Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with KKOB-AM Radio, Richard Eeds , Albuquerque, New Mexico
Q: It’s a great pleasure to welcome back to 770 KKOB, Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. He’s in the Pentagon right now. Secretary of defense, welcome back to 770 KKOB.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you so much. I’m glad to be with you again.
Q: And you’re on live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I know this is probably a closely held secret, but when might we expect you back in New Mexico?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I try to get out there over certain kinds of holidays from time to time. I don’t know when I’ll be back next, but I certainly do love the state of New Mexico and have family living out there and a lot of good friends.
Q: Might do a little skiing this year?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I hope so.
Q: All right. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, let’s start. Escalating violence in Iraq, what’s the current situation as the Pentagon sees it in Iraq, secretary?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we expect that the violence will continue to escalate somewhat between now and the time of the elections in Iraq. I think it’s probably also safe to say that that’s likely in Afghanistan as well.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Afghanistan’s elections, of course, are next month and Iraq’s are not until January.
Q: Well, do you think – I’m not sure if you can answer this question, but do you think Gen. Abizaid is going to ask for more troops prior to the proposed January elections in Iraq, beyond the 15,000 or so that will overlap with the next rotation?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We talked about that when he was back here last week. And of course, we look at the total picture. We look at the U.S. forces -- the numbers -- and then we look at the coalition forces and then we look at the Iraqi forces.
SEC. RUMSFELD: And the Iraqi forces between now and the Iraqi election are expected to go up from 105,000 to something close to 145 or 50,000. So there will be a significant incremental increase in Iraqi forces. We don’t know quite what will happen with the coalition forces, although three countries have already indicated that they’re willing to send in forces to assist the United Nations in helping to see that the elections go forward, so we expect an incremental increase there.
We told Gen. Abizaid that if he believes we need additional U.S. forces, that he’ll ask for them and he’ll get them. But at the moment, he does not anticipate that he will need additional U.S. forces.
Q: If he did ask, what would you anticipate the number of additional forces needed might be?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, as always, it would depend on the situation on the ground.
Q: How is the training going of Iraqi forces, considering the insurgent attacks? And a lot of times, it’s targeted at the Iraqi National Guard, at the military and at the police. How is the training going and the recruitment going of Iraqi national forces?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it’s been very interesting. Of course, from our standpoint, they had zero, when the major combat ended. Their Army just disappeared into the hinterlands and went back to their homes and except for the ones that we captured or surrendered. We began at that point to develop several categories, police, national guard, Army, border guards and site protection people. We got up to about a total of 200,000 – plus or minus – and we decided to take out of that the site protection numbers, which were about 70 to 75,000 of those because they were being managed by Iraqis, as opposed to by our forces. And so then we started going into the numbers and we now estimate that we have 105,000 that are fully trained and fully equipped and probably another 50,000 that are in training or not fully equipped. We expect that number, as I say, to go up to 150,000 fully trained and fully equipped sometime between now and the elections.
Now what are they doing? Well, they’re doing joint patrols with coalition forces every single day. Their performance has been good generally, uneven in patches where they were outnumbered. For example, if a very hard core group of former regime element and terrorists went up against a poorly armed police unit, it didn’t work out well. But if they went up against the Army, which we’ve got about 5,000 well-trained Army people or counterterrorism people or intervention force, it works pretty well.
And the important thing to know is that since September 1st, I believe the Iraqis have lost something in the neighborhood of 700 security force people dead. So any implication -- it’s 721, I’m told – any implication that these folks are sitting in their barracks hiding is just false.
SEC. RUMSFELD: They are doing a job and God bless them for it. And I must say that when they’re attacked, the next day people are standing in line to take those jobs.
Q: We’re talking with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. Secretary, there’s been a lot of discussion, I know, and this is a very political question, but I’ll ask you anyway, because it will become your decision, ultimately. Will there be a draft? Do you see any present situation where we might reinstitute a draft in the United States?
