Victory in Iraq will take time says Frist

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Operation Iraqi Freedom to oust Saddam Hussein was proceeding successfully, but acknowledged a quick end to fighting was not likely.
   "The outcome is clear, the mission is clear," said Frist in remarks made from Washington on Thursday. "The outcome will be a regime change, disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, liberation of the Iraqi people and a reduction in the threat to the United States of the use of weapons of mass destruction."
   Frist and other senators receive classified briefings every morning. He stated he felt Operation Iraqi Freedom was proceeding in a "satisfactory, successful manner." However, he cautioned against public perception that the military action would be over in a matter of days.
   "We are just seven days into this war. We do know it is going to take a long time to win this war," he said. "It is clear it is going to take a longer period but our military leaders have known that throughout."
   Twenty-four U.S. soldiers have been killed since the invasion of Iraq began last week, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Defense on Thursday. The Pentagon reported that 28 Americans had been wounded and 10 were listed as missing as of Thursday.
   Five members of the 507th Maintenance Company out of Fort Bliss, Texas are listed as captured while eight members of the company are listed as missing. The soldiers were part of a convoy that veered into hostile territory in southern Iraq earlier this week.
   The Senate passed the Military Tax Fairness Act on Thursday. The bill raises the exclusion for death gratuity payments for military and also grants tax relief to military and foreign service homeowners from capital gains taxes.
   President Bush announced his $74.7 billion wartime supplemental budget request at the Pentagon on Tuesday. The supplemental request, if appropriated by Congress, will pay for the direct costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the global war against terrorism.
   Frist said he expected the Senate to create another financial package to assist the U.S. airline industry with several airlines teetering on bankruptcy due to the war in Iraq.
   "The (package) will not solve all the problems of the airline industry but will address those issues that can be specifically tied to what this supplemental spending is all about, and that is response to the war," he said.
   Frist added that he had been following the Army's 101st Airborne units operating in Iraq during classified briefings given to senators daily. Currently, there are more than 17,000 troops from Fort Campbell deployed overseas. The 101st Airborne is based in Fort Campbell, Ky., near the Tennessee-Kentucky border.
   "I am confident that their bravery, their courage and their resolve will help bring peace to the Iraqi people and a greater sense of stability around the world," Frist said.