Rumsfeld claims Iraq is not a quagmire

As Baghdad reeled from a deadly new spate of bombings, Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, insisted that the US was not losing the war in Iraq. But the top US regional commander said the insurgency was undiminished, and ever more foreign fighters were entering the country.

In sombre and sometimes highly charged exchanges with a key congressional panel yesterday, Mr Rumsfeld rejected demands that the Bush administration set a timetable for the withdrawal of the 140,000 US troopsin Iraq.

"Timing in war is never predictable; there are never any guarantees," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. A timetable would play into the hands of the resistance. "Those who say we are losing this war are wrong. We are not." Mr Rumsfeld was flanked at the witness table by the Pentagon's most senior uniformed officials, including General John Abizaid, in overall charge of operations in the Gulf. Their appearance came as the Bush administration's Iraq policy faces unprecedented difficulties, amid rising violence on the ground, growing US casualties and dwindling public support for the war.

More than 30 people have died in eight bombings in Iraq in the past 36 hours, while a leaked CIA report has warned the country is turning into an even more effective training ground for terrorists than Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Pentagon commanders are worried about the growing sophistication of the bombs and other devices used against US troops. More than 1,700 US soldiers have died in Iraq, and more than 10,000 have been wounded, while hardly a day passes without new reports of problems in attracting new recruits to bolster an overstretched military.

The fiercest questioning yesterday came from Democrats, led by Edward Kennedy. "Isn't it time for you to resign?" asked the Massachusetts senator, blaming Mr Rumsfeld for a series of "gross errors and mistakes" that had made an "intractable quagmire".

The Defence Secretary and his colleagues vehemently rejected the dreaded "Q word", so redolent of Vietnam. But "more foreign fighters are coming into Iraq than there were six months ago," General Abizaid conceded, implicitly contradicting Vice-President Dick Cheney's recent assertion that the insurgency was "in its last throes".

Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat on the committee, seized on the discrepancy, claiming it as further proof the administration was refusing to face facts. "I don't know that I would make any comment about that other than to say there's a lot of work to be done," was all General Abizaid could say.

Joe Biden, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned: "The security situation has got worse rather than better, and the President has got to level with the American people. More jihadists, more al- Qa'ida operatives, are crossing the Syrian border into Iraq."

The United States could still win in Iraq, he added, "but only if the White House corrects course, rather than just promising to 'stay the course'."

Mr Biden, who has all but declared he will run for the presidency in 2008, was speaking after a meeting with the visiting Iraqi Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who holds talks with President Bush today.

Several leading Republicans too have accused the administration of painting an over-rosy picture of events in Iraq.

Public disillusion over Iraq has driven Mr Bush's approval ratings down to little over 40 per cent, the lowest of any second-term president since Richard Nixon. He is expected to make a major speech on Iraq early next week, to mark the first anniversary of the handover of government to Iraqis.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent