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Secretary Rumsfeld Availability with Traveling Press

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 23, 2004
Secretary Rumsfeld Availability with Traveling Press

     Rumsfeld:  What's up?  What can I do?

 

     Q:  (Inaudible.)

 

     Rumsfeld:  She did a whale of a job.  We appreciated that.

 

     Q:  Mr. Secretary, you and others have been emphasizing that al Qaeda and other terrorists are at work here and that while the work by former regime supporters seems to be fading.  That is, you arrest more and more of them give up, how are you going to keep these other people, these terrorists you're talking about out?  And have you talked while you were here about possibly closing these porous borders, bringing some pressure on Syria and Iran to do that?  How are you going to keep these people out of Iraq?

 

     Rumsfeld:  What you need to do, of course, is to make it not hospitable for them.  That's exactly what the folks have been doing here.  The coalition countries, including the United States, but also the Iraqi security forces.  As the Iraqi security forces increase in size and improve in professionalism, and improve the intelligence, actionable intelligence they have, the country of Iraq will be less and less hospitable to terrorists.  They are increasingly understanding that, I think.  It's hard to know precisely.  I don't think it's ever going to be possible to close borders to the point where people are no longer a way to get across.  You're able to get across our borders in the north and the south, and we have to live with that.

 

     But the question is what happens when they get here and do they really want to come?  People tend to vote with their feet and if they decide they don't want to vote and come into Iraq because it's not hospitable, then they won't come in.

 

     Q:  How about pressure on Syria and Iran, maybe increasing the pressure on them more to --

 

     Rumsfeld:  That wouldn't be a bad thing.  Syria and Iran have not been helpful to the people of Iraq.  Indeed they've been unhelpful.

 

     Q:  How have they been unhelpful?

 

     Rumsfeld:  They've allowed people to move from their countries, countries plural, into Iraq to engage in terrorist activities against the Iraqi people.

 

     Q:  What kind of pressure?

 

     Rumsfeld:  There have been a series of things done and I suspect that the Department of State and others will continue to make it clear to those two countries that their behavior is unhelpful.

 

     Q:  Mr. Secretary as we get towards the June transition date, back on Iraqi security forces, what priority do you place and why?  How important is it to get Iraqi security forces into a better shape as transition approaches?  And although they have improved, what does it say to you that the security situation was  such that your own plans had to be changed today?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I don't know that my own plans were changed today.  I can tell you that the SWAT squad that I met with out there at the police academy has been successful in capturing important terrorists and Saddam remnants.  They're professional, they're capable, and they're doing a good job.

 

     The next graduating class, I think they graduate March 4th, that I just met with, is large.  A great many of them have previously served as policemen or in the military.  We have now gone up to something in excess of 210,000 Iraqi security forces in this country.

 

     It's very important that the Iraqis assume responsibility for their own security.  That's true of every country.  Each country eventually has to do that.  Our task is to help train them, help equip them, help mentor them, and while we're here work with them in joint patrols so that each of us -- they as well as the coalition forces -- are more successful than we otherwise would be.

 

     Q:  How do you know the security forces, what kind of metrics, measurements are you looking at that these security forces are where you want them to be, where U.S. troops aren't needed as much and can pull back?

 

     Rumsfeld:  What we've done is we've got five different types of Iraqi security forces.  We have border patrol which still need to be increased, we have police which are growing fairly rapidly, we have the civil defense corps which is growing rather rapidly, and we have the army, as well as the site protection forces.

 

     The site protection people have a very clear task.  They go to a specific location and defend it.  It may be a Ministry, it may be a refinery, it may be something else.  The border patrol is self-defining.

 

     The police and ICDC tend to be in a local area.  They tend to live in that area, and they know their circumstance in that area.  What's happening is as they grow in numbers and as they become more professional, our forces are stepping back as we have now in Baghdad, and reduced down the number of specific locations where we had outposts and instead you'll find that there are Iraqi police in those locations and the number of coalition locations are being reduced substantially.

