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Secretary Rumsfeld En Route to Iraq

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 04, 2003

Rumsfeld:  We're going to make multiple, a number of stops in the region and the purpose is … there's several.  One is to visit the troops and make sure they understand how important what they're doing is to the people of Iraq, to the region, and to the world.  Second is to meet with the senior military leadership and get their assessment, and to meet with the senior civilian leadership and get their assessment.


Rumsfeld:  I haven't been back into Iraq or Afghanistan I guess since last April.  Is that correct Larry?   [Mr. Di Rita:  That's right.  Or May.]


Rumsfeld:  April or May, and it seemed to me that it was important to have an opportunity to get a firsthand sense of how things are going there. 


Rumsfeld:  I'd be happy to respond to some questions.


Q:  Secretary, what role would you be willing to see the United Nations play in Iraq?


Rumsfeld:  The Administration has been the president and Secretary Powell have been involved in discussions with a number of the members of the United Nations and the Security Council about that.  And it's at an early stage, although it could happen very fast.  I don't know how long it will take, you never know, but the discussions are in kind of, oh, in the second or third inning at the moment.  And they seem to be going along very well, and how it will actually shake out I just don't know.


Q:  Do you approve of this process and how is it a dramatic change from your position prior to this?


Rumsfeld:  It is no change in my position at all, and I certainly approve of the process.  From the very beginning, the president, Secretary Powell, and the United States have been aggressively working to see that a great many countries from around the world are involved.  We now have something like 29 nations, I believe, and another 10, 15, or so, under discussions.  But 29, I believe, are already part of the coalition, and the United Nations has been involved up to this point, we know Mr. De Mello was their representative. How it will evolve from here forward with another resolution is an open question, but certainly everyone I know in the administration has been and remains supportive.


Q:  Have you determined who was behind those truck bombs yet?


Rumsfeld:  What truck bombs?  The United Nations?


Q:  The United Nations, the Jordanian Embassy, and the most recent one -- the police.


Rumsfeld:  I don't think they've made any announcements on that.


Q:  Have they determined who was behind them?


Rumsfeld:  Not that they've announced.


Q:  Is it conceivable that U.S. troops could be commanded by foreign commanders wearing blue helmets?


Rumsfeld:  Oh, I think that's not in the cards, no.  The United States has not logically been in that position.


Rumsfeld:  So U.S. military command is the (inaudible) . . .


Rumsfeld:  I didn't say that.  You said it, not me.  Well, I just think that obviously that the United States has the overwhelming majority of the forces there.  And it would just, it just makes logical sense, I believe that's what Kofi Annan has said himself.


Q:  Secretary, what do you think it's going to take to get the situation under control?  More U.S. troops?  How many more international troops?


Rumsfeld:  I have to say that I have a lot of confidence in Gen. Abizaid, and he does not believe that it would be appropriate to have additional U.S. forces in Iraq.  We are increasing the total number of forces continuously, and we're now up to something in excess of 50 or 60,000 Iraqis that are currently involved in security activities in that country.  And that is enormously important.  It is their country.  They ultimately are going to have to provide the security for that country.  And rather than flooding it with American soldiers, it seems to me, it makes all the sense in the world to have a principal effort to strengthen the size of the Iraqi security forces, whether it's police, army, the militia, the border patrol.  And that is exactly what's been taking place.  Now that doesn't just happen, that all has happened in a few months.  We've gone from zero to something like 50 to 60,000 Iraqis providing, assisting and providing security for that country.  Simultaneously, we've been out since day one, bringing in other countries to the point that we now have 29 other countries engaged in one way or another.  I've forgotten what the number is, but it's probably something like 20 or 22,000 non-U.S. forces currently in that country.  Now, should the total number go up for security?  Yes, I think so, but I think it's going to be on the Iraqi side, and on the international side more than the U.S. side.  We already have a very large number there.


Q:  How much more on the international side?


Rumsfeld:  Oh, I don't know.  Maybe another division.  We'll just have to see.  You don't want to make guesses or project because you just don't know.  But there are a few countries who've said they would prefer to have an additional U.N. resolution, and whether that will be sufficient to break them loose and have them step forward with sizable force numbers, I don't know, but it's a very important thing if you think about it.  The Polish division took over this week.  It was this week I believe.  And that's a significant thing.  There are some 7, oh, how many countries? 17 countries involved with the Polish division, and that is impressive.


Q:  Is the model of East Timor or the Korean War an  (inaudible) that you can live with?


Rumsfeld:  You know there are, there must be a dozen U.N. models that exist, and they run the gamut across the spectrum.  And I'm not going to say how it will work out because as I say, we're just in the beginnings of discussions that Colin has been having with the Security Council members, and how they'll decide to fashion it, I don't know, but he'll be reporting back to the President and to the National Security Council on the subject as the discussions go forward.  I do suspect that something will evolve in this field.  That is to say, I suspect there will be a, the process will go forward in some way, and we'll end up with a model that will be acceptable to everybody.


