Rumsfeld Praises Iraqi Security Forces, Says to Expect Ups and Downs
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 11, 2004 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld praised the progress being made in training the new Iraqi security forces for their critical role in their country's future, but warned naysayers that it's unrealistic to expect too much too quickly.
Rumsfeld told service members, DoD civilians and government contractors at a Pentagon town hall meeting today that they're likely to hear "mixed" reviews of Iraq's security forces in the weeks ahead. This, he said, is because they've been recruited quickly, have received different amounts of training and have mixed equipment capabilities all issues Rumsfeld said are being addressed.
"Is it perfect? No," the secretary said. "But is it making good progress? You bet. I think it's a real accomplishment, the work that has been done and the number of security forces that exist today."
Currently, more than 210,000 Iraqi security forces are on duty or in training. They make up the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, the Iraqi Police Service, the Iraqi Facilities Protection Service, the Iraqi armed forces and the Border and Customs Police.
Rumsfeld said critics of these forces should resist the temptation to compare them to the U.S. military. "What we need to do is recognize that they are never going to be as good as our folks," Rumsfeld said. "Our folks are fabulous and they do it so well."
The secretary said Iraq's security forces "are not going to measure up (to U.S. forces) for a long, long time, if ever." But it's not necessary that they do so to ensure their country's security.
He compared the training coalition troops are providing the Iraqi security forces to a father teaching his child to ride a bicycle, and said the coalition must be willing to let the Iraqis make mistakes and learn from them.
"At first, you're putting your hand on the back of the bicycle seat and you have your child up there trying to ride the bicycle, and you have to hold on to it for dear life so they don't fall," Rumsfeld said. Soon, he said, you use just four fingers, then eventually just one, before finally letting go.
"And they might wobble and fall. In which case, you pick them up, dust them off, put them back up," Rumsfeld said. "But if you don't take your finger off, you are going to end up with a 40-year-old who can't ride a bicycle."
Rumsfeld said the learning process "won't be perfect," but emphasized that it wasn't perfect for any country that has gone from a vicious dictatorship to a more free system. "They are going to have to try it, succeed, fail, partly fail, pick up, and get at it again," he pointed out.
The secretary said the Iraqis have proven that they have the guts and perseverance to succeed. Already, more than 300 Iraqi security force members have been killed. "Does that sound like they're hiding in their barracks or afraid?" he asked. "No. There are some darn good people out there."