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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability from Baghdad, Iraq

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 23, 2004
Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability from Baghdad, Iraq

     Q [Through interpreter.]:  The first question, Mr. Secretary, for you on Iraqi Media Network.  What is your evaluation of the security situation following your meetings with the military personnel here?


     Rumsfeld:  Well, my impression is that each one of my now many trips to Iraq is that I've seen improvements each time.  The U.S. and coalition military leaders today have a strong partnership with the Iraqi security forces.  And every week the number of Iraqis who are participating in the security forces is growing.  And today there are some 200,000 Iraqis who are serving in the police, and the Civil Defense Corps, and the border patrol, and the army.  Today the Iraqis are the biggest partner in the coalition.


     Q [Through interpreter.]:  Mr. Secretary, why has the border protection not happened yet in a complete manner after the regime's fall?


     Rumsfeld:  The border protection is a very difficult thing to do.  My impression is that the border with Kuwait is very secure, and the border with Jordan and with Turkey is secure, while the borders with Syria and Iran are not secure.


     Partly is we're not getting good cooperation by Syria or Iran, and part of it is that we need more border patrol -- Iraqi border patrol to help do that job.


     Q [Through interpreter.]:  Mr. Secretary, do you find, and if you do, why is the slowness in forming the Iraqi security forces?


     Rumsfeld:  That's an interesting question.  I would say that there has not been a “slowness” in forming the Iraqi security forces. Indeed, if you think about it, last June or July there were no Iraqi security forces, and today, in February of 2004, there are over 210,000 Iraqis serving in the security forces.  That's an amazing accomplishment.  And there are a number of thousand more that are currently in training.  And the goal is that by April to be -- we'll be over 226,000 Iraqis serving in the security forces.  And all across the country, Iraqis are moving forward and taking responsibility in helping to protect the Iraqi people, and that's a good thing.


     Q [Through interpreter.]:  Mr. Secretary, how do you see the morale of the soldiers after your meetings with them?


     Rumsfeld:  American soldiers or Iraqi soldiers?


     Q:  Both.


     Rumsfeld:  Well, I've met with both and their morale is very high.  I met with some of the Iraqi Civil Defense forces and they are very upbeat.  They are proud of what they're doing; they recognize the historic role they are playing in helping to liberate the Iraqi people.  And the American soldiers and the coalition soldiers recognize fully that what they're doing is noble work; it's important work and they're proud to be doing it.  And they're all volunteers. Every one of them is a person who volunteered to come over here and to work with the Iraqi security forces to help assure a free Iraq.


     Q [Through interpreter.]:  Mr. Secretary, what are the mechanics for the rotation of the troops inside Iraq?


     Rumsfeld:  It's complicated, but starting in January, we began moving something like 120,000 American troops.  We're doing it in pieces, in units, and they're being replaced by another 115,000 or 120,000 American troops.  Most of them are coming in by air.


     Last night I landed at Shannon, Ireland at the airport.  And as I got off the plane, so they could refuel our plane, there were 250 U.S. soldiers, National Guardsmen, from Oklahoma, flying into Iraq to replace some of our soldiers, who were going home.  And they are -- they're proud to be serving.  They're well-trained, and they'll do a wonderful job.


     Q [Through interpreter.]:  When will this process end?


     Rumsfeld:  The current rotation should end in May.  And those that had been here for a year will be gone, and the new ones will be in, in their place.


     Q [Through interpreter.]:  Mr. Secretary, maybe one last question.  What is the way that the government will be formed following the cancellation of the plans for elections and the postponement of the elections, according to the U.N. report?


     Rumsfeld:  Well, that's a matter that Ambassador Bremer and the Governing Council will be discussing.  It is everyone's goal that there be elections, and the only question is, when is it feasible to have elections?


     It's everyone's goal to see that the -- an Iraqi sovereign government is established.  And I'm sure that the Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority and the United Nations will fashion an approach that will be acceptable to everybody.


     Q [Through interpreter.]:  Personally, Mr. Secretary, when do you think the elections will happen?


     Rumsfeld:  Oh my goodness.  I am no expert on that, and the people from the United Nations and the people in Iraq will have to decide what circumstances will permit elections -- elections that everyone wants to be held.


     Q [Through interpreter.]:  Thank you so much for the opportunity --


     Rumsfeld:  Thank you.


     Q:  -- and see you soon.


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