WASHINGTON — L. Paul Bremer III, who led the U.S. civilian occupation authority in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, said he had urged President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to increase postwar troop strength in the country, but his pleas were ignored.
In an interview on NBC Television broadcast Sunday night, Bremer said he sent a memo to Rumsfeld suggesting that half a million soldiers would be needed, three times the number deployed by the Bush administration.
"I never had any reaction from him," the former diplomat told NBC's Brian Williams on "Dateline."
Although he never heard back from his direct boss, Bremer said he discussed his concerns with Bush, who told him he would seek troops from other countries, but did not mention increasing U.S. forces.
Bremer thought the Pentagon painted a false picture of the capability of the Iraqi force that would take over when the Americans departed.
"I raised my concerns about the numbers and quality of these [Iraqi] forces -- really right from the beginning," he said.
Asked why he did not go public with his concerns, Bremer defended what he considered his obligation to "tell the president what you think ... in private, through the appropriate channels, as I tried to do."
Bremer's remarks echoed those he made in a 2004 speech, in which he said, "We never had enough troops on the ground" after the fall of Baghdad.