Sen. Levin Visits Iraq, Sees Needs

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin said Tuesday that his one-day trip to Iraq convinced him the country needs to overhaul the way it is training troops.

Levin, D-Mich., was part of a four-member Senate delegation that visited Iraq Monday before heading to Belgium to meet with NATO leaders. Levin is the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Levin said Iraq is having trouble training its army because it has inexperienced, disorganized leadership. Some soldiers simply take their uniforms and weapons and disappear, he said.

Levin said the task is much more difficult because the Bush administration disbanded Iraq's army after U.S. troops entered the country, a decision he says was a "fundamental error."

Levin said he expects Iraq's elections to go forward Jan. 30 despite security problems. He said there likely will be serious difficulties in four of Iraq's 18 provinces.

"The issue is not whether the election will be held or not," he said. "Everybody wants it, and there's no way to change it, even if it's difficult with security."

Asked about Monday's comment by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who said he has "no confidence" in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Levin refused to use McCain's wording.

"The way I have phrased it is that right from the beginning of this war I have had serious disagreements with Secretary Rumsfeld," Levin said.

"Those disagreements have been real and they continue, but where we close ranks, in essence, is that we're there now, the elections are going to take place, and we will have an election hopefully that will do two things, set the stage for a non-theocratic Iraq and allow us to leave sooner rather than later."


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