 

     What's the effect of that?  The effect of it is that we're still there to be helpful, and are helpful.  Our intelligence is improving because the Iraqis know the neighborhood, they know the people, they know the language, and they're increasingly recognizing that the terrorists are killing Iraqis.  And they don't have a high regard for that.

 

     Q:  Can you tell us what signs you're seeing of increased participation by foreign elements, and obviously these car bombings are the kinds of things that we would see by foreign terrorists.  Are there other indications that you're getting?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Oh, goodness, there are lots of indications.  We get stacks of intelligence every day and every one reads it.  It's not my job to try to make assessments out of it, but what kind of signs are you getting.  We see --

 

     Q:  (Inaudible.)

 

     Rumsfeld:  I see that.  I'm not going to try and disaggregate all the intelligence I read and think about, but there's no question but people are coming across the border; there's no question but that the pressure that our forces have put on these folks makes life less pleasant for them.  There are large numbers of improved explosive devices that are being discovered before they go off.  There are still, unfortunately, people being killed by them.  Not surprisingly, our targets tend to be fairly hard targets and Iraqi targets thus far have been somewhat less hard and so you see an increasing number of Iraqis being killed by these terrorists.

 

     Q:  Do you think that helps explain why there have not been the predicted attacks on troops during this rotation that some people were talking about?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I don't know that I'd say that.  I think there are probably a lot of reasons.  First of all the rotation's just in its mid stages.  It's not over.  Second, we've taken a lot of precautions.  Our folks have been well trained and they're well equipped.  We're allowing time to do the rotation despite the fact that it disadvantages us because we end up with twice as many people in a location for a period as they go through their right seat/left seat transfers, but we're taking our time so the new people have situational awareness and the memory is transferred to the new folks.  The new folks are, we believe, are probably better trained for the task at hand today than the people who they're replacing were when they came in.  They came in at the end of the war and were more oriented to the warfight.  The ones that were coming in today have been trained, in fact we've had folks from here working with them, training them, so that they're equipped and their tactics and their techniques and their procedures are appropriate to the current situation on the ground as it's evolved.

 

     Q:  What about categories of Iraqi internal defense, are you considering shifting resources to better fit the current needs?  Specifically, are you considering proposal to put more money into the ICDC battalions and perhaps less into the army which is more of a long-term development process?

 

     Rumsfeld:  We've done that once.  Whether it makes sense to do it again, there may be other places where money could come from other than the Iraqi army plans.  But we've made a number of adjustments as we've gone along and the advantage of the police and the ICDC, particularly the ICDC, is that they can be trained rather rapidly.  To the extent you then support them by using joint patrols, putting highly trained coalition forces mixed in with them, you end up with a cadre that has a great deal of capability.  To the extent that you invest in the army you're doing something that's enormously important to this country.  They're going to have to have a good army.  On the other hand, it's the most expensive, it takes the most time, the training's the longest, and they are located away from their homes so you need all kinds of infrastructure and facilities which you do not need for the police or the ICDC, or generally for the site protection.  You do need infrastructure for the border patrol because they tend to be away from their homes as well.

 

     So there are a series of tradeoffs and we've got some, Carl Eichenberry, General Eichenberry was in here with an assessment team not too long ago, submitted a very fine report which is being considered by the CPA and by CENTCOM and by me, and I'm sure we'll continue to make adjustments as we go along but I don't see anything dramatic at the moment.

 

     Q:  On Iran or Syria --

 

     Rumsfeld:  Why are you still wearing a flak jacket?  Is there something about me that gives you pause?  (Laughter.)

 

     Q:  I (Inaudible.).  (Laughter.)

 

     On Iran and Syria is there any indication of official support for the people who are coming across the border to carry out attacks in this country?

 

     Rumsfeld:  We know Iran has harbored al Qaeda.  We know that they've had people moving across the border.  They're certainly aware of that.  They have border patrols.  We know that Syria has been a hospitable place for escaping Iraqis and we know that Syria has facilitated terrorists with the cooperation of Iran down through Damascus into Beirut into the Bacaa Valley and down into Israel as well as we see buses come out of Syria filled with people who were coming in to join the fray.  Early on.  So let there be no doubt the powers that be in Syria and Iran are not wishing the free Iraqi people well.  Sometimes I understate for emphasis.

