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McCain criticizes Pentagon on Iraq war

Biden also cites concerns about 'outbreak of civil chaos'

President Bush and Sen. John McCain attend the annual Army-Navy football game Saturday in Philadelphia.
• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
John McCain

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The increase in U.S. troop strength in Iraq announced last week is not likely to be enough, Sen. John McCain said Sunday.

McCain told "Fox News Sunday" that more troops probably will be required to protect polling places during next month's elections, prosecute the fight against the insurgency and help reconstruct Falluja, the volatile city where U.S. forces have been conducting an operation.

The Arizona Republican, who has frequently been critical of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, said Sunday that he respects President Bush's decision to keep Rumsfeld in his post. But McCain declined to give the decision an endorsement.

"I respect the president," McCain said. "The president of the United States was re-elected by a majority of the American people, and I respect his right. And I will work with the president obviously and with the secretary of defense."

Asked if such comments were a vote of confidence, McCain responded, "No, it's not."

The United States is dispatching an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq and extending the stays of more than 10,000 others to bolster security ahead of January's scheduled elections, the Pentagon said last week. The moves will bring the number of U.S. troops in Iraq from nearly 140,000 to an all-time high of about 150,000, the Pentagon said. (Full story)

McCain said the problems in Iraq go deeper than troop numbers.

"The problem we have here is that the Pentagon has been reacting to initiatives of the enemy rather than taking initiatives from which the enemy has to react to," he said.

"And the problem, when you react, you have to extend people on duty there, which is terrible for morale. There's a terrific strain on Guard and reservists. If you plan ahead, then you don't have to do some of these things.

"The military," he said, "is too small."

Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware, said U.S. forces in Iraq are "still paying an awesome price for the initial failures on policy and refusal to change them of this administration, of going in with too little power and too little legitimacy."

Biden, who recently returned from a trip to Iraq, told ABC's "This Week," "We've won everything we've tried to do, including Falluja, but then we've lacked the resources to secure what we've won."

Biden said that, after his trip to Iraq, he was "less concerned about an outbreak of civil war than I am about the outbreak of civil chaos."

Biden also predicted that the Pentagon would keep troops in place until an objective has been reached, in this case the elections, "and then you're going to see them draw down again."

Asked about newly surfaced photographs that appear to show mistreatment of Iraqi detainees, McCain said he believed the United States is now treating prisoners properly.

"I think there was a period of time where we were not," he said.

Torture, said McCain -- who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War -- has been "proven time after time" to be ineffective.

"When someone has reached a degree of discomfort, they'll say anything that you want them to say," he said. "But more importantly, we are trying to eradicate from the Earth people who do these kinds of things. That [should] make us different."

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