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Bush asks for additional $80 billion for Iraq

From Wolf Blitzer

Iraqi boys watch a U.S. 24th Infantry Division soldier on patrol Monday in Mosul.
Wolf Blitzer Reports
George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush is asking Congress for an additional $80 billion -- most of which would pay for the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That brings the total to around $300 billion since the war began.

Bush administration officials said the ongoing war in Iraq is costing U.S. taxpayers about $4.3 billion a month.

In a statement, Bush said he would give U.S. troops "whatever they need to protect themselves and complete the mission."

The cost of the war in Iraq is clearly a lot more than administration officials had estimated before the U.S.-led invasion against Saddam Hussein's regime was launched.

When then-White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey suggested six months before the war that the mission could cost $100 billion to $200 billion he was roundly criticized by his colleagues and he eventually resigned.

In fact, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, testifying before Congress only days after the invasion began, suggested that the Iraqis themselves could wind up picking up much of the tab.

"The oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 billion and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years," Wolfowitz said in March 2003.

That upbeat assessment has not materialized.

And similarly, when it came to the number of U.S. troops that might be necessary to secure a post-Saddam Iraq, that upbeat assessment hasn't materialized either.

Before the war, the Army chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, suggested several hundred thousand U.S. troops would be required.

"We're talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems," Shinseki said in February 2003.

But at the time, Wolfowitz said that assessment was "wildly off the mark."

"It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct a war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam's security forces and his army. Hard to imagine," said Wolfowitz.

The United States has 150,000 troops in Iraq -- more than it had during the invasion, but still fewer than many critics claim are really needed to stabilize the country.

The president's additional budget request is widely expected to be approved even if the debate over the money is intense.

That's because few lawmakers want to be accused of not supporting the U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq.

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