US general contradicts Cheney over Iraq


A senior US commander has said the insurgency in Iraq  is "as active as six months ago" in contradiction of vice president Dick Cheney's assertion the insurgency is "in its last throes". 

General John Abizaid, testifying at a contentious US senate hearing alongside Defence Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, gave his view of the war in response to lawmakers who expressed concern about progress in Iraq and support at home.

Gen Abizaid, the senior US commander in the Middle East, acknowledged that US troops were becoming aware of the drop in the public's confidence.

"When my soldiers say to me and ask me the question whether or not they've got support from the American people or not, that worries me. And they're starting to do that," he said.

In back-to-back hearings of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, legislators vigorously questioned Mr Rumsfeld and other military leaders.

Republican John McHugh told Rumsfeld he fears enough Iraqis are not turning their back on insurgents. "If they don't start trending in that way, I'm deeply concerned that we are looking at a long-term quagmire," Mr McHugh said.

Another concern, said Republican James Gibbons, was whether the training given to Iraqi security forces is adequate. "We seem to be rushing through the process of training," he said.

Senator Robert Byrd accused Mr Rumsfeld of responding to questions with "smart answers" and "a sneer" every time he testifies about the war.

"The American people haven't heard enough of the truth," Mr Byrd told Mr Rumsfeld, adding he should "get off his high horse".