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Benchmarks for Iraq Represent Steps Ahead, Not Firm Dates

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2006 – Benchmarks being developed with the Iraqis toward making them increasingly responsible for their own national affairs aren’t hard-and-fast timelines, but rather a basic plan for working toward that goal over the next two years, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters today.

These benchmarks, the result of months of ongoing discussions between the two countries’ leaders, address political, economic and security aspects of Iraq’s progress, the secretary said. Together, he said, they provide a basic framework for steps needed to achieve coalition and Iraqi objectives for Iraq.

“It’s the idea of saying we are here, (and) we want to get there,” Rumsfeld said. “Here are some steps to get there.”

Benchmarks being developed represent “a process, not an event,” he said. “This is not something that will be revealed or chopped in stone. It is a sovereign nation working with the coalition to see how we get from where we are through this year and through next year to accomplish the things that are in our mutual interest.”

Rumsfeld emphasized that the benchmarks aren’t date-driven, and said some milestones could occur faster or slower than hoped. “This is not about dates,” he said. “We’re looking out at the future. … Nobody can predict the future with absolute certainty.”

The advantage of benchmarks, Rumsfeld said, is that they establish priorities. And that, in turn, will help the Iraqis drive their budgeting process and legislative calendar, he said.

The benchmarks also give the Iraqi people a way to track progress as it occurs. “It allows people to point toward something and kind of track along that line,” he said. “And to the extent they're public, it gives people a sense of … the direction you're going. And that's encouraging in a democracy.”

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Donald H. Rumsfeld

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