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Army's 3rd Infantry Division Will Be Back in U.S. by Sept., Rumsfeld Says
Unit Played a Central Role in Capturing Baghdad in April
By Matt Kelley
The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 9, 2003; 12:34 PM
WASHINGTON -- The Army's 3rd Infantry Division, which played a central role in capturing Baghdad in April, is beginning a pullout from Iraq, and the entire unit will be back in the United States by September, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Wednesday.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Rumsfeld said the division's 3rd Brigade has already reached Kuwait and will be heading home this month. The 2nd Brigade will be home in August and the 1st Brigade will return in September, he said. He said each of the final two brigades to leave Iraq will have been in the Gulf region for 10 months by the time they depart.
In the immediate aftermath of the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime in April it was expected that the 3rd Infantry Division would go home by June. But they were kept longer because of a surge of anti-U.S. violence in Baghdad and elsewhere in central Iraq. That violence has killed at least 29 American troops since President Bush declared major combat operations over on May 1.
The 3rd Infantry Division's headquarters is at Fort Stewart, Ga.
Rumsfeld said there are now 148,000 American troops in Iraq. He did not say whether the 3rd Infantry Division would be replaced by another U.S. unit, although he said he expects thousands of international soldiers to begin operating in Iraq by late summer or early fall.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon's top policy official said sabotage and a threadbare infrastructure, not bad U.S. planning, are to blame for setbacks in the postwar reconstruction of Iraq.
Defense Undersecretary Douglas Feith said the United States would have risked allowing ousted President Saddam Hussein's government time to burn oil fields and cause other destruction had it waited to invade until enough troops were in the region to prevent looting and chaos after the fall of Baghdad.
"War always involves trade-offs," Feith said in a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It's not right to assume that the major problems in Iraq are attributable to poor planning."
Rumsfeld rejected the "widely held impression that regime loyalists are operating freely." He said large portions of Iraq are stable.
"The problem is real, but it is being dealt with in an orderly and forceful fashion by coalition forces," he said.
In his speech, Feith lashed out at critics of the Iraq war and its aftermath. Twenty-nine American troops have been killed in attacks since President Bush declared May 1 that major combat had ended, and some Iraqis are seething over delays in getting electricity and water services restored.
He acknowledged that problems in providing basic services such as electricity and water are hampering U.S.-led efforts to bring stability and security to Iraq. He blamed that less on shortcomings of the coalition administration than on sabotage and the "threadbare" condition of Iraq's infrastructure under Saddam.
Feith said the occupation has made a lot of progress since Baghdad fell April 9.
"In some areas, services are more reliable than they were before the war," Feith said, admittedly not the case in the Iraqi capital.
He also denied the Bush administration had exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam and Iraq's programs to make chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. No such weapons have been found.
Echoing a position the administration has taken for months, Feith said finding out the extent of Saddam's banned weapons programs would take a long time.
Before the war, "The danger of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) in Saddam's hands appeared grave," Feith said.
Feith also defended Bush's decision to go to war without the backing of the United Nations. It is "unsatisfactory to assume that the U.N. or any other international organization is inherently a more legitimate adviser or a more proper or effective a check and balance on the president than are the institutions envisioned in the U.S. constitution," he said.
The United States plans to begin training a new Iraqi army soon, with a goal of having a division of 12,000 troops trained within a year, Feith said. Officials hope to have 40,000 Iraqi troops trained within three years, he said.
Pentagon officials also want to hold trials for some captured leaders in Saddam's government, Feith said. He said U.S. officials had not decided which courts would try the Iraqi officials, but Iraqis probably would lead the effort.
"Many of the atrocities were outrages committed by the regime against Iraqis," Feith said. "It may be suitable to have Iraqis running that process to bring justice to those perpetrators."
2003 The Associated Press