WASHINGTON – Despite increasing attacks against Americans in postwar Iraq, no extra troops are needed there now, the war's retiring commander said Monday.
Gen. Tommy Franks (search) said rising casualties among coalition occupation forces come in pursuit of "a worthy cause" — attempting to establish democracy in Iraq. And he agreed with the much criticized comment by President Bush, who taunted attackers with the phrase "Bring 'em on!"
"The sense that I have right now is that it's not time to send in additional troops," the four-star general said in an interview marking his retirement. "We want ... to continue to move forward with establishing security by working with the Iraqis."
There are some 145,000 Americans and 12,000 coalition forces including British, Poles and others in Iraq now. Up to 20,000 international soldiers will flow into Iraq to help, beginning later this month and concluding the deployments at the end of September, the Pentagon (search) has said.
Franks' comments came as three more Americans died in Iraq, with a bomb attack on a military convoy in Baghdad (search) early Monday killing one and gunmen slaying two others in attacks hours earlier.
Franks said conditions in Iraq keep changing and that coalition forces have been moving their operations to the action.
"The thing that ... I spend most time thinking about is the notion that could lead one to believe that these coalition forces in Iraq are sitting back and waiting for something ... for these criminals and these Fedayeen Saddam (paramilitary) elements to come and attack them — and that simply isn't the case," Franks said. "This is all about offensive operations in Iraq and that's what our troops are doing."
Coalition forces have staged numerous raids in recent weeks in special operations to root out remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime and loyalists believed involved in hit-and-run attacks against occupying forces and Iraqis who cooperate with them.
But the attacks have increased. Some three dozen American and British troops have been killed since Bush declared major combat over in Iraq on May 1.
Franks, who was spending his last day in uniform Monday, lamented the deaths in Iraq — and the casualties resulting from the campaign in Afghanistan that he commanded against the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists. But he said the U.S. military actions became necessary after the Al Qaeda attacks in American on Sept. 11, 2001.
"Where we find criminals, death squads and so forth who are anxious to do damage to this country and to peace-loving countries around the world, I absolutely agree with the president of the United States — 'Bring 'em on!," Franks said.
Democrats over the weekend blasted Bush for that comment about Iraq, with Democratic White House hopeful Al Sharpton saying Bush sounded "more like a gang leader in south-central L.A. than one that is trying to institute a policy of democracy and reconstruction in the world."
"I think that it's perfectly proper for the president to say that he has confidence in our troops," said Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee. "But it seems to me unwise to engage in this kind of cocky rhetoric, because it's not going to be helpful ... either with our troops or in bringing in other countries into this issue," Levin said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Asked if he regretted the Iraq war didn't kill Saddam, Franks said he didn't know whether Saddam was dead or alive.
"I predict this: I believe that in a reasonable near term — and I won't put a number of days or weeks on it — we will either capture or kill or have confirmation of the demise of the members of the top of the regime."
Franks was retiring Monday after 36 years in uniform. He will be succeeded by Army Lt. Gen. John Abizaid, his second-in-command at Central Command.