 

     Q:  Mr. Secretary, on the same day that you arrive in Baghdad there's yet another deadly attack in Kirkuk.  At least ten civilians we're told are killed.  What's your response to this and what does it say about the success of the Iraqification of domestic security?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Well, it's a tough business, it's a tough part of the world, and your heart certainly goes out to the innocent Iraqis that were killed by other Iraqis or by foreign terrorists. 

 

     Q:  Have you gained any intelligence on (Inaudible.) --

 

     Rumsfeld:  I've been busy today.  I haven't gotten any new intelligence on anything except what I've gleaned from you folks.

 

     Q:  Can you tell us a little bit more about the police station.  What do you gather from going to a place like that?

 

     Rumsfeld:  It was terrific.  What you've got is a group of people, male and female, a whole variety of ranges of ages -- some quite young and some not so young.  They were all sizes and shapes.  They were all in a uniform.  They are going to graduate March 4th.  They were upbeat.  They were proud of what they're doing.  They were enthusiastic about their leadership.  They were enthusiastic about their instructors, both British and U.S. and I suspect other coalition countries.  You could feel it.  It was palpable that these people have learned something, that they're proud of themselves.  There's not a doubt in my mind but that they understand what the new Iraq is about and that they want to be a part of it, and that the Iraqi people are lucky that there are people like that that will volunteer.  And let there be no doubt, they're putting their lives at risk.  There have been a lot of Iraqi police men and women killed in the last six or eight months and they're aware of that.  The head of the police force there was with us.  He was shot during a recent raid himself.  He obviously is a fine leader.  You could sense the fact that the people that he's helping to train and lead have a lot of respect for him.

 

     Q:  Why couldn't we go?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I guess you could have.  I have no idea.  I would have been delighted to have you there.  There was a great big courtyard of a training center.  They were all arrayed down the lower level.  There was a whole balcony level.  We have film of it that Melissa took, and I'm sure it is perfect.  You'll get a chance to see the film, you'll get a chance to hear the tapes and read the transcripts and participate vicariously.  (Laughter.)

 

     Q:  We were told in fact that the security situation dictated it wouldn't be advisable to go in an unarmed vehicle.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Why in the world did they let me go instead of you?  I mean -- (Laughter.)   I can't imagine that.

 

     Q:  Were you in a hardened vehicle?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I don't know.  I just went.

 

     But --

 

     Q:  Just so you're aware, people were looking out for our security.

 

     Rumsfeld:  I'm glad they took care of you folks, and I'm sorry you weren't there.  But life's imperfect.  It may very well have been they didn't have enough security people to protect all of you, and I just don't know.  I don't do that.

 

     Q:  That's what I meant -- take us with you.

 

     Rumsfeld:  I see, no.  I wish you'd been there.

 

     Q:  Mr. Secretary, anything today in all the meetings and things you've seen?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I'm trying to reflect on the day, but I had a very good meeting with Rick Sanchez who is our senior U.S. military person here in Iraq.  He's doing an outstanding job and a very talented officer.

    

     We had excellent meetings with Jerry Bremer and talked about the transition that is in the process of taking place and will be taking place over a period of time.  It's not simple, it's complicated.  But it's going well.

 

     I brought in on my plane two senior officials, one from the Department of Defense and one from the Department of State who are connected at the hip and working all of these issues. 

 

     I had a very good meeting with Mr. Duelfer, the new Iraqi Survey Group leader and General Dayton, his counterpart and talked a bit about their plans.

 

       I had meetings with some of the senior Coalition Provisional Authority people who have been here some time and have been serving as leaders in key elements of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

 

     You know, you just can't help but have a lot of respect for those folks.  They gave up whatever it was they were doing, came out here voluntarily in an institution that didn't exist, and attracted still other people, provided leadership centers, have put structure into very complex problems.  In one case I met with a Mr. Haverman, I believe his name is, who was the individual who's in charge of the Health Ministry.  I shouldn't put it that way.  He is the Advisor to the people who are in charge of the Health Ministry.  I had heard he had done just a superb job so I wanted to meet him and sit down with him and talk to him.  He has a great deal of confidence in the Iraqis leading that Ministry.  He believes they are prepared to step off and be responsible for that on behalf of the Iraqi people.

