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Rumsfeld Travels to Central Command, Talks Troop Levels

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

SHANNON, Ireland, Sept. 4, 2003 – The totals of troops providing security in Iraq will go up, but that doesn't necessarily mean they have to be American troops, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here en route to the Central Command area Sept. 3.

Rumsfeld will make multiple stops in the region and plans to meet with American forces and with civilian and military coalition leaders.

The secretary said the coalition is continuously increasing the number of security forces in Iraq. About 140,000 U.S. service members and 20,000 to 22,000 foreign troops are now in the country. Rumsfeld said the Polish Division has taken over in its area of responsibility in the southern part of the country, continuously increasing the number of its forces.

"There is also in excess of 50,000 to 60,000 Iraqis involved in security details in that country," he said. "This is enormously important. It is their country. They are ultimately going to have to provide the security for that country."

Rather than flooding Iraq with American soldiers, Rumsfeld said, it makes better sense in his mind to strengthen the size of the Iraqi security forces the police, army, militia, border patrol as the principal effort. "That is exactly what is taking place," the secretary said.

Rumsfeld noted American military leaders do not believe more American troops are the answer. He said troops from other countries and internal Iraqi personnel are the answer to the security problem. If U.S. military leaders do ask for more American personnel, they will get them, but, he said, no one believes this is needed at the moment.

The secretary said President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have been involved in discussions with the members of the United Nations about a new mandate. "I suspect that the process will go forward in some way and we'll end up with a model that will be acceptable for everyone," he said.

He said negotiations are at an early stage "the second or third inning at the moment and they seem to be going along very well."

He said it is "unlikely" that U.S. service members would be serving under a commander from another country.

The secretary said he wants to speak with American troops in the region to "make sure they understand how important what they are doing is to the people of Iraq, the region and the world."

His last trip to the region was at the end of April and in May, and he said he believes it is important he get a feeling for the situation on the ground.

The secretary said that as the training of the Iraqi forces progresses and as other foreign formations enter the country, the need for American troops may change. "Depending on the situation, it may go up or it may go down," he said. "Right now, we believe we have the right number."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSecretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld makes a point to reporters during his flight to Iraq. Rumsfeld will make multiple stops in the region and plans to meet with American forces and with civilian and military coalition leaders. Photo by Tech Sgt. Andy Dunaway, USAF  
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