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Wednesday, June 25

Lugar says U.S. efforts lagging in Iraq

By Maureen Groppe and Erin Kelly | GNS

WASHINGTON - A day after returning from viewing reconstruction efforts in Iraq, the Senate's leader on foreign relations said the United States has to ``fundamentally correct'' its ability to help nations like Iraq rebuild and become working democracies.

``We must reorganize our military to be there a long time,'' Indiana Republican Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday.

Lugar said the United States:

- Does not have the correct military structure to provide police and civil administration.

- Has not worked out how much money will be needed and where it will come from.

- Needs to organize other nations to help.

- Must undertake a public relations campaign aimed at both the Iraqis and the American public to make sure they know the United States is committed for the long haul.

``We haven't won it,'' Lugar said of the war. ``We're in it.''

Before the United States invaded Iraq, Lugar had criticized the Bush administration for not doing enough to prepare for what would happen after it controlled Baghdad. He has continued to press the issue and arranged to go to Iraq with Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, the committee's top Democrat, and Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, the panel's No. 2 Republican.

The delegation met with Paul Bremer, the top U.S. civilian in Iraq who is leading reconstruction efforts, attended a meeting of an interim advisory council of Iraqis, met with Iraqi religious leaders and toured a police academy.

The Iraqi police force, 70,000 strong before the war, is down to about 30,000 people. Biden said U.S. and Iraqi officials estimate it will take five years to train an effective police force.

Meanwhile, it costs the United States $3 billion a month to keep troops stationed in Iraq, Biden said.

``The biggest question I heard from the troops was, `How long are we going to be here senator?' " Biden said.

Because reservists, whose service is limited, are filling most of the police and civic affairs roles, Lugar said the United States may need to commit more people who are there for the duration.

Both Biden and Lugar said it's unclear how much money will be needed and where it will come from. But there is definitely not enough money from Iraq's oil and other assets to meet the needs.

``The oil revenues are not going to be the cornucopia that many people thought they would be,'' Biden said.