Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo.
RUMSFELD: Good Morning. I guess one of the best things about my job is that I can get out of Washington once in a while and either get to Afghanistan or Iraq and have a chance to thank the troops there or go to bases elsewhere in the world and have a chance to thank the young men and women—all of whom volunteered to serve our country. I just spoke to the drill sergeants-students that are training to be drill sergeants and drill instructors. I said how many of you have been in [Afghanistan]. Were any of you in there? I couldn’t believe it. Two-thirds of the hands went up. Amazing.
The young folks we were just visiting with out where they’re moving dirt and building bridges. I’m told some reasonable fraction of them will be deploying over to Iraq probably shortly after they leave here. So it’s been a good session for me to have a chance to meet them and to thank them and tell them how much their country appreciates what they do. I’m on the way to Fort Campbell and then back to Washington tonight.
I would be happy to respond to questions assuming that they’re civil, amusing and penetrating. (Laughter) I notice all the hands are going down. (Laughter)
QUESTION: The military police school is here and you had a chance to tour what they do. Did you say anything to the recruits that were out there training in the wake of the Abu Ghraib situation to motivate them to continue to do a good job?
RUMSFELD: No I didn’t, but clearly the military police activity in the Armed forces of the United States is an enormously important one. We’ve got to see that we increase the number of military police we have—total. We have to also see that we rebalance the active force with the guard and reserve forces, so that we have a higher percentage of our total military police on active duty because without question it’s a skill set that is needed on active duty.
QUESTION: How about training (inaudible)
RUMSFELD: Well the training has always been enormously important and clearly it is important today. I think that after you go through and experience like what the United States Army has gone through that they understand the importance of bringing people in and training them as—to the best of their ability and seeing that they’re well-led and well-supervised in their responsibilities.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, how is better with a Marine group when they first went into Iraq back in May and April in which time after a month they lost no soldiers at all through the combat. I went back a year ago and we lost 8 guys within a two-week span. A couple of questions. We still continue to sort of refer to May 2003 as the end of major combat and I’m not clear on that and the second thing is why do you think it is that we haven’t been able to make Iraq more secure. Every soldier I talk to and that’s my own personal experience, every soldier I talk to or marine say that it’s much more frightening now, it’s tougher now, we’re taking more combat now and the latest reports seem that we have less security now than we did say a year ago.
RUMSFELD: Thank you. We did lose lives during major combat operation. Major combat operation is just that—it involved the air and the land and the sea and it was opposing organized armies and elements of the Iraqi armed forces. That ended and major combat ended and what we have been in since that period has been an insurgency. And the reason it’s tough and the reason we’re losing lives is because an insurgency is an ugly business. It’s a tough business and our forces are doing a terrific job over there. It is a tough job. And the reason that it’s tough is because you have foreign terrorists coming the county, you have former regime elements that were part of the Baathist party and the regimes of Saddam Hussein, and you have criminals they are paying to do this. The effect of all of that is that the new Iraqi government has now been put in place, they pointing toward elections in the early part of next year, they are taking of the ministries and the responsibilities for governing the county, and it’s their country.
We’re training up their security forces now. We’ve got about 200,000 Iraqi security forces that are in place. About 105,000 are now properly trained and equipped and manned. The command structures are being put in place and the Iraq Ministry of Defense and the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior and a close national security group around the prime minister are the ones that are managing those forces. We are headed towards a 150,000 to 160,000 thousand by the end of the year—not the armed forces but the Iraqi security forces. It’s no longer called civil defense, its called national guard. And the police and the border patrol and the regular army—those four and the site protection people are probably another 50,000 of them. They are doing a good job. They are losing more Iraqi security forces than coalition security forces, which shows they are out providing security for their country. They are not sitting in their barracks hiding; they’re out doing their job. Now, is it going to take more than that? Yes, it’s going to take a couple hundred thousand-plus that are properly trained and equipped and properly lead through an effective chain of command.
I’m very encouraged about it. I think that the United States and the coalition countries, of course unlike, other countries we have no desire to stay there or to be there at all other than to help that country get on it’s feet. We’re in the processing of doing that and they’re making good progress politically. They’re making progress economically. The schools are open. The hospitals are open. They have a stock market functioning. They sent some teams to the Olympics. They have a symphony and at the same time, amidst all those good things that are happening, people are being killed. Iraqis are being killed, as they were yesterday and the day before. At some point the Iraqis will get tired of getting killed and we’ll have enough of the Iraqi security forces that they can take over responsibility for governing that country and we’ll be able to pare down the coalition security forces in the country.
