Q: Tell us about this latest incident and what it says about our ability to protect the airport there?
Rumsfeld: The helicopter.
Rumsfeld: The report I got this morning before I left the house was that a U.S. helicopter was probably shot down, certainly crashed and that a number of Americans were killed and a number were wounded. The number has been changing every hour as more information comes in.
As you know first reports on things like this are often not completely accurate simply because the information has to be verified and therefore I am not inclined to list numbers.
Q: Are they coming home on R&R this week?
Rumsfeld: There was speculation that one of the helicopters might have been although whether the one that was shot down was I don’t know. But we all know that these so called man portable surface to air missiles are widely available in the world and do have the ability to shoot down aircraft and helicopters and that from time to time it happens in various locations.
Q: Mr. Secretary the New York Times is reporting that the US military is discussing bringing back some units of the old Iraqi Army. Can you comment on this and why this is something perhaps--a step--that wasn’t considered before?
Rumsfeld: Oh it always was considered. What happened was the Iraqi Army fought in the south disappeared in the north in large measure and it disbanded itself. We’ve had folks over there for months and months now from the very beginning. In fact before the end of the war with plans to reestablish a new Iraqi Army and that work has been going on. We’ve already established one unit and others are underway--it’s just a matter of getting the funds from the emergency supplemental to complete the work.
Q: How much time however and difficulty will there be in weeding out members that might still be loyal to Saddam Hussein and also how would that affect U.S. plans to draw down troops and our own rotation plans?
Rumsfeld: It’s difficult work vetting people, that is to say sorting out the good from the bad and our folks have done a good job at it, they’ve worked hard at it. You’re always going to make mistakes and you’re going to find somebody gets in there who shouldn’t and you may have kept somebody out who you might want in there by mistake but they’re working hard at it and they’re reconstituting a new Iraqi Army.
The other thing that’s happening, a lot of the people have served in the Iraqi Army are being recruited as Iraqi policemen, Iraqi site protection forces, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, Iraqi Border Patrol. And we’ve gone from – our plan calls for us to go up to close to 200,000 Iraqis providing for their own security. We’re now up to over 100,000 Iraqis and they’re out there on the front line they’re now the second largest coalition partner after the United States. By next year they’re going to be larger than all the coalition countries including the United States combined.
Q: Are you planning any new troops going in?
Rumsfeld: Sure, sure.
Q: At what point and time?
Rumsfeld: What we’ve announced is that the current levels--we’ve come down from about 150,000 to about 130,000 US troops. The total security force involves those plus the coalition forces plus the Iraqi forces. The total security forces are going up because the Iraqi forces are going up so fast--from zero to 100,000. Our forces we said would stay in Iraq up to one year and then they would be replaced with other forces. So that period will be sometime in the early part of next year January, February, March, April, May in that period. We’ll be rotating many of the people there, out and putting additional Americans in to replace them. What numbers will go in to replace them will be a function of what’s happening in the security situation on the ground and whether or not we continue to have this terrific success in recruiting Iraqis to take over their own security because ultimately they’re going to take over the whole job.
Thanks very much.