Monday, September 25, 2006

Iraq war fueled Islamic radicals: retired U.S. general

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The conduct of the Iraq war fueled Islamic fundamentalism across the globe and created more enemies for the United States, a retired U.S. Army general who served in the conflict said on Monday.

The views of retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste appeared to buttress a grim assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies, which concluded the war had inspired Islamist extremists and made the growing militant movement more dangerous.

The Iraq conflict, which began in March 2003, made "America arguably less safe now than it was on September 11, 2001," Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004-5, said in excerpts of remarks released ahead of his appearance at a hearing called by U.S. Senate Democrats.

"If we had seriously laid out and considered the full range of requirements for the war in Iraq, we would likely have taken a different course of action that would have maintained a clear focus on our main effort in Afghanistan, not fueled Islamic fundamentalism across the globe, and not created more enemies than there were insurgents," Batiste said.

Batiste, who was among retired generals who called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld earlier this year, said the Pentagon chief had refused to acknowledge the potential for insurgency, and forbidden military planners to develop a blueprint for securing Iraq after the war.

"At one point, he threatened to fire the next person who talked about the need for a post-war plan," Batiste said.

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