 

     I met with two or three others, a Mr. McGee who has been in charge of the oil aspects of it.  He replaced Mr. Carroll.  His six months is about up now and he's going to be replaced.

 

     These folks are really talented people.  It was good for me to hear what they thought.  I also wanted them to know that what they are doing here was appreciated, and that if and when the Coalition Provisional Authority ends and sovereignty is transferred that I and the Department of Defense have great appreciation for what they have done and to the extent we can be helpful to them as they transition personally, we want to be helpful in that way.

 

     Q:  (Inaudible.)

 

     Rumsfeld:  I met with Mr. Damport who is the Senior Advisor to Jerry Bremer on the Defense ministry and we had a good discussion about how that ought to shake out and be set up and established. 

 

     One of the things we're going to have to work out is to refashion the linkages that exist between the military side and what will become a new mission here, a Chief of Mission.  As opposed to thinking of it as an Ambassador with an embassy, what we will have here will be a true Chief of Mission, a person that will have multiple agencies and departments, activities, as many countries do.  But here it will be over five, obviously, because of the nature of our responsibility.  So one of the things we're now, Jerry Bremer and Mr. Damport and Rick Sanchez and all of us are thinking about is how the military ought to be organized and arranged here.  Is it an office of military cooperation?  What kind of defense attaché system should exist here?  How ought the two senior general officers -- General Metz and General Sanchez -- link with the new mission as it evolves and with the Ministry of Defense; their relationship with the other Iraqi security forces.  So there are a lot of complicated things that need to be thought through and what we wanted to do was get people's heads working on them because we do have the time to do it and to do it well and that's how we intend to do it.

 

     Q:  (Inaudible.) and how they will divide up the responsibilities?

 

     Rumsfeld:  General Sanchez will be senior and Metz will report through him to Abizaid.  General Metz will clearly be the senior tactical officer in Iraq for the United States of America.  He will report through Rick Sanchez.  Rick Sanchez will link into CENTCOM, General Abizaid, and Rick Sanchez will in addition be the senior person who will have all of the political/military coalition type responsibilities and will be closely connected to the Chief of Mission and the Iraqi security forces.

 

     Q:  Are you supporting that command, Central Command?  How is that --

 

     Rumsfeld:  Is what?

 

     Q:  Is it a new sort of subordinate command?  We've heard terminology I believe Iraq Combined Joint Forces Command, something like that.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Think of it more like Afghanistan where you have General Austin is the tactical officer and then you have General Barnow is his superior.  And General Barnow is linked very closely to Ambassador Hillizad and to President Karzai and doing the political/military.  He then reports to General Abizaid.

 

     You asked me yesterday what do you really get from a trip like this, and I can tell you a lot.  There's just no substitute for it.  The meetings I have had and the opportunities I've had to talk to the troops and to say thank you to them.  The calibration I've gotten from the people here on the ground.  The calibration I very likely have provided them from my perspective.  It's all critically important in linking what's going on here to the President of the United States and the government of the United States.

 

     I'm afraid that probably concludes this portion of our visitation.  Although I could stay here for hours.  And I will do that some day.

 

     Q:  Have you been thinking about WMD?

 

     Rumsfeld:  If I answered that I didn't learn anything from them it would imply that he didn't teach me anything, which he did teach me some things.  If by that you mean did I come away with some chemical or biological weapons in my pocket, the answer is no.

 

     Q:  (Inaudible.)

 

     Rumsfeld:  You misunderstood me.  I thought I said that we were all through and indeed --

 

     Q:  You can't just walk away.  (Laughter.)

 

     Rumsfeld:  I want everyone to stay here and I want Melissa to play her tape for everybody and I want someone to get the --

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