Republicans and neo-cons call for 'arrogant' Rumsfeld to quit

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The Independent US

Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, is under attack from fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill for not sending more troops to Iraq, and for failing to provide enough protection for those who are there.

Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, is under attack from fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill for not sending more troops to Iraq, and for failing to provide enough protection for those who are there.

Only a fortnight ago, the White House announced that President George Bush had asked Mr Rumsfeld, 72, to stay on into his second term. Since then at least four senior Republican senators, as well as William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, the neo-conservatives' house magazine, have called for his dismissal.

Mr Rumsfeld's latest troubles began when he shrugged off a US National Guardsman's complaint that military vehicles did not have adequate armour. "You have to go to war with the army you have, not the army you might like," he responded in words seized on by critics as evidence of arrogance and being out of touch with the reality of a war in which some 1,300 US soldiers have been killed.

The remark was "very troubling", said Senator Susan Collins of Maine, adding her voice to those of John McCain, Chuck Nagel and Trent Lott, the former Senate majority leader.

The US National Guard also announced yesterday that its recruiting was running 30 per cent below requirements, raising the risk of manpower strains. The Guard accounts for a quarter of total US troop strength in Iraq, crucial in the run-up to the elections scheduled for the end of January.

But for Mr Rumsfeld to step down now would amount to an admission that major mistakes had been made in Iraq - highly unlikely from a president who is famously reluctant to admit to the slightest error.

The grumbling is also audible within the military high command at the Pentagon, which has long been unhappy at Mr Rumsfeld's insistence on fighting the war in Iraq with what, in their view, is too small a force without enough armour.

General Norman Schwarzkopf, the commander in the 1990-91 Gulf War, said: "I was angry when he laid it all on the army, as if he, as the Secretary of Defence, didn't have anything to do with the army."

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