The White House vowed on Wednesday to veto a proposed House bill that would pay for the Iraq war only through July - a move Defense Secretary Robert Gates said would be "disastrous."
The warnings came as Gates also told reporters that his evaluation of force levels in Iraq in September will not lead to a significant troop reduction, and that at least some U.S. forces are likely to be in Iraq for a protracted period of time. According to him, he didn't know if it will take 25,000 troops or another number, but it would probably include intelligence officers, logistical support and air power, and they would be needed to maintain stability in the war-torn country.
"The evaluation in September will not lead to a precipitous decision or actions, but would point us in a new direction ... either because the surge is working, or because the evaluation is that it's not," said Gates, according to the AP. Earlier Wednesday he told senators he would consider reducing American troop levels in Iraq in the fall if the Iraqi government starts to make progress.
Meanwhile, President Bush has requested more than $90 billion to sustain the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through September. "With this latest veto threat, the president has once again chosen confrontation over cooperation," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. House Democratic leaders are pushing legislation that would provide the military $42.8 billion to keep operations going through July, buy new equipment and train Iraqi and Afghan security forces. Congress would decide shortly before its August recess whether to release an additional $52.8 billion to fund the war through September.
"In essence, the bill asks me to run the Department of Defense like a skiff, and I'm trying to drive the biggest supertanker in the world," Gates told senators Wednesday. "And we just don't have the agility to be able to manage a two-month appropriation very well."