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Next war, budget sorted $42B, now just a reason needed September 27, 2007

Posted by infidelkafirwatch in Uncategorized.
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By Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked a Senate committee Wednesday for $42 billion in additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan next year.

The request includes $11 billion for new armored vehicles to protect troops from roadside bombs and money to bring home 21,000 troops next year.

The request brings the total 2008 price tag to $189 billion for next year. Congress has approved about $450 billion for the war in Iraq and $127 billion for the war in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon already has approval to buy 8,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. The $11 billion would allow for the purchase of an additional 7,000. The vehicles have V-shaped hulls and raised chassis to deflect the force of improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs.

Troops in MRAPs are as much as four times more likely to survive an attack than those in flat-bottomed Humvees. There are about 1,100 MRAP and similar vehicles in Iraq, Gates said.

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, criticized the Bush administration for waging a “nefarious and infernal” war. He vowed that Congress would not rubber-stamp the request.

Gates acknowledged that the wars had created friction between Congress and Bush, but he called on Congress to approve the request quickly and without “excessive and counterproductive restrictions.”

He said consistent funding is critical to maintain MRAP production. Gates estimated that production will peak at 1,200 vehicles per month by December.

The $42 billion request includes $6 billion to pay for combat troops in Iraq in 2008.

That money would also pay to bring home about 21,000 troops sent to Iraq as part of a troop escalation this year.

The troops could return home next summer, under a recommendation made by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. That would bring the U.S. troop level there to about 130,000.

Further reductions will be based on improved security in Iraq. Gates indicated the possibility of a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq about a quarter of the size of the current force.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the funding proposal should be approved immediately.

Gates addressed the controversy surrounding security contractors in Iraq. They have come under increased scrutiny after 11 Iraqis were killed Sept. 16 in an incident involving Blackwater USA contractors. Blackwater has said they shot in self-defense.

The Pentagon has dispatched a team to Iraq to investigate the role of security contractors, Gates said.

There are about 7,000 security contractors working for the Defense Department in Iraq. About 5,000 guard buildings and bases.

Blackwater contractors were working for the State Department in Iraq, but the incident has raised questions, Gates said.

“My concern is whether there has been sufficient accountability and oversight,” Gates said.

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