Officials Expected Increased Violence in Iraq, Rumsfeld Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2004 U.S. defense officials were aware that insurgent acts in Iraq would likely escalate after the transfer of sovereignty to an interim government -- and it has, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.
"Incidents of violence have gone up, as we predicted that they would go up prior to sovereignty being passed and subsequent to sovereignty being passed as we move towards the Iraqi elections," the secretary remarked at a Pentagon press briefing with Republic of Korea Defense Minister Yoon Kwang Ung at his side.
Consequently, reported increased insurgent activity before the Iraqi elections slated for January "is not news," Rumsfeld said, noting that most insurgent activities are centered in just four of Iraq's 18 provinces.
Rumsfeld and Yoon had conducted their annual conference to discuss mutual defense issues. Yoon said he and Rumsfeld discussed continued deterrence against a potential North Korean threat and U.S. force realignment issues pertaining to the Korean Peninsula.
Regarding current efforts to coax North Korea to give up its suspected nuclear weapons program, Rumsfeld noted, "the goal is to achieve a diplomatic success through negotiations with the North Koreans."
Yoon added that he and Rumsfeld also talked about global terrorism and how their countries can further cooperate "in rooting out inhumane terrorism."
"The Republic of Korea," Rumsfeld said, "is playing a leading role in combating extremists who threaten the civilized world," noting his Oct. 10 visit with ROK troops stationed in Irbil, Iraq.
Since the June 28 transfer of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government "incidents of violence have gone up," Rumsfeld reiterated, and he said officials also figured that insurgents would attempt to derail the Iraqi national elections slated for January.
The secretary pointed to the success of the Oct. 9 nationwide elections in Afghanistan, calling them "a breathtaking, wonderful accomplishment for the world."
Skeptics who'd predicted the Afghan elections wouldn't come off as planned "were wrong," Rumsfeld pointed out. Today, he said, 25 million Afghans "are liberated, and voting for their own government, for the first time."
In Iraq, a similarly sized population also has been liberated from tyranny, Rumsfeld pointed out. Iraqis now have the chance to establish "a free, democratic country that is respectful of all elements within the country," he said.
America has sent its best men and women to battle terrorists in Iraq, and 30 other countries, including the Republic of Korea, "have sent theirs, and we're deeply grateful for that," Rumsfeld said.
The United States and other nations have sent money for Iraqi reconstruction projects, Rumsfeld observed, noting that Iraqi schools and hospitals are again up and running. The Iraqis, he continued, "have a currency, and they have a stock market. They have food and they have a good crack at making it."
Rumsfeld remarked that "some very bad people" want to take Iraq back "to a place where there are mass graves of tens of thousands of people." Yet, it's up to Iraqis "to be the ones to make that country work," the secretary acknowledged. "Others can't do it for them," he said.
Noting that the Iraqi people "are demonstrating courage every day," Rumsfeld said many are paying for their new freedoms with their lives.
"The overwhelming majority" of Iraqis want elections, the secretary said. And while Iraqis don't want the coalition forces to stay there forever, they do want them there now so they can have elections and get on with their lives, he added.
"And I don't call that a quagmire," Rumsfeld declared.
Rumsfeld praised the ROK for sending 3,700 troops to Iraq, noting that the U.S. and South Korea militaries have enjoyed a close relationship since the 1950-53 Korean War.
A key tenet of the U.S.-South Korean alliance, the secretary noted, "is to see that there is a healthy deterrent that dissuades anyone from thinking that they can disturb the peace on that (Korean) peninsula." The U.S. and South Korean partnership, he added, enhances stability within the region.
U.S. forces in South Korea, currently about 37,000 troops, are expected to decrease by about 12,000 over the next three years as part of American global force level adjustments. And South Korea, Rumsfeld said, will assume more of its security needs "as we adjust our relationship going forward."