Defense Leaders: U.S. Remains Committed to Iraqi Government's Success
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 14, 2006 President Bush's visit to Iraq and the historic joint meeting of the U.S. and Iraqi Cabinets yesterday represent an important sign of solid U.S. support for Iraq's new government, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said.
"It's important that this government be supportive. The president wanted them to know we wanted to be supportive of them and that we wished them well," Rumsfeld told reporters on Capitol Hill yesterday following briefings with the Senate and House of Representatives on the day's events.
Rumsfeld, Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte briefed both congressional bodies about progress in Iraq following two days of sessions at Camp David.
During yesterday's media availability, Rumsfeld emphasized the importance that Iraq's first permanent government succeed.
"This is a government that was elected under a constitution drafted by the Iraqi people (and) approved by the Iraqi people, and they're there for four years," he said. "And it's important for the 28 million Iraqi people who have been liberated that they succeed. It's important for the region that they succeed, and it's important for the global war on terror that they succeed."
Army Gen. George Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Defense Minister Abdel Qader Jassim will meet in the weeks ahead to discuss the pace for a U.S. military drawdown in Iraq, Rumsfeld said. He emphasized that the troop reduction will take place "in a very orderly way" and will be based on conditions on the ground.
Those conditions depend largely on the incidence of violence in Iraq and the capability of Iraq's security forces to handle it. These forces, now at 263,000, "are vastly larger than we are," the secretary said. He noted that the U.S. now has 129,000 troops on the ground, down from a high of 160,000.
The Iraqi security forces "are increasing every day, every week, in both size and capability and experience," Rumsfeld said. As the Iraqis strengthen these forces, "we'll continue to pass off responsibility to them."
Pace said he strongly supports the prime minister's focus on creating a safe and secure Baghdad.
"His forces, supported by coalition forces, will get on about that business immediately," the chairman said. "And I think you will see us continue to provide, from a coalition point, support to his army and his police, to establish the kind of security they need to have throughout the country."
Rumsfeld pointed to progress in both Iraq and Afghanistan as examples of success in the broader global war on terror. It's an effort he said will take determination and the application of all elements of national power: military, intelligence and foreign policy, among them.
"It's a matter of putting pressure on the terrorists everywhere they are in every way we can, making things harder for them to do," he said. "It has to be more difficult for them to recruit, more difficult to move between countries, more difficult to get weapons, more difficult to move money and certainly more difficult to conduct terrorist activities."
The most open and freest countries are the most vulnerable to terrorism. That's why "we have to make sure that we take this battle to them, wherever they are," Rumsfeld said. "And it's a whale of a lot better to be dealing with them where they are than to have to deal with them here in the United States."