Possible Iraq civil war probed

first_img Both Abizaid and Rumsfeld cited progress in the training of Iraqi security forces. Abizaid said more than 100 Iraqi battalions are now conducting counterinsurgency operations, compared with only five in 2004. He did not mention that the number of Iraqi battalions rated as capable of operating without U.S. military assistance had recently dropped from one to zero. During an extensive question-and-answer session with committee members, some Democrats including Byrd and Sen. Herbert Kohl of Wisconsin sharply criticized the war, but the overall tone of the hearing was not hostile. Rice’s opening statement to the committee was interrupted by a man in the audience who stood and shouted, “How many of you have children in this illegal and immoral war? The blood is on your hands and you cannot wash it away.” As he was escorted from the room by security officers, the man also shouted, “Fire Rumsfeld.” An AP-Ipsos poll released Thursday shows that 77 percent of Americans think civil war is likely to break out in Iraq. They’re evenly divided on whether a stable democratic government can survive in Iraq. More than half of Americans continue to disapprove of President George W. Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq. Abizaid, who frequently visits Iraq and has overall responsibility for U.S. military operations there, cited the dangers of rising sectarian violence. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant “The plan is to prevent a civil war, and to the extent one were to occur, to have the – from a security standpoint – have the Iraqi security forces deal with it, to the extent they are able to,” Rumsfeld told the committee. He did not elaborate on the implication of his remark: that at some point the Iraqi security forces might be overwhelmed by a civil conflict and ask the Americans to get involved militarily. One of Rumsfeld’s chief critics in Congress, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., issued a statement after the hearing urging the administration to explain more fully what it would do in case of a civil war. “Obviously, it’s not realistic to depend on the Iraqi security forces, which are not yet able to fight on their own,” Kennedy said. “So Secretary Rumsfeld is basically saying that if the prevention strategy fails and Iraq plunges into civil war, U.S. troops will inevitably be deeply involved.” Rumsfeld said the key to avoiding civil war is for Iraq’s political leaders to form a government of national unity. WASHINGTON – Dealing with a civil war in Iraq would be the responsibility of Iraq’s own security forces, at least initially, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told Congress on Thursday. Testifying alongside senior military leaders and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Rumsfeld said he did not believe that Iraq would descend into all-out civil war, though he acknowledged that sectarian strife had worsened. Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, said the situation in Iraq had evolved to the point where Sunni-Shiite violence was more of a threat to U.S. success there than the insurgency, which continues taking a deadly toll on Iraqi and American troops, and to impede efforts to stabilize the country. Rumsfeld previously had been reluctant to say what the U.S. military would do in the event of civil war, but in an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee he was pressed on the matter by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. last_img read more