Rumsfeld, Myers Praise Progress in War on Terror
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2003 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld stressed the progress the coalition is making in Iraq in the security, political and economic spheres.
Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers spoke at a Pentagon press conference today. Myers reported on his recent trip to the region including stops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld said the security situation in Iraq has improved. The deaths of Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay have served as a catalyst to convince average Iraqis that the Baathist regime is not coming back. "As a result, more Iraqis are coming forward to help as the coalition works to get the country back on a path to stability and self-government," Rumsfeld said.
As more Iraqis deliver information, coalition forces follow with raids that have netted hundreds of Baath Party supporters, ammunition and weapons, he said. Coalition forces have also captured or killed 38 of the 55 "most wanted" leaders of the former regime and "the forces have confiscated millions of dollars money that could have been used to pay dead-enders to ambush American and British troops."
There have been impressive strides on the political side as well, Rumsfeld noted. Many cities and towns have set up councils that work with coalition forces to govern the areas. At the national level, the Iraqi Governing Council has met and is taking charge. It is working to find and appoint people to lead the various ministries in a reconstituted Iraq and will soon begin the process for a new Iraqi constitution.
Economically, the coalition has started the flow of oil out of Iraq, he continued. This promises to ensure the future well being of the country.
Myers also spoke about conditions in the region. He traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan, Qatar, India, Pakistan and Oman in late July. He said he wanted to get a "feel for the pulse of the coalition operations" in the region.
The general said the most important "takeaway" in Iraq was that coalition forces are making "incredible, remarkable strides toward the security and stability of Iraq."
He stated that U.S. soldiers "understand the mission, understand why they are in Iraq and they understand the greater mission in which the war in Iraq is just one part."
"I couldn't be more impressed with our forces or with their progress in Iraq," he said. He acknowledged that more needs to be done and that the conditions for American forces are still dangerous and primitive.
Myers said that in India he met with his counterpart and discussed improving military-to-military ties. In Pakistan, he discussed operations along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. These operations are designed to track down the remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda still in the area.
In Afghanistan, Myers visited a provincial reconstruction team in the outpost of Gardez. The area was the heart of the al Qaeda-Taliban movement. "The PRTs not only create a positive effect on how the Afghan people view the coalition, but in how the people view their government," he said. "As in Iraq, I was impressed with the mission accomplishments that we're making.
"In general, the biggest shortcoming from Iraq to Afghanistan is not the accomplishment of the mission as much as it is getting the word out about the successes we're achieving every day."