to think he was right."

Yesterday, Shinseki declined to talk about the disagreement with Rumsfeld over the number of troops in Iraq, saying, "I don't even want to get into that."

But he said the situation in Iraq is something that the United States had the opportunity to address.

"It is something that is designed the way we wanted, and we didn't quite put it together the way we might have," Shinseki said. "Either that, or the other explanation is we designed it to be this way, and I don't think we want to say that."


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