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'Have to Expect Problems' During Iraqi Elections, Rumsfeld Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2004 – Insurgents realize upcoming Iraqi elections represent a tremendous threat to their interests, the Defense Department's senior civilian told radio personality Sean Hannity Dec. 15.

Consequently, U.S., coalition and pro-government Iraqi forces "certainly have to expect problems" before and during the January voting, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld remarked from the Pentagon during Hannity's New York City- based ABC Radio Network show.

Insurgents seeking to derail the establishment of a free, democratic Iraq "will have lost an enormous deal" if nationwide elections are conducted successfully, the secretary pointed out. Therefore, Rumsfeld said, insurgents have "every incentive for the rest of this month and next month to do everything they can to try to disrupt" the elections.

Insurgents continue to employ improvised explosive devices and vehicle-borne bombs against U.S., coalition and Iraqi forces. However, "a great deal has been done" in recent months to bolster force protection against such devices, Rumsfeld noted.

For example, U.S. military officials noted Dec. 15 that 61 percent of vehicles in the Iraqi theater of operations have received additional armor to help reduce the effects of IED attacks. Today, 80 percent of light tactical vehicles -- the type of vehicles most often associated with casualties caused by IEDs and other enemy ordnance -- have been up-armored, reported Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, who works Army logistics issues at the Pentagon. And 98 percent of light tactical Humvee vehicles and heavy trucks will be armored by March 2005, Sorenson said.

The DoD and the Army, Rumsfeld said, have done "a very aggressive job of seeing that additional armor is provided, given the fact that we have suffered losses from these vehicle-borne (explosive) devices, as well as the stationary devices."

And, Rumsfeld noted, special research teams' efforts "have been steadily improving the rate" at which IEDs and other explosive devices used by the enemy in Iraq are discovered and rendered harmless.

Regarding current U.S. troop levels in Iraq, Rumsfeld said that all senior military leaders "agree that we have the right number of troops." That's not to say, he added, that "outside" critics couldn't voice their opinions.

Criticism of government policy during wartime isn't new, Rumsfeld observed, noting that decisions made by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were often second-guessed and savaged by politicians, pundits and reporters of the day.

However, the secretary noted, the country has "always survived" public discourse during wartime. "We've got through that, and we'll get through this," he said.

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Biographies:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld

Related Sites:
Transcript of Secretary Rumsfeld's Dec. 15, 2004, Interview with Sean Hannity



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