Rumsfeld Expects Immediate Troop Reduction After Iraq Election
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2005 The United States expects to reduce its troop numbers in Iraq by more than 17,000 following the Dec. 15 national elections, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Dec. 8.
Rumsfeld, speaking on PBS' "News Hour With Jim Lehrer," said he expects to reduce the force, which surged to about 155,000 to ensure adequate security for the elections, to the previous baseline of 137,000 or 138,000.
"I'm sure of that," he said, noting that violence is expected to drop following the upcoming election, as it did following the Oct. 15 referendum on the constitution and the Jan. 30 election earlier this year.
"If the past is a guide, we'll undoubtedly see that to be the case," the secretary said.
Following that initial drawdown, decisions on further reductions will be based strictly on conditions and circumstances on the ground and the Iraqi security forces' capability, Rumsfeld said.
"This is a process that will go on," the secretary said. "And as that happens, we will be able to pare down our forces as the conditions permit."
Rumsfeld said he expects field commanders to recommend more reductions as Iraqi security forces grow in size and experience.
Iraq's security forces continue to take on increasing responsibility, he noted. They've taken control of 17 bases and security responsibility for a province and about half of Baghdad, he said.
"They are going to be very much in charge of the election on Dec. 15 in terms of the security for that," Rumsfeld said.
Terrorists, recognizing how much they stand to lose, "will clearly try to make this election a failure," the secretary predicted, but won't succeed in blocking Iraq's political progress.
"They failed to do it in January. They failed to do it in October with respect to a constitutional referendum," he said. "And they're going to fail to do it next week. But they will try."