BY RICHARD SISK
WASHINGTON – More than 70% of U.S. troops in Iraq oppose the stay-the-course strategy of President Bush and favor pulling out within a year, according to a poll released yesterday. The LeMoyne College/Zogby poll of 944 troops from all services interviewed at “several undisclosed locations” in Iraq showed that more than one-third of the 72% favoring a pullout would begin withdrawals immediately. Only 23% backed Bush’s position that they should stay in Iraq “as long as they are needed” and by a margin of more than 2-to-1 they agreed that putting down the insurgency would require at least doubling the number of U.S. troops to more than 275,000.
The results of the poll bucked the contention of Bush supporters that the troops backed the war despite surveys showing that solid majorities of U.S. civilians now believe the invasion was a mistake.
Other surprising results in the poll showed that 85% of the troops said that the war was in retaliation for former dictator Saddam Hussein’s role in the 9/11 attacks, although the 9/11 commission rejected any connection between the terror attacks and Saddam.
The survey was released during the latest round of bloodletting and as Iraqi officials put off forming a new government.
“The latest incidents have delayed forming the government, which was already difficult,” said Iraq national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie.
“If we are lucky it will take us at least two months,” al-Rubaie, a member of the ruling Shiite alliance, told Reuters.
In Washington, Army Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, warned that any delay in reaching a political settlement could trigger a full-blown civil war.
Maples told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “we’re in a very tenuous situation right now” in Iraq.
COURTSEY OF DAILY NEWS