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Soldiers to remain in Iraq till 2004: US
T V Parasuram in Washington | September 26, 2003 09:32 IST
The United States has said that significant American forces are expected to remain in Iraq through 2004 and it is difficult to predict how long they will have to remain in that country.
"These are national security decisions and they have to be made on that basis," US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
"We will be there until the job is done," he said. "It does not mean that we are not trying to in fact, get more Iraqis on the frontlines, get them dying for their country so fewer Americans have to."
Wolfowitz was testifying on the administration's request for US $87 billion to meet the occupation and reconstruction costs, most of it in Iraq and a much smaller extent in Afghanistan.
Some members wanted to know whether the money the US was spending on reconstruction could not be treated as a loan to Iraq. The US civilian administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, who was also testifying before the same committee, said that Iraq already has too much debt and will need the oil revenues for reconstruction.
Bremer said that even if President George W Bush's proposal was approved, Iraq would need about US $40 billion more over five years to pay reconstruction costs. If the US insists that Iraq use oil revenues to repay American loans, 'then necessary investments that the Iraqis should be making in their country will not happen'.
Bremer also pointed out that Iraq does not have a government that can take on long-term debt.