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Rumsfeld: Don't Draw Conclusions From Decision on Deployment

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2006 – The decision to delay deployment of one Army brigade from Germany to Iraq does not mean officials have decided to draw down troops in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.

Concluding that putting an Army brigade's deployment to Iraq on hold makes a statement about Iraq's stability or a troop drawdown ahead is like "taking one tulip and deciding it's spring," the secretary said on a radio talk show.

It's premature to draw sweeping conclusions from the decision to keep the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, in Schweinfurt, Germany, until further notice, Rumsfeld told Brian Kilmeade and Andrew Napolitano on Fox News Radio's "Brian and the Judge Show."

The Pentagon announced the decision, which affects about 3,500 active-duty soldiers, May 8. "This is a very narrow decision to hold one brigade from deploying and to give the commanders on the ground additional time to continue their assessments," DoD spokesman Bryan Whitman told Pentagon reporters the day of the announcement.

"What's happened is that (Army) General (George) Casey, (commander of Multinational Force Iraq), recommended and the president and I approved a delay in the movement of that particular unit into Iraq, at the request of General Casey," Rumsfeld said. "Now, might it go in later? Sure. Might it not? That's possible."

The United States has 133,000 troops in Iraq and a goal to reduce that number, the secretary said. But "the fact that some unit may not be going in does not necessarily mean that the number of total troops will be going down," he said.

Rumsfeld noted that the U.S. presence in Iraq extends beyond combat brigades. He pointed to a full range of combat support and combat service support troops, including those embedded with Iraqi security forces, providing infrastructure protection, advising ministries and carrying out other critical but non-combat roles.

It's too soon to tell how Prime Minister-Designate Jawad al-Maliki's appointment of a Cabinet committed to a unity government will affect the U.S. military role in Iraq, the secretary said.

Once ministers are in place, Casey and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad will begin discussions about issues that will affect decisions about U.S. forces there, he said.

They'll talk about how quickly the United States can transfer responsibility to Iraqi security forces and how the Iraqi government can put together a budget to pay for this security. "And then we'll work out a comfortable arrangement between our two countries so that we can transfer responsibility over time as they're capable and as conditions on the ground permit to the Iraqis," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld expressed concern about Iran's impact on progress taking place in Iraq. "We're concerned about the fact that we're finding Iranian equipment that's being used to kill Americans and Iraqis in Iraq," he said. Although it's not absolutely clear that the Iranian government sent this equipment to Iraq, "it's very clear that Iranian equipment is being found there," he said.

In closing the interview, Rumsfeld praised the American people for support to the people who serve in the military. He specifically cited the Defense Department's "America Supports You" Web site.

"It lists a whole host of things that the wonderfully generous and compassionate American people are doing for the troops and for the troops' family," the secretary said. "You can go to the Web site and find things that schools are doing, corporations, clubs, churches, all kinds of activities that people are doing to let the troops and their families know how much we appreciate their superb work for our country."

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