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U.S. Can Help, But Iraqis Need To Provide Their Security, Rumsfeld Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

SKOPJE, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Oct. 11, 2004 – After a whirlwind, daylong tour of Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived here Oct. 10 for next-day meetings with Macedonian government and military officials.

Earlier in the day the secretary had visited U.S., coalition and Iraqi troops at Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq, Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Irbil.

Rumsfeld pointed out to U.S. and Iraqi military leaders in Kirkuk that without adequate security, Iraqi sovereignty "isn't sovereignty."

U.S. and coalition forces, Rumsfeld noted at Kirkuk, can assist Iraqis in establishing security across their country. "But," the secretary told the Iraqis, "you have to do it."

After meeting with about 2,000 Marines and other U.S. servicemembers at a town hall at Al Asad, Rumsfeld flew east to Baghdad to confer with senior U.S., coalition, and Iraqi military and government officials.

Right now, he noted to reporters in Baghdad after attending senior-level meetings, U.S., coalition and Iraqi officials are concentrating on measures to ensure that the January elections are successful.

The secretary then departed Baghdad for the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, a key area of the country that features oil and wheat, barley and corn farming. At a U.S. military facility in Kirkuk, Rumsfeld met with senior American military leaders and local Iraqi security forces heads.

Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste and other U.S. and Iraqi leaders briefed Rumsfeld on the situation in Kirkuk, which the general characterized as becoming more stable each day. Batiste described the successful joint U.S.-Iraqi military campaign launched Oct. 1 that defeated anti-coalition insurgents in Samarra, located south between Kirkuk and Baghdad.

The Samarra operation, Batiste noted, was a model of U.S.-Iraqi military cooperation and planning. About 5,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops were involved in the campaign that reclaimed the city from the enemy. "We had unity of command," Batiste said.

The United States is providing $13.5 million for rebuilding Samarra, which will be used for reconstruction projects and "to get people back to work," he said.

Batiste praised "the great work" accomplished by Iraqi National Guard and police forces during the Samarra operation. Rumsfeld concurred, noting that the Iraqis' performance in Samarra "has been impressive."

At Kirkuk, Rumsfeld also got to see some insurgent weaponry and gear, such as crudely made metal body armor, makeshift bombs, and a hand-made bazooka fabricated from a large pipe. Bastiste noted that his forces in the area had confiscated 24 million pounds of enemy ammunition in the past eight months.

Kirkuk security officials noted they'd recently broken up a kidnapping-for- ransom ring that had specialized in abducting local children.

Leaving Kirkuk, Rumsfeld and his group flew further north to Irbil to meet with Republic of Korea troops. The Koreans gave Rumsfeld a series of resounding cheers when the secretary arrived inside a large field dining facility. About 3,700 South Korean forces are deployed in Iraq.

Rumsfeld thanked the South Korean troops for their work in Iraq, noting that most had volunteered for the duty. The relationship between the U.S. and Republic of Korea armed forces, Rumsfeld remarked, is "an alliance that was forged in blood and sacrifice" more than 50 years ago during the Korean War.

The secretary compared the struggle against insurgents in Iraq to the time when the United States and other nations helped South Korea repel invading communist North Korean forces.

Today, South Korea enjoys democracy and a robust economy, Rumsfeld noted, while above the Demilitarized Zone the North Korean people suffer famine and other deprivations under a despotic regime.

"In a very real sense," Rumsfeld told the South Korean troops, "the Korean Peninsula symbolizes why you're here and why we are trying to help the Iraqi people build a free society."

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

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