Rumsfeld: We Can't Know How Many Troops Needed In Iraq
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 2, 2003 The number of American and British forces needed to secure Iraq in the long and short term is "not knowable," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in London today.
Rumsfeld met with British Defense Minister Geoffrey Hoon during a short stop in London following a weeklong tour through the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. The two held a press conference at Heathrow Airport just before Rumsfeld departed for Washington.
"What we do know is we'll have as many forces in the country as is necessary to see that it is a sufficiently secure and permissive environment so that the humanitarian and reconstruction work can go forward," Rumsfeld said, "and so that the Iraqi people can fashion some sort of interim governmental authority, and then, ultimately, a final authority."
The number of troops necessary depends on "so many variables" that have yet to be determined, the secretary said, adding that he hopes the stabilization mission will be accomplished by a broad coalition.
At some point, he said, international officials will be discussing what role the United Nations plays in post-war Iraq. "Personally, I'm hopeful they do play a role," he said.
Rumsfeld echoed some points President Bush made during his speech May 1 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, most notably that Iraq remains a dangerous place.
"It would be a terrible mistake to think that Iraq is a fully secure, fully pacified environment," Rumsfeld said. "It is not. It is dangerous. There are people who are rolling hand grenades into compounds. There are people that are shooting at people, and it's not finished."
Iraqis attacked American soldiers in the northern city of Fallujah May 1, injuring seven American soldiers. In addition, roughly a dozen incidents of shots exchanged between Iraqis and American forces have occurred in various locations around Iraq in the past week.
Hoon noted that efforts to find weapons of mass destruction within Iraq are "continuing as we speak." He said Saddam Hussein had made determined efforts throughout the years- long U.N. inspection process to dismantle and hide such weapons and their components.
"We've always made clear that the effort to locate and precisely identify weapons of mass destruction would take some time," he said.
Hoon also said he doesn't know if Saddam Hussein is dead or alive, but that efforts to determine his whereabouts and condition continue. "We are continuing to look for all those who were engaged in what we judge to be criminal activities on behalf of (Hussein's) regime," the minister said.
During their meeting, Hoon said, the two men discussed rebuilding efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan. "They both have to be restored as cooperative members of the international community," he said.