Troop Levels in Iraq Must be Balanced Carefully, Officials Say
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2006 The level of U.S. forces in Iraq must be balanced so as not to create an occupying force, but to still be effective and able to maintain a secure environment, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told a House of Representatives committee here yesterday.
"No country wants foreign forces permanently in their country; we have no desire to have our forces permanently in that country," Rumsfeld said at a hearing of the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. "The goal is to have sufficient forces."
Having too many U.S. forces in Iraq could create a feeling of occupation and influence more people to join the cause of the insurgents, Rumsfeld said. But another real risk is the Iraqis developing a dependence on the U.S. for their basic needs, he added. American troops have a can-do attitude and will help with anything that needs to be done, but the ultimate goal is for Iraqis to take responsibility for their own country, he said.
"We're not there to do nation-building," he said. "They're going to have to build their own nation. It's going to be an Iraqi solution, ultimately."
No easy solution exists to finding the right balance of troops in Iraq, Rumsfeld said, but the military commanders in the area are working on it, and the troop levels have always been what they requested and the Joint Staff has agreed to.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed Rumsfeld's comments, saying that since he became a member of the Joint Staff in 1991, military leaders, not civilians, have determined the size of the force.
"Not once have I felt any pressure to give anything other than my best military advice, and the troop levels that are there now and that have been there in the past have been based on that best military advice by the uniformed members of the armed forces, who are responsible to this nation for making those kinds of recommendations and choices," Pace said.
Both Rumsfeld and Pace lauded the progress being made in Iraq. The Iraqi security forces have dramatically increased in capability since last year, and with U.S. support, will continue to grow, Pace said. Rumsfeld pointed to the functionality of the country, citing the development of a stock market and a free press.
Violence still occurs every day in Iraq, but the terrorists have been defeated many times in their attempts to disrupt the political process, Rumsfeld said. Work remains to be done, and the process will not always be a pretty picture, but the terrorists will be defeated because they must be, he said.
The alternative, he said, is turning Iraq, along with its vast resources, over to terrorists. "I think the thought of that is just fundamentally unacceptable," he said.