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Pace: Collapse of Iraq army hurt security

Sept. 15, 2007 at 12:26 PM

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- The outgoing top U.S. general in Iraq says the crumbling of Saddam Hussein’s army in 2003 was a major wrench in the Bush administration’s post-war plans.

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Washington Friday the war plans mistakenly assumed Iraqi troops would be available and willing to maintain security after the former Iraqi strongman was deposed.

“They disintegrated in the face of the coalition's first several weeks of combat, so they weren't there,” said Pace, who steps down at the end of the month when his term as chairman expires.

CNN said Pace pointed to the bombing of the Golden Mosque last February as another stroke of misfortune since it ignited the long-simmering tensions between Shiites and Sunnis, and led to a horrific wave of revenge murders and bombings.

The leatherneck said he still supports the overall U.S. mission in Iraq, but would have deployed far more troops to the wobbly nation if he knew what he knows now.

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