Rumsfeld Says Coalition Making Progress in Iraq, Will Stay Course
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2004 Despite escalated violence in Iraq that is likely to continue through the elections in January, the coalition remains committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure that terrorists don't find a safe haven in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Oct. 2 on Fox News Channel.
"A free and democratic Iraq is exactly what the terrorists and extremists don't want," Rumsfeld said during an interview on "The Big Story Weekend with Rita Cosby" show. "It will harm their goals for that part of the world in a very serious way. So they are going to do everything they can to try to prevent it."
But Rumsfeld expressed little doubt about the outcome of the conflict, noting the coalition has put "a big dent" in the resistance. "We are going to win," he said. "The extremists are going to lose."
The defense secretary said there's no easy timetable to gauge when U.S. and coalition troops will leave Iraq.
"It depends totally on the security situation in the country," he said. "The situation on the ground is going to determine the pace in which the Iraqi security forces are deployed and the rate at which U.S. and coalition forces either increase or decrease" their presence.
Although the number of U.S. troops in Iraq is down -- 137,000 now, compared to a high of about 150,000 -- Rumsfeld said it's not unforeseeable that U.S. force strength might not actually increase in anticipation of Iraq's elections. But the defense secretary said he has received no request for more troops from Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command.
Rumsfeld said it's unlikely that Iraq will be "perfectly peaceful" when the coalition leaves. "I think it will be a situation where the Iraqis have developed the ability to mange their situation from a security standpoint and we will have a mutual agreement that it makes sense" to leave at the time, he said.
The bottom line, he said, is that the coalition will leave when the time is right -- staying no longer than necessary, but as long as necessary. "We want to go in and be helpful and leave," he said. "That's basically the American way."
In the meantime, Rumsfeld said, the coalition remains committed to helping Iraq establish a security environment where its new democratic government can take root. "Success in Iraq is enormously important to the rest of the world," he said, noting the "wonderful influence" a democratic Iraq will present to the region.
The biggest threat facing Iraq right now, he said, comes from terrorists doing everything in their power to hold on to power and prevent that from happening. "The risk is that the terrorists and the extremists and the people who are running around chopping off people's heads and killing innocent men, women and children (want to) take over that country," he said.
"Imagine a country ruled by people who go around chopping off heads. That's a dark future," Rumsfeld said. "The Taliban rule (in Afghanistan) is a perfect recent example of what Iraq would look like."