Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf told Congress on Wednesday that he favors limiting the role of women in combat despite their stellar performance in the gulf war. The commander of Operation Desert Storm told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he favors women's rights, but said, "I do not believe we want our infantry 50 percent men and 50 percent women."
Pressed on his views by Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., Schwarzkopf said he favors "some sort of combat exclusion" rule that keeps women out of certain jobs.
He said later: "I don't think it's in our nation's best interest if we put women in infantry battalions that are going to be down in the trenches with bayonets."
But Schwarzkopf, the father of two daughters, said he could envision women as combat pilots. He said, "I have no doubt that women could perform in Army cockpits _ any cockpits."
The House, influenced by the performance of women in the Persian Gulf, recently passed legislation that would allow women a greater role in combat. The Senate will consider similar legislation soon.
In the gulf war, women flew combat helicopters and served in key logistical and operational roles. One woman was killed and another was taken prisoner of war.
The general, responding to questions on a variety of defense-related subjects, told the panel that the United States should maintain a strong military presence in the Middle East.
He said, too, that the Bush administration's peace plan for the region is "right on track," and he expressed a personal opinion that Arab countries are not committed to the destruction of Israel.
He dismissed as "poppycock" recent news reports that interservice rivalries hampered the military effort in the gulf, but acknowledged serious problems with obtaining clear-cut tactical intelligence data.
Schwarzkopf suggested that U.S. military planners devise some way of providing "tactical intelligence _ real-time intelligence" to military commanders in the field.
He said that while intelligence efforts were good, the theater commanders did not always receive the best up-to-date information they needed to run the war.
And he disclosed _ for the first time _ that the Pentagon anticipated as many as 20,000 U.S. casualties in the war against Iraq. He credited U.S. technology for keeping U.S. casualties low.
Schwarzkopf's appearance, which drew a standing-room-only crowd, may have been his last as an active duty officer because he plans to retire from the military this summer, perhaps to begin a career in politics.
_ Information from Associated Press was used in this report.