Former commander attacks Bush over 'endless nightmare' in Iraq

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A former commander of US forces in Iraq has mounted a devastating attack on the White House, saying a "catastrophic failure" in the Bush administration's leadership of the Iraq war had plunged the US into "a nightmare with no end in sight".

Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, who was supreme commander in Iraq from mid-2003 to mid-2004 before retiring last year, also called the US troop "surge" in Baghdad and neighbouring provinces a "desperate attempt by an administration that has not accepted the political and economic realities of this war". Without naming President George Bush, he spoke on Friday of "a glaring, unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership" among the politicians in charge. And Lt Gen Sanchez called for US forces to be reduced quickly, "given the lack of a grand strategy".

The general's withering criticism may have the effect of silencing American complaints over Britain's plans to run down its forces in Iraq. Last week Gordon Brown announced that 4,500 troops would remain by the end of the year – down from more than 7,000 in January – and would be reduced further to 2,500 by spring. Officials hinted after the announcement that the remaining troops would leave by the end of next year.

Despite reports that Mr Bush was "furious" and "felt betrayed" over the plan, the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, said later that it had been made with Washington's full consent.