RUMSFELD: Don’t know. It depends on the security situation on the ground.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you’re in Congressman Ike Skelton’s district as you’re aware.
RUMSFELD: I am indeed.
QUESTION: I understand, reading a story, that he had written to you last week urging you to develop a strategy, as he put it, to force the insurgents from their dens and not allow them sanctuary in places cities Fallujah, Ramadi. He wrote that allowing the enemy to establish sanctuaries didn’t work 35 years ago in Vietnam and it doesn’t work today in Iraq. What is your reply to the congressman? Have you written to him? And I’d like to follow up please.
RUMSFELD: I haven’t seen or been made aware of his—is that a letter? You said a story.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the letter was sent Thursday
RUMSFELD: Thursday. It happens I haven’t seen it.
QUESTION: What would be your reply to (Inaudible)
RUMSFELD: My reply is that he’s absolutely right and the military—the coalition military out there have a strategy that will not allow sanctuaries and the Iraqi leadership in the country is fully aware of the fact that you can not, over a sustain period of time, leave the cities, major cities or major areas, in the hands of people who are determined to overthrow the Iraqi government, the legitimate Iraqi government. That’s correct. The Iraqis understand it. The coalition forces understand it. Gen. Abizaid understands it. Gen Casey understands it and the prime minister of Iraq understands it.
QUESTION: If I may follow up, have you any comment about the new assertions in the book by Seymour Hirsch about how high up and when the administration knew about abuses of prisoners.
RUMSFELD: No, I’m not aware of it. I know that when he wrote a couple of articles for some magazine that we put a team of about 4 or 5 people tried to find if anyone could find any scrap of truth in anything that he had written and we were unable to do so.
QUESTION: Are you saying the book is false?
RUMSFELD: I haven’t seen the book. You just heard me answer the question. I have not seen the book. I’m not aware of these allegations. I’m saying that—you should listen very carefully—when there was an article, I think, in the New Yorker that he wrote we had a team of people go out and see if they could find any proof in it. We were unable to validate anything in that article. But I have not seen the book, maybe somebody else has.
QUESTION: We just talked a lot about what’s going on in Iraq. I was wondering if you could address some of the progress being made in Afghanistan. Some are concerned that a lot of effort is being concentrated in Iraq now instead of Afghanstan.
RUMSFELD: I’ve heard that concern. I don’t know quite where it comes from. We’re focusing a good deal of attention on Afghanistan and we’ve got a wonderful group of men and women in uniform there. We’ve got civilian leadership there and the ambassador and his team—the country team. They have successfully selected a president, they are in the process now of having a nationwide election for president and they have a constitution. In the election the United Nations is helping to administer it they were hoping to have, as I recall, 4 or 5 or 6 million people register to vote. There are now, something like 10 and half million the last time I looked, of which 41 percent are women, which of course in that country is most unusual. There continues to periodic Al-Qaeda and Taliban attacks along particularly the Pakistan border. The country is not fully pacified but it is—it’s economy is booming. Refugees have come back from all over the world to that country; their voting with their feet and they want to be there. The government is functioning and the NATO countries have agreed to take over first, the international assistant security force in Kabul and more recently, some of the provincial reconstruction teams in the northern portion of Afghanistan. And things are going very well.
RUMSFELD: The question is is there a time line to move the troops out. If you think back, whenever it was 95 or, I can’t remember what year it was but we went into Bosnia with a European and coalition countries and the United States government announced they’d be out in 6 months by Christmas. They’re still there today. Now why do I bring that up? Well, I bring it up because it’s very hard to know how long something will take and I don’t pretend to know.
What I do know is that we have no desire to stay there, permanently. We have a desire to help that country get on it feet. 25 million people have been liberated. It is an amazing accomplishment that has been achieved there and the government has been selected. The government is moving forward. They’re having a race for president now. The coalition forces, obviously, look forward to the day that Afghan forces will be sufficiently strong that they’ll be able to assume responsibility for the security of that country. At what moment that will happen depends, in part, in how successful we are in persuading some of the neighboring countries to not harbor Al-Qaeda. Iran has Al-Qaeda in its country. It’ll be partly a result of how successful the Pakistani government is they have been very aggressively a partner in the global war on terror. They have been aggressively going after the border areas along Afghanistan, the so-called tribal areas. Conducting raids against Taliban and Al-Qaeda in those areas and against IMU, another terrorist organization that closely affiliated with Al-Qaeda. And it’s a combination of all of those things and how fast the Afghan security forces can develop the skills and the command and control structures to do their job. We want to see them succeed. It’s important to that part of the world that they succeed. And I believe that they will succeed just as I am convinced that Iraq will succeed.
