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Rumsfeld, Myers Discuss Terror War Achievements

By Terri Lukach
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2005 – Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said today he believes the American people understand the value of what has been achieved in Iraq, Afghanistan and the global war on terror.

He also thanked the men and women of the U.S. military for making freedom and democracy in those countries possible.

He and Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers appeared on several news talk shows.

Rumsfeld pointed out the 25 million Iraqis freed from the Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, the improving economy and the strong dinar. Schools and hospitals are open, he further noted, a newly elected national assembly has met for the first time, and the numbers of trained and ready Iraqi security forces are rising.

"And it is all due to the men and women in uniform," he said on ABC's "This Week" show.

Responding to questions about the size and strength of the current insurgency in Iraq, the secretary expressed confidence that Iraqi and coalition forces would prevail. The insurgents "are not going to win," Rumsfeld said, "and the thought of them prevailing is a terrible thought."

He said the decision not to send in a much larger U.S. force, made by then-U.S. Central Command leader Army Gen. Tommy Franks, was the right one. In Frank's judgment, Rumsfeld said, a force of 300,000, as some have suggested, was "not needed and not only inappropriate but ill-advised."

Larger numbers mean more targets and imply a force bent on occupation not liberation, the secretary said. "The idea was to go in where needed, and ramp up if necessary."

Rumsfeld said Franks' decisions were supported by Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, and his vice chairman, Marine Gen. Peter Pace.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Rumsfeld said he expects the number of U.S forces to diminish from the150,000 present during the elections to between 140,000 and 147,000 troops over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, much is also being done, Rumsfeld said, to alleviate stress on U.S. forces. This includes the new National Security Personnel System, which will free up forces now currently performing civilian duties, a rebalancing of Guard and Reserve units with active duty forces, and a rebalancing of skill sets within the Guard and Reserve.

He said he did not think the new Iraqi parliament's inability to form a government in the weeks since January elections was encouraging the insurgency. "I think all of the debate, discussion and politics is a healthy thing," the secretary said.

In the U.S.," Rumsfeld said, elections are held in November and officials take office in January, "so I think the Iraqis are doing pretty darn well."

What's more, the secretary said, despite overwhelming victory by the Shia majority, "the minute the election was over" the Shia reached out to minority Sunnis to include them in the government. Rumsfeld said he thought the Sunnis realized they had made a mistake in not voting.

Rumsfeld also cited the progress made by Iraqi security forces who are taking on increasing responsibility and expected to number 200,000 in the months ahead.

In separate interviews, Myers also praised the progress of Iraqi security forces and agreed their numbers should reach the 200,000 mark this summer. Myers said the current figure of 142,000 trained and equipped Iraqi forces is correct, even though it includes police and other security forces. A recent Government Accountability Office analysis questioned the figure.

"It takes all kinds of security," Myers said on NBC's "Meet the Press," including "police and special forces to go after the insurgents. I'll stick with the 142,000 trained and equipped."

The general said he was not concerned about recent drops in recruitment numbers, saying retention has "never been better in the active force and the reserve component."

Myers also noted that today's force is different from the force designed for the Cold War. "We have much different needs today," and we are working to get the mix of reserve and active components right.

Myers said the Army National Guard predicts it "will come within 2 percent of its end strength at the end of the year, and the Marine Corps and active Army by the end of this fiscal year." He added that the fact that there are more reserve than active Army forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is "by design" to allow the active Army to continue its transformation." He predicted that "the next rotation will have a smaller percentage of reserve component."

The chairman said the "all-volunteer force is working marvelously" and morale is high.

The United States military can and will respond "with the number of people we need with the right equipment, and we can fulfill our obligations under our national security strategy and do exactly what our president expects us to be able to do," Myers said.

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