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Sessions says war disappointment, backs Gates choice

By Ben Evans
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions called sustained U.S. troop levels in Iraq after three years of war a "great, great disappointment," but he said the effort is not hopeless and the man nominated to succeed Donald Rumsfeld could turn things around.

Sessions, a Republican from Mobile, met with defense secretary nominee Robert Gates for almost an hour Monday, discussing Gates' position on the war as well as his long-term views on containing Islamic extremism.

"My impression is that he's just a solid choice," said Sessions, a member of the Armed Services Committee, which is slated to vote on Gates' nomination today.

Sessions said the two agreed that the war is not going well but that quickly withdrawing troops is not an appropriate response. He said Gates, with decades of experience in Washington, would bring a fresh perspective on the war.

Gates, who was CIA director under the first President Bush, is now president of Texas A&M University. He has said that leaving Iraq now would create further chaos and bloodshed.

Sessions said he agrees with Gates that embedding more U.S. troops with Iraqi forces is the most effective strategy for stabilizing the country.

Sessions said his office is undertaking a comprehensive review of the war effort, but he stood by his position that the country must stay the course while adjusting strategies and tactics.

In 2003, Sessions wrote a letter to Rumsfeld arguing that American forces could not be effective peacekeepers in Iraq and urging the defense secretary to quickly withdraw U.S. troops after the invasion. He has since argued that his call to reduce troops came before the increase in violence. As circumstances have changed and the country has grown more unstable, he has backed keeping soldiers in Iraq, he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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