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U.S. Soldier Killed in Iraq; Rumsfeld Says No Need to Increase Troop Size

Aired July 21, 2003 - 19:04   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: There seems to be no end to the deadly attack on U.S. troops in Iraq. The latest, earlier today, northeast of Baghdad, one U.S. soldier killed, four others wounded.
Numbers released by the U.S. government show the mounting death toll of American troops. You see it right there. Since the start of war, 231 soldiers have died. One hundred and thirty-eight of those lost their lives before May 1 when President Bush declared major combat in Iraq to be over. Since then, 93 troops have died, including 36 from hostile fire.

CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson joins us live from Baghdad.

Nic, another U.S. soldier died today in the ambush. Tell us what happened.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, another improvised explosive device used.

What we're told appears to have happened: this explosive device attached to a guardrail next to quite a busy highway, a highway U.S. troops use very often, about a mile -- location, about a mile from one of their large bases.

The Humvees were passing this explosive device. It was remotely detonated, very likely by somebody who could see where the troops were on the road, detonated and as the two Humvees went past, both Humvees burst into flames. One continued forward.

According to U.S. troops who were clearing up on the scene a little later, they said Iraqi passersby had saved the U.S. soldiers, at least two of them in the leading vehicle, because they had been stuck and trapped by their seat belts. The seat belts were cut by the passersby. The soldiers taken out of those vehicles, that particular vehicle.

But in the other vehicle, two people died, one a U.S. soldier, the other his translator and as you say, four others injured -- Anderson.

COOPER: Nic, based on your reporting, what we're hearing from you, I'm sensing there is some sort of a pattern here to these attacks. It seems like it is usually a U.S. patrol that comes under fire from a rocket propelled grenade or some sort of remote controlled detonated device. If there is a pattern, how are U.S. forces going to combat that pattern?

ROBERTSON: Well, certainly they try to look, they say, at the scene to find out where the device was placed, what the device was made from.

In this case they think it was an artillery shell with a timing unit. In other instances they believe it has been sticks of dynamite with timing devices. Just two days ago in the town of Fallujah, a source told them where some of the devices had been planted. They found the devices.

So through investigations like that, through investigations at this particular site, though there wasn't a lengthy investigation for security reasons, they -- they're trying to piece together the pattern.

That the pattern is that in certain towns, Baghdad, Fallujah, Rimaldi (ph), a couple of other towns, these attacks coming essentially whenever the attackers want to -- want to attack the U.S. troops.

COOPER: All right. Nic Robertson, live in Baghdad, thanks very much tonight.

U.S. military leaders hope this week to announce a rotation plan that would give battle weary American troops some relief. With the prospect of U.S. involvement in Iraq stretching into the foreseeable future, some members of Congress are pushing for a bigger deployment of U.S. troops in the region.

More now from CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fact the Army is now scrambling to find replacements to relieve exhausted soldiers in Iraq has some in Congress pressing the Pentagon to increase the size of the U.S. military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are dangerously stretched thin in the Army and other services also. Mr. Secretary, are you planning or prepared to increase the size to meet the commitments?

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: If at some point it looks as though what you suggest might be the case, turns out to be the case, clearly we will come to Congress and ask for an increase. But at the moment, we do not see that that's the case.

MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld insists the Army is plenty big enough. It's just that too many military people -- 300,000 by one Pentagon estimate -- are doing jobs that could be done by civilians.

The other half of the problem, Rumsfeld says, is that too many combat critical jobs, everything from medical personnel to cooks and supply clerks, are in the reserves.

On July 9, Rumsfeld ordered a sweeping restructuring of the military so the U.S. can wage war without so much reliance on the guard reserves. In a three-page memo obtained by CNN, Rumsfeld wrote, "I consider this a matter of the utmost urgency" and gave his military chiefs three weeks to respond.

Currently, some 200,000 reserve and guard troops are on active duty, including 40,000 supporting operations in Iraq.


MCINTYRE: After more than a decade of downsizing, the Pentagon is not anxious to do an about face.

For one thing, adding more troops to the U.S. military's end strength is an expensive proposition. And for another, it flies in the face of Secretary Rumsfeld's vision of transforming the military into smaller, lighter forces that use new technology and tactics to pack a bigger punch -- Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting report. Jamie McIntyre, thanks very much at the Pentagon.


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