Rumsfeld: Security Role Shifting from Coalition to Iraqi Forces
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 19, 2004 U.S. and coalition military officials are working with Iraq's interim government to fashion a military chain of command for the Iraqi forces, according to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
The two sides are developing "linkages" at the top, the middle and lower levels of the Iraqi army, national guard, police, border patrol and site protection forces, Rumsfeld told National Public Radio's Juan Williams during a July 16 interview.
"It'll take a little while to get it working smoothly," Rumsfeld said, "but they have a very good relationship and they feel quite good that ... the approach that's being taken by the new government is well understood by our forces and coalition forces. And I feel that they're off to a darn good start."
To date, he said, the U.S.-led coalition has trained about 206,000 Iraqis for the security forces. In some cases they need more training. In many cases, they need better equipment.
Along with trucks and weapons, Rumsfeld stressed, "they also need this chain of command and the mid-level leadership, the noncommissioned officer leadership and linkages with the coalition's forces." Recruiting, training and equipping new people will be a continual process, he added, noting the NATO has agreed to help train and equip more Iraqi forces.
The United States and Iraq have asked several countries to provide more troops for the security operation in Iraq. These include Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Morocco, Rumsfeld said.
Over the past six months, he said, U.S. and coalition forces have been shifting the weight of the security mission to the Iraqi forces. They began by conducting joint patrols, and then supplementing those with individual Iraqi patrols and counter terrorist activities, with coalition forces in a supporting role.
"As Iraqis get better equipped, as their numbers continue to go up, as their chain of command becomes more effective," Rumsfeld said, "what we'll see is that they will be taking a larger and larger role, and the coalition forces will be more in a supporting role."
At present, coalition officials are satisfied with the number of coalition troops in Iraq. Military leaders must be "cocked and ready" should the need for troops increase or decrease, Rumsfeld said.
Plans have been made to add troops if required, he said, and "by the same token, if we see the effectiveness of the Iraqi security forces increasing and the need for U.S. and coalition forces declining, we are also prepared to begin bringing them home. The circumstances on the ground will dictate what'll happen."
If the security situation deteriorates as Iraq gets closer to elections, he said, the coalition "might have to react to that." If the situation continues to calm down, as it has over the last few weeks, military officials could consider reducing the size of the coalition forces, he added.