Washington (AFP) Dec 19, 2006
US costs to support the Iraq war are likely to top 110 billion dollars in the current fiscal year, White House budget director Rob Portman said Tuesday. Portman said that emergency spending for the war effort in the year that started in October "will be in excess of 110" billion dollars, but that a final figure had not yet been reached.
The final amount "depends on a lot of things that are not yet decided, one is policy going forward, which is clearly a major factor," Portman told reporters at a briefing.
News reports had suggested that the Pentagon will seek between 127 and 160 billion dollars in emergency military funds.
Such supplementals have helped fund the US Army's campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, although the bulk of the monies have been allocated to operations in Iraq.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will release a fuller projection of the Iraq war costs early next year.
The figure would be a supplemental spending request for the fiscal year that began October 1.
Portman said OMB officials were working on reaching a final figure with the Pentagon.
Any fresh funding request would be in addition to the 70 billion dollars already written into the 2007 budget for the US military's operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bush considering troop increase in Iraq: White House
"It's something that's being explored," spokesman Tony Snow said amid media reports that the president might add tens of thousands of US soldiers to help quell what the Pentagon now warns is the worst violence on record.
Snow also denied a news account that the US Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously disagree with a White House plan to send between 15,000 and 30,000 more US troops to Iraq for as many as eight months.
The newspaper, citing unnamed US officials familiar with the "intense" debate, said the military commanders were against the plan because the force's mission has not been defined.
And top Pentagon officials have told Bush that a short-term troop increase could give a boost to virtually all the armed factions in Iraq, without strengthening the position of the US military or Iraq's security forces in the long term, the Post reported.
US troop levels in Iraq have dipped to 129,000 over the past week but have generally hovered around 140,000.
"I think people are trying to create a fight between the president and the joint chiefs where one does not exist," said Snow. "He has asked military commanders to consider a range of options and they are doing so."
But Bush, due to unveil a new plan for Iraq next month, "has not made a decision on the way forward," said Snow. "The president is going to do things in response to military necessity, and he will work with the joint chiefs."
The US president has come under mounting pressure to change course in Iraq after an election in which his Republicans lost control of the US Congress and after a high-powered commission warned his current approach was failing.
"There's an assumption that people have been given marching orders, and at this point, the President is asking folks to take a look at a number of things. And so I don't want to go any further than that," said Snow.
His comments came after the Pentagon warned that violent attacks in Iraq have soared to the highest level on record and that Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia poses the single biggest threat to stability.
The quarterly report, mandated by Congress and released just hours after former CIA chief Robert Gates was sworn in Monday as the new defense secretary, said there was an average of 959 attacks per week between August 12 and November 10.
"Attack levels -- both overall and in all specific measurable categories -- were the highest on record during this reporting period," read the 53-page report, titled "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq."
"The violence in Iraq poses a grave threat to political progress," the report said, adding that some of the increase "could be attributed to a seasonal spike in violence during (the holy month of) Ramadan."
The Pentagon data came nearly two weeks after a report by a 10-member panel of policy experts headed by former secretary of state James Baker said there was "significant (US military) underreporting of the violence in Iraq."
The US military's "standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases. A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack," read the Baker report.
It added: "a roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn't hurt US personnel doesn't count."
Source: Agence France-Presse
White House Office of Management and Budget
Iraq: The first techonology war of the 21st century
Jordan's King Warns Of War
Washington (UPI) Dec 19, 2006
After holding talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmnet in the Jordanian capital, Amman, Tuesday, King Abdullah of Jordan warned that in the absence of a prompt resolution to the longstanding Middle East conflict, everyone in the region will lose.
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