There have always been times in a war, in an insurgency when things look bleak and when things look difficult and they are difficult. And there have always been people that have said, “It’s not worth the cost, it’s not worth the price.” And people said it about the Korean War, people said it about World War II, they said it about ---and you look back and you see the accomplishment that was made. I mean, the countries that were fascist and Nazis in Italy, German, and the Japanese situation—in all three people said they’re not ready for democracy and yet during the 55 years of cold war they were bulwarks against the communist expansion from the Soviet Union. And yet for many, many months and years it was untidy, it was difficult, it was slow, it was hard, just as it was hard on the Korean peninsula. I think people need to recognize that if we’re steadfast and if we’re purposeful that there isn’t reason in the world we can’t be successful and those 50 million people can’t become areas of stability and peace in that part of the world. Question.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, our mayor here in Waynesville, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve, is one of the thousand of service members who have been activated for duty in Iraq and that was his first activation in nearly three decades since he was on active duty in Vietnam. Could you comment a little bit on your views on how the reserve and guard components fit into total force picture since it appears there’s not going to be a major expansion of the regular active duty forces? Are we moving toward a model like Israel or other countries that extensively and regularly use reserves?
RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, if you see the mayor tell him thank you for his service we appreciate it. You say it was his first activation or mobilization in 30 years?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) serves in Iraq.
RUMSFELD: He’s there now?
RUMSFELD: Well, that’s terrific. First of all, you said since we’re not going to expand the armed forces. We already have expanded them. We’ve increased them by about 20,000 if I’m not mistaken. 19,000 the last time I looked the Army has gone up. It varies, but we’ve been doing that for 2 years and we’ll increase more to the extent it’s needed. But what’s really needed—we’re sustaining about, say for the sake of argument, a quarter of a million people over in that area of responsibility and we have 1.4 million on active service and we have a total of 2.5 million that we can call on, counting the Guard and Reserve and Individual Ready Reserve. So as you can imagine if you can call on 2 and half million people and you’re only having to sustain and quarter of a million we ought to be able to do that efficiently without undue burden on anyone in the Guard or Reserve.
The question is why is it hard. And the answer is that the Army hasn’t been well organized or well arranged and we’re in the process of rearranging the Army. Gen Schoomaker is taking needed skills sets, like military police, and taking them out of the reserve components and putting them in the active force so they don’t have to be called up so often. We’re doing any number of things to increase the tooth to tail ratio of the armed forces. And we’re having very good success at it. We’re moving some positions that are filled by military people today over to civilian because their post, by their very nature, is essentially civilian. We’re able to use the new National Security Personnel System, which Congress passed to help us do that. So there are lots of steps being taken.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, how and from where are the rebels in Iraq being re-supplied?
RUMSFELD: The money is probably from two sources one left over from the Saddam Hussein regime; they broke into the banks. And second we have no doubt that the money comes in from Syria and Iran and undoubtedly other countries as well. Second, in terms of kinds of materials they’re using. We saw a manpad that had come in from Iran recently. We see things that come in from Syria and other countries. Plus, there were enormous numbers of weapons in the country that were buried, hidden in caches. I don’t think there’s a week that goes by that the folks out there don’t find additional caches of weapons. So in terms of re-supply what you need money, you need weapons and explosives and that type of thing and that’s where its coming from, domestic and external. We’ll make this the last question.
QUESTION: [Deputy Undersecretary Ray Dubois] was here about a little more than a month ago. Is there any connection between his visit and this visit? I’m primarily thinking in terms of BRAC ‘05.
RUMSFELD: No, not that I know of. He travels with me periodically, but I’m not in that business. We will—I guess that’s next year they’ll start thinking through that and appointing a commission; it’ll be a very transparent process.
RUMSFELD: Come on. I can’t get into—I’m not allowed to get into it at all. I can’t even think about it.
RUMSFELD: Oh listen, the young people here are fabulous. It’s terrific to see them and have a chance to talk to them. We’re so lucky as a country to have them doing what they’re doing. I feel fortunate. Every time I meet with them I feel inspired and encouraged about our country. Thank you folks.