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07-08-03, 06:04 AM
U.S. general says troop levels sufficient in Iraq

5:42 a.m., July 7, 2003

WASHINGTON Retiring U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks said Monday U.S. troop levels were sufficient in Iraq and he repeated a taunt made by President. Bush for Iraqi militants attacking U.S. forces to "bring them on."

Franks, the commander of the war in Iraq, said in a television interview before his retirement Monday, he believed the current force of about 145,000 troops in Iraq was enough to cope with the latest attacks on U.S. troops.

"The sense I have now is that it's not time to send in additional troops," said Franks in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" show from U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida.

He added: "What we want to do, is we want to continue to move forward with establishing security by working with Iraqis inside Iraq."

Two U.S. soldiers were killed on Monday and four were wounded in the latest spate of attacks. At least 29 U.S. troops have been killed in action since Bush declared major combat over on May 1.

Asked about the attacks, Franks said the notion American troops were "sitting back and waiting" to be hurt by criminals and supporters of the former regime was not true.

"This is all about offensive operations in Iraq," said Franks. He added: "No one said this was going to be easy."

Franks said he agreed with the president's controversial message last week for Iraqi militants attacking U.S. troops.

"Absolutely," said Franks, adding: "Bring 'em on."

Franks said several hundred U.S. and other foreign forces had lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past 22 months and this toll should be looked at in the light of about 3,000 Americans who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

"The fact is, wherever we find criminals, death squads and so forth who are anxious to do damage to this country and to peace-loving countries around the world, I absolutely agree with the president of the United States: 'bring 'em on."

Asked whether he believed toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was dead or alive, Franks said he suspected serious damage was done at the "very highest levels of the regime."

"I predict this. I believe in the reasonable near-term and I won't put a number of days or weeks on this that we will either capture or kill or have confirmation of the demise of the members of the top of the regime."

Franks said he thought evidence of weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq, the main reason cited by Bush for invading the country.

"Will we find evidence of that (weapons), sure we will."