Rumsfeld Clarifies Status of Iraqi Security Forces
By Petty Officer 3rd Class John R. Guardiano, USN
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 26, 2005 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld clarified widespread media and legislative confusion over the status of U.S. and Iraqi security forces when he appeared today on NBC's "Meet the Press," ABC's "This Week," and "Fox News Sunday."
Iraq now has 168,500 members in its security forces, Rumsfeld said. "Not troops -- security forces. That's what we always say," Rumsfeld told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News. "They're a mixture of police, border guards, special commando battalions, counter-terrorist units (and) army units -- mechanized and not mechanized. Another 50,000 to 70,000 Iraqis serve as site-protection personnel, he noted.
Each type of Iraqi security force has a specific mission, Rumsfeld said. Therefore, they don't all have to be the equivalent of an American Marine or Special Forces unit.
"They're never going to be as good as (the) American military," he explained. "Our military is the finest military on the face of the earth. They're the best trained, they're the best equipped, (and) they're the best led.
"You can't look at it that way," Rumsfeld continued. "You have to say, 'What are you trying to achieve with what types of units? And where are they in their progress? And the answer is they're progressing every week, every month, to a greater degree of sophistication."
The bottom line, the secretary said, is that progress has been achieved, and progress continues. "The Iraqi security forces are getting better every day," he said. "There are more of them, and they're better equipped and better trained." Consequently, by October, as Iraq gears up for a constitutional referendum and new elections, there should be "in the neighborhood of 200,000" Iraqi security forces, he said.
Besides, Rumsfeld said, the greatest challenge facing Iraq's security forces is not their sheer size or capability; it is instead their indigenous political and administrative support network.
"The biggest problems are the ministries (of defense and interior) are weak," he argued. "The chains of command (and) the linkages between the police and the military forces -- they have to work together if they're going to repress this insurgency.
"Most people are focusing on the metrics, the hard numbers," Rumsfeld said. "But I would say the soft things -- the ministries, the chains of command -- are considerably more important."
Nonetheless, the size and capability of Iraq's security forces has emerged as an important domestic U.S. political issue, because public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans -- 65 percent, according to a recent ABC News poll cited by Stephanopoulos -- believe the United States is "bogged down in Iraq." An equal number of Americans, according to that same poll, think the United States has "no clear plan" for getting out of Iraq.
Rumsfeld acknowledged that there is understandable public concern over Iraq, but he said that "polls go up and down; and that if you start chasing polls, you're going to get seasick." Significant progress in Iraq is being made, he added -- "political progress, economic progress, and security progress."
"There's no question but the Iraqi security forces are getting better and better and have the confidence of the Iraqi people. They are increasingly out doing their job, and they are doing a very good job," Rumsfeld said.
This is important, he noted, because President Bush repeatedly has said the United States will not leave Iraq until Iraq can provide for its own security.
"Coalition forces, foreign forces," Rumsfeld explained, "are not going to be able to repress that insurgency. We're going to create an environment (in which) the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against that insurgency."
Iraqi and coalition forces are winning now in Iraq, the secretary asserted, and will win in the end against the insurgency.
"There's no question but that we're winning on the battlefield," he said. "There is not an incidence where a strategic or a tactical engagement is lost by our forces. We have truly wonderful men and women over there doing a superb job."
The insurgency, Rumsfeld noted, "doesn't have any vision. There's no Ho Chi Minh; there's no Mao; there's no nationalistic (sentiment)." Rather, he said, it's led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. "He's a Jordanian ... (who is) going out and beheading people," the secretary said.
Because the terrorists have so much to lose as the political process moves forward in Iraq, Rumsfeld said, the level of violence could rise as a new constitution, its ratification and elections for a permanent government draw closer. But with no alternative to offer, the secretary said, the terrorists' days are numbered. "They're losers, and they're going to lose," he declared.