Pentagon Asks for $190 Billion in War Funds

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Pentagon are seeking another $190 billion from Congress to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The figure is about $50 billion higher than earlier estimates. Much of the extra money will be used for new more heavily armored military vehicles.

TOM BOWMAN: This is Tom Bowman at the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates went to the Senate Appropriations Committee, looking for another $200 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into next year. Gates was greeted with catcalls from the anti-war protesters.

(Soundbite of protesters)

BOWMAN: And Democratic Chairman Robert Byrd of West Virginia came off like a stern country preacher.

Senator ROBERT BYRD (Democrat, West Virginia): The Congress has now appropriated over $450 billion for the nefarious infernal war in Iraq. And this committee will not, and noting, not rubberstamp every request that is submitted by the president.

(Soundbite of applause)

BOWMAN: Most of the nearly $200 billion Gates wants is for Iraq, for ongoing combat operations to repair damaged or lost equipment. Gates says it also includes $15 billion to protect troops - that includes new technologies to detect roadside bombs, the biggest killer in Iraq. He wants another $14 billion to buy thousands of new heavily armored vehicles.

Secretary ROBERT GATES (U.S. Department of Defense): We have a total requirement of about 15,000 of these vehicles for all the services, the bulk of them going to the Army and to the Marine Corps.

BOWMAN: Training and equipping the Iraqi security forces will get another $1 billion. American taxpayers already have spent at least $14 billion on the Iraqi army and police. And there's more money for military commanders to spend on local rebuilding projects.

Military officers both in Iraq and the Pentagon complain the Iraqi government is not spending enough of its own money on reconstruction, so they must fill in the gap. Democrats wanted even more details on the spending plans. And some Republicans were also weary of the price tag.

GOP Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said domestic education and health programs are under funded, he press Gates on how much the wars would cost.

Senator ARLEN SPECTER (Republican, Pennsylvania): I would appreciate it if you could supply to the committee ballpark figures, estimates, as to what the war in Iraq, Afghanistan will cost on the most favorable assumptions. And what it will cost on the least favorable assumptions.

BOWMAN: Gates pointed out that American troop levels are coming down in Iraq. But the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that even smaller levels of American troops in Iraq could cost up to $25 billion each year.

Tom Bowman, NPR News, the Pentagon.

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Iraqi Leader Seeks Support, Issues Warning

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked for international support to stabilize Iraq and bring peace to the region, warning of "disastrous consequences" for the world if the violence continues.

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, al-Maliki said his country has made some progress. He said the number of sectarian killings has been reduced and there is stability to some regions, such as Anbar Province. He said thousands of displaced families have also been able to return to their homes.

"National reconciliation is stronger than the weapons of terrorism," he said. "Today we feel optimistic that countries of the region realize the danger of the terrorist attacks against Iraq, that it is not in their interest for Iraq to be weak."

Al-Maliki also said Iraq has hundreds of political parties active within 20 political alliances; more than 6,000 civil organizations; hundreds of newspapers and magazines and 40 local and satellite TV stations. But, he said, terrorists are targeting the new Iraq.

"Terrorism kills civilians, journalists, actors, thinkers and professionals. It attacks universities, marketplaces and libraries. It blows up mosques and churches and destroys the infrastructure of state institutions," al-Maliki said.

Al-Maliki said he has warned the countries in the region that "the continued overflow of weapons, money, suicide bombers and the spreading of 'fatwas' inciting hatred and murder will only result in disastrous consequences for peoples of the region and the world."

The U.S. has long accused Iran of aiding Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq that it says have killed hundreds of American troops with powerful bombs known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs. The U.S. has also accused Iran of training fighters and sending them into Iraq.

Iran disputes those allegations, saying it does not meddle inside Iraq.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told world leaders Tuesday that the U.S. government's policy on Iraq was destabilizing the occupied country.

"They even oppose the constitution, National Assembly and the government established by the vote of the people, while they do not even have the courage to declare their defeat and exit Iraq," he said.

In a meeting with al-Maliki on Tuesday, President Bush pressed the Iraqi leader to make progress on measures deemed critical to the reconciliation process. Much-delayed action on such initiatives as a national oil law has stalled in the Iraqi parliament amid factional bickering and, in some cases, defections.

"Some politicians may be trying to block the law to gain special advantage," Bush said. "And these parties have got to understand that it's in the interests of Iraq to get good law passed."

In his speech to the General Assembly, al-Maliki only briefly noted the proposed oil law, saying his government has completed the work on it and was awaiting its approval by the Iraqi parliament.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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