Q:  Secretary, it may be some time, though before any multinational force goes in there, if it does.  And so in that ….


Rumsfeld:  What do you mean?  I just said there are 29 countries there now.  And I just said the Polish division just took over, and yet I keep hearing questions like that that come to my head and I can't believe people are saying it.  They say, "Why don't you internationalize it?  Why do you go it alone?"  We're not going it alone.  We've got 29 countries involved. One of the divisions was just taken over this week by the Poles with 17 countries in it.  Think of it.


Rumsfeld:  Now, start over.


Q:  Should the total number go up?  I believe I'm quoting you, "Yes, it should."  So in the context of that, Sir …


Rumsfeld:  In Iraqis.


Q:  Yes.


Rumsfeld:  Yes, I think the growth, the basic growth will probably be in Iraqis. 


Q:  You have resisted certain political pressures to ramp up the number of American troops.  Why is that?


Rumsfeld:  Well, I have not resisted political pressures to do that.  I have been working with the senior military leadership, and their best military judgment is that they do not need, at the present time, their judgment is, as we review it weekly, every other week, their judgment at the present time is that we do not need additional U.S. forces in Iraq.  Now, there are some people who suggest that they're wrong.  I think they're right.  And I'm not resisting anything.  I'm simply repeating what the senior military leadership is [saying] – Gen. Abizaid on up -- that that's their best professional judgment.


Q:  Why do you think they're right?


Rumsfeld:  I think they're right because the question is where do you want to put your effort?  Do you want to put your effort on further U.S. involvement or do you want to put your effort on pushing to see that the Iraqis, that live there, that have a responsibility for their own security, have the kinds of capabilities and organization and training and equipment and support, that they can provide for their own security?  And it seems to me that if you, when you get up in the morning and you say to yourself, what's the most desirable thing?  Foreign troops in another country are an anomaly.  They're not normal.  They're temporary.  Whereas Iraqi, indigenous forces, with their own capability to provide for the security for their own people are natural.  They're not an anomaly.  They're what ought to be.  And therefore I think it's important.  I think it's an impressive accomplishment that the Coalition Authority has achieved in just four months to go from zero to 50 to 60 thousand Iraqis contributing to their own security.  That's important.


Q:  How high do those numbers need to go?


Q:  If the Iraqi forces ramp up then, can we anticipate being able to lower the number of American service members there?


Rumsfeld:  I wouldn't want to promise that at the moment.  I think it's important for the military people, whose judgment we have to rely on in something like this, to make their assessments.  I mean, circumstances could change.  We could need more U.S. troops.  Now, don't get me wrong.  Or we could need fewer.  But at the moment, they believe we need what we have.  Now, as the international forces go up, and as Iraqi forces go up, that would be one factor that the military people would take into account in their recommendations to me, but the other factors would be the circumstances on the ground.  How are things going?  It seems to me it's terribly important to remember that security is not going to be provided by adding two million security people in that country.  Security ultimately is going to be a result of the interaction between political progress and any movement towards an Iraqi government at a rate that makes sense to the Iraqi people, and an Iraqi constitution, drafted by the Iraqi people, and economic progress.  It's the three that interact, and I think if you think of it as only one leg of the stool -- security -- it's a mistake.


Q:  Should the countries that you're asking to contribute troops and dollars to this operation be able to count on a share in decision making about it?


Rumsfeld:  The Coalition forces do have a share in the decision-making.  For example, the people who have been involved from the outset, particularly the British, have had a significant voice in it.  And there's no question to the extent countries step up with troops and money and support that they clearly are at the table and have opportunities to work with us, and to work with the Iraqi Governing Council, and to work with the local mayors.  And it's not just the U.S.  I think that's a misunderstanding.


Q:  Secretary, do you think increasing the size of the international force will ultimately complicate the efforts and transition toward Iraqi security for the Iraqi people?


Rumsfeld:  I don't think so.  I think that there is a value in showing that this Coalition is broad So I think that the idea of going to the U.N., seeking an appropriate resolution, possibly having the effect of broadening somewhat the Coalition, although it's quite broad at the present time, is a good thing for Iraq.  I think it's a good thing for the region.  I think having the additional Iraqis in the security roles and now taking over some of the ministries -- that is a big thing that's just happened.  For these governing councils to select, what is it, twenty-five, ministers, people, to be in charge of these ministries and to work with the Governing Council and the CPA on the work of those ministries is a very significant step forward.  And it's the combination of all of those things that I think is important.


Rumsfeld:  Mr. Di Rita:  Thanks a lot folks.

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