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White House Says Addressing Equipment Concerns

(file photo) 11 December 2004 -- The White House says it is addressing concerns by U.S. troops about a lack of armor and other equipment necessary for Iraq.

The pledge came at a briefing yesterday by White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "Let me reiterate, the President [George W. Bush] is committed to making sure our troops have the best equipment and all the resources they need to do their job," he said. "And that's what he expects to happen. If there -- if our troops need additional resources or equipment, then we will work to make sure that they have that equipment and those resources."

The White House response followed a meeting with U.S. troops held by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Kuwait on 8 December.

Troops complained about secondhand equipment, and about forced extensions of duty. And they cheered when Specialist Thomas Wilson asked Rumsfeld why troops have to scavenge for armor.

"We've had troops in Iraq for coming up on three years, and we've always staged here out of Kuwait," Wilson said. "Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles and why don't we have those resources readily available to us?"

Rumsfeld's response itself sparked criticism back home. He said that "all the armor in the world" might not save soldiers from being killed. "It isn't 't a matter of money. It isn't a matter on the part of the army of desire. It's a matter of production and capability of doing it [armoring vehicles]," he said. "As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish at a later time."

The troops' concerns are not new. But it's rare for them to be raised so loudly -- and in a direct confrontation with the defense secretary.

Correspondents say it's one of several recent incidents that demonstrate a growing restiveness among U.S. troops in the Middle East.

The Rumsfeld meeting came just two days after eight U.S. soldiers in Kuwait and Iraq filed a lawsuit challenging extended tours of duty.

And in October, up to 19 Army reservists refused to drive unarmored trucks on a mission near Baghdad because it was too dangerous.

(compiled from wire reports)

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