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Rumsfeld: World Must Continue to Stand by Iraq

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2005 – Now that millions of Iraqis have defied insurgents' threats and gone to the polls to elect their new government, it's up to the rest of the world to continue standing by them as they build their democratic future, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters here today.

"On Sunday, millions of Iraqis cast their vote for freedom" in what the secretary called "a truly historic" achievement. "And we and other countries must surely understand that we must not abandon them now," he said.

Rumsfeld reiterated sentiments President Bush expressed during his Feb. 2 State of the Union address. "A free nation now sits in the heart of one of the world's most violent regions, and it is in everyone's interest to see that freedom takes root," Rumsfeld said.

The elections signal a new phase in the coalition's involvement in Iraq, he said. It's now a phase "of partnership of assisting the Iraqis in defending their country rather than [of] Iraqis assisting the coalition," he said.

In this new phase, priority will go to helping the Iraqis continue to assume more responsibility for their country's security, he said.

Rumsfeld cited continued success in recruiting and training Iraq's security forces, but said true progress is more than a numbers game. It's about capability, the secretary said, which takes into consideration not just numbers, but also training, equipment, leadership and experience, and that takes time to develop.

"No one should expect that Iraqi security forces are going to come out of some pipeline training program and become instantaneously battle-hardened veterans like the fine men and women of the U.S. military," Rumsfeld said. Most lack extensive experience and are still getting adjusted to the relatively new chain of command within the military and police forces.

But what Iraq's security forces may lack in experience, Rumsfeld said, they are helping make up for in commitment to and belief in their cause.

"It is the Iraqi people, not the coalition, who over time will defeat the insurgents," Rumsfeld said. "And they have shown that they have the heart to do that. The number of Iraqi security personnel who have died defending their country tells without question that they have the courage to do so."

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

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