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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Polish Troops Take Over Security in South Central Iraq

Aired September 3, 2003 - 19:06   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: And moving to the issue of Iraq.
On the same day a congressional report warns the Pentagon can't sustain current troop levels in Iraq only through March, the U.S. is getting more help and asking for still more in policing the troubled country.

Now, today, a Polish-led multinational division of about 9,000 took over responsibility for security in most of south central Iraq. Here's the handover ceremony.

And the Bush administration is turning to the United Nations for help. To some observers the announcement looks like a reversal in policy. Administration spokesmen say it is not.

We have more now from the White House, as well as from the Pentagon. First we go to White House correspondent Dana bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nearly six months after going to war in Iraq without the blessing of the United Nations, the Bush administration is going back to the U.N. for help in building the peace.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Today we have begun a new effort with respect to our diplomatic efforts to generate international support for Iraq.

BASH: Some allies have been reluctant to send troops and money to Iraq without more U.N. involvement. So in a reversal, the administration began circulating a draft proposal aimed at strengthening the U.N. role but maintains the U.S. dominance.

The resolution would create a multinational force headed by an American, who would file U.N. reports. It invites the Iraqi governing council to submit plans to the U.N. for a new constitution and elections.

POWELL: Many people have asked us for a political horizon and this resolution is a way of creating such a political horizon.

BASH: But U.S. officials made clear America's civil administrator, Paul Bremer, would still manage the political transition until Iraqis hold elections.

The White House is likely to ask Congress for billions more in funding. Democrats and republicans have been urging a return to the U.N.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: I'm very pleased that administration has made the decision go to the United Nations. It's been a long time in coming.

BASH: But it is unclear whether this proposal is too little or too late to convince reluctant countries to pitch in.

JIM STEINBERG, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The biggest obstacle that the administration faces is because they waited to so long other countries are going to insist on a much greater degree of U.N. involvement and U.N. control over the political and economic reconstruction.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And a senior administration official tells CNN the resolution was written so that there's something in it for everyone. But what skeptical Security Council members want to know is how much control the U.S. is willing to give up in order to get the help they need -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Dana. Thanks very much.

How would the U.N. work with the U.S. in Iraq? There are some precedents, and for that we turn to senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A United Nations mission under U.S. command could work as well as it does in Korea, where an American general has been in charge for 50 years.

Or as poorly as it did in Somalia in 1993, where U.S. commanders were frustrated at the slow response by Pakistani tanks needed to rescue U.S. troops trapped in a deadly firefight.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Blue helmets are very good at peace keeping. They're not any good at peace making.

MCINTYRE: In Bosnia in 1995 the U.N.'s cumbersome dual key procedure, which required U.N. bureaucrats to approve any military response, allowed Bosnian Serbs to overrun the safe area of Srebenica and massacre thousands of Muslims.

Some argue bringing in the U.N. could make things worse.

FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: I don't believe it is absolutely assured that if we have more troops under the wrong set of circumstances and perhaps of the wrong kind, that it will actually help us.

MCINTYRE: But others counter the tradeoff is worth it.

SEN. KAY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: American taxpayers have footed the bill for the war on terror almost single-handedly so far, and it's time now for other countries to step up to the plate.

MCINTYRE: In fact, a Congressional Budget Office analysis shows the U.S. can't sustain the current troop level of 140,000 in Iraq beyond next March without a significant strain on its already overstressed military.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We're joined now by senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

Jamie, I understand a secret report to the joint chiefs criticized war planners for not appropriately preparing for the reconstruction of Iraq. What kind of reaction from the Pentagon is that criticism getting?

MCINTYRE: Well, right now they're not commenting on it because as you mentioned it's still a classified document. In fact, it's not in final form.

But sources have confirmed to us that what one of the conclusions that it comes to is that essentially the Pentagon waited too long to get organized for the post-war planning and that as a result, many of the plans were rushed and inadequate.

This is part of the so-called lessons learned that the Pentagon does -- review that the Pentagon does after any conflict to try to figure out things they would could have done better.

Now, of course, how much of the problem that's being experienced in Iraq now could be prevented by better planning is unclear, but as they look back at the process, they're admitting to themselves they didn't do a very good job.

COOPER: All right. Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thanks.

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