SEC. RUMSFELD: There isn’t a chance in the world. It is clearly mischievous. Somebody is going around spreading that nonsense. There’s a couple of congressmen and maybe a senator or two who’ve put in bills to reinstitute the draft. I am dead set against it. President Bush is dead set against it. It simply is not going to happen. And the perpetrating of that myth I think is unfortunate. We don’t need a draft. My goodness, we’ve got, what, 295 million people in this country and we’ve got a 1.4 million on active duty. We can certainly attract and retain the people we need and we are attracting and retaining the people we need. And if we can’t, all we have to do is change the incentives, so that we are a more attractive place for people to come.
Q: There’s been some talk in the press also lately about our activity at the Pentagon concerning Iran and Syria. What do you see as a likely military response to their threat or is it just going to stay a political issue for the foreseeable future with Iran and Syria?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, clearly, the Iranian situation is a problem. And there’s no question, but that they’re determined to have a nuclear weapon. There’s also no question that the international atomic energy people believe they’re in violation of their rules and regulations.
SEC. RUMSFELD: We’re trying to get other countries to work with us to put pressure on Iran, so that they would behave in a more rational way. They’re on the terrorist list, they’re assisting – working with Syria to help the Hezbollah terrorist organization and it’s unfortunate. And my hope is that there are a lot of young people in that country and lot of women in that country who don’t fancy being ruled by a small handful of clerics that are telling them what they can do, what they can wear, where they have to go, when they have to go there.
Q: Both Iran and Syria?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Particularly Iran.
SEC. RUMSFELD: In this case, the handful of clerics.
SEC. RUMSFELD: It’s a religious group. Syria is not…
Q: More secular.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah, it’s more secular.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Now, what will happen – well, I keep thinking back to how fast the Ayatollah replaced the Shah of Iran. It may be that these women and young people and reformers in that country someday will heave out that group of clerics and take that fine country with an educated population and wonderful economic resources and opportunities in the world. They know they’re being penalized because of their terrorist behavior.
Q: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is our guest, live from the Pentagon. Secretary, there’s been some different stories, some conflicting stories over the last week in about what we might expect for the elections in Iraq in January. Is the situation there just too fluid to really be able to predict or has the Pentagon adapted a really specific goal for January and the elections in Iraq?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the Iraqi government, a sovereign government, is determined to have elections. Everything anyone sees says that the Iraqi people want elections. The Sunnis want elections, the Shia want elections, the Kurds want elections. And I believe they’re going to have elections. And everything that they have said they are going to do, they’ve done. I mean, go back to Afghanistan -- Afghanistan had this meeting in Bonn and they said they were going to have an interim government and then they said they were going to have a loya jirga meeting and now they’ve set elections for October 6th or 9th of next month. And in each case, they’ve met those deadlines – same thing in Iraq. Iraq said they were going to have a governing council, they did. They then said they were going to have an interim government. They have that. They have ministers that are doing their jobs. Then they -- within the last month, they had this meeting of 1,000 Iraqis to elect 100 people in a constituent assembly. It wasn’t even reported in the United States press to speak of. Now they say they’re going to have elections in January. I think they’re going to have elections in January.
Q: Do you think there’ll be safe elections over 100 percent of the country?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We didn’t have elections over 100 percent of our country back in 1776 to 1789. I don’t know. I think so. But what do I know? My guess is there will be elections in every part of Iraq and I think that’s a good thing. And the speculation – everyone has said at every step of the way, it won’t work and it is working. Now there’s a lot of opposition, let there be no doubt. There are a lot of people who are not happy about the prospects of a democratic Iraq in the middle of that region and they’re going to try to stop it. And it’s our task, along with the Iraqis, to help them see that it doesn’t get stopped, see that they are successful.
Q: Secretary, thank you very much for giving us some time today. I hope you get back to New Mexico sometime in the near future and have a great time.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you so much. I enjoyed it.
Q: Thank you.