Rumsfeld warns US troops could stay in Iraq for many years

As America scrambled desperately to find a workable formula to speed the handover of political power in Baghdad, Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, warned yesterday that even with a new government in place US forces might remain in Iraq for two years or more.

Speaking as he arrived for talks in Japan - the latest country to refuse to send troops to join the US-led coalition in Iraq because of rising violence - Mr Rumsfeld reiterated that the political transition would be faster than originally intended. But he admitted that the speed of change would not mean US forces, who now number some 130,000, would leave any earlier.

The future political arrangements for Iraq will top the agenda during President George Bush's discussions with Tony Blair during his state visit next week. But Washington faces a dilemma - how to hand over political control as quickly as possible without being seen to cut and run.

After the sudden recall this week of Paul Bremer, the chief civil administrator in Iraq, for consultations in Washington, it has become clear that the old timetable calling for a constitution before power is transferred has been torn up.

Instead the most likely sequence now is the formation of a new government, drawn in part or whole from the existing US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, followed by elections early next year to a constituent assembly that would draft a permanent constitution for a democratic Iraq. But several members of the 24-man IGC have called for a quick withdrawal of US troops, arguing that their presence only deepens public resentment and boosts sympathy for the resistance that has killed more than 60 US and Allied troops this month alone. A new government, dependent on the continuing military presence envisaged by Mr Rumsfeld, risked appearing a mere puppet of the occupying forces. Douglas Feith, under-secretary of defense for policy, said: "We intend to stay the course in Iraq, but we don't want to rule Iraq."

Mr Feith, the Pentagon's third-ranking civilian official and a leading neo-conservative in the Bush administration, told a meeting of the Council for Foreign Relations that the goal was "to transfer as much authority to Iraqis as soon as possible". But he implicitly criticised the IGC, whose sluggish performance has annoyed many officials in Washington. Mr Feith said the council had accomplished many things but needed to do "much more" - a pointed reference to the December 15 deadline for the IGC to set a timetable for a new constitution, which it may miss.

Washington is determined to present the faster political transition as a plan devised by the Iraqis rather than something imposed on them. For the White House, the important thing is to prevent events slipping out of control at the very moment Democrats are rounding on Mr Bush's handling of Iraq policy. Adding to Mr Bush's problems, a recent poll showed rising public scepticism about the rationale on which he took America to war, with 61 per cent of people saying that more time should have been allocated to the hunt for the alleged weapons of mass destruction.

But Mr Feith was unrepentant about the decision to invade. "Intelligence is never perfect but that's not grounds for inaction," he said yesterday.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine