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WASHINGTON — The United States will have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for three to five years, retired Gen. Tommy Franks told reporters Monday during a teleconference to mark the release of his new book, “American Soldier.”

As the commander of U.S. Central Command, Franks was the chief architect of war strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It will take up to five years to train and equip the Iraqi military and security forces, but the number of Iraqis signing up is encouraging, he said.

“When you look at the number of Iraqis signing on to the nation’s security forces, [it’s] about 200,000 now,” he said. “As the stability increases, U.S. troop involvement will begin to come down.”

And it takes time to solve the problems of 25 million people, Franks said, noting that the media continue to ignore the fact that power is distributed throughout the country, that 32,000 teachers have been trained and that 9 million textbooks are now available in Iraqi schools.

But he remained optimistic: “I believe the security situation will improve … beginning perhaps in six to eight months,” Franks said.

Franks discussed several items in the book, including his assertions that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is effective but too controlling in his management style, that the Iraq war was not planned directly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and that it was his idea for President Bush to land on the USS Abraham Lincoln to declare an end to “major combat operations” in Iraq.

President Bush needed to acknowledge the “service and sacrifice” of U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq, Franks wrote, and noted Monday that the United States needed to signal coalition partners not willing to have combat troops in Iraq that a new phase had begun, and these nations’ postcombat capabilities would be welcomed. Franks said he regretted the “unintended consequences” of his suggestion.

The event “was not so everyone could have a victory lap,” he said.

Franks disputed former anti-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke’s assertion that Bush was fixated on Iraq immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

“That isn’t the case,” Franks said. Bush “didn’t ask me in the days following 9/11” to start preparing for battle against Saddam Hussein.

It was not until shortly after Thanksgiving 2001 — after the fall of the Taliban — that Rumsfeld contacted Franks “and asked us to dust off our Iraq plans,” Franks said.

Even as the Afghanistan operation was under way, Franks said he was frustrated by the continuing attacks against U.S. aircraft monitoring the no-fly zones in Iraq.

Rumsfeld’s request “certainly didn’t chagrin me,” he said.

Rumsfeld did “chagrin” Franks with his intrusive management style, on occasion.

“You have to give people more ownership. I think he could be more user-friendly,” Franks said. “But you have to give him credit for being very, very effective.”


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