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DoD News Briefing

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Air Force General Richard Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
June 01, 2005 11:10 AM EDT
DoD News Briefing

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Good morning.  On Monday, Americans honored all of the men and women who have fought for our country's security and our freedom.  Throughout our history, many millions of Americans have come to the country's defense.  The United States certainly could not have survived or succeeded without their service.

 

            Defending one's country is not, of course, a uniquely American idea.  Yet some still seem to wonder why tens of thousands of Iraqis volunteer for their security forces when it is known that doing so makes them targets of attacks by violent extremists; or why Afghans in growing numbers risk their lives and often the lives of their families to defy the terrorists in their country; or why millions in Lebanon, Georgia, Ukraine and elsewhere dare to demonstrate against dictatorships when the penalty is known to be imprisonment or death.

 

            They do it because they want to build better futures for themselves and their families and are willing to pay the cost.  Those privileged to live in free countries are forever in the debt of those who make our freedom possible.

 

            And no force in the world has done more to liberate people that they have never met than the men and women of the United States military.  Indeed, that's why the recent allegation that the U.S. military is running a gulag at Guantanamo Bay is so reprehensible.  Most would define a gulag as where the Soviet Union kept millions in forced labor concentration camps, or I suppose some might say that -- where Saddam Hussein mutilated and murdered untold numbers because they held views unacceptable to his regime.  To compare the United States and Guantanamo Bay to such atrocities cannot be excused.

 

            Free societies depend on oversight, and they welcome informed criticism, particularly on human rights issues.  But those who make such outlandish charges lose any claim to objectivity or seriousness. The Washington Post, to its credit, rejected the comparison between Guantanamo and a gulag in a recent editorial. 

 

            Unfortunately, efforts to bring the detainee issue into proper context have been somewhat rare.  Two of the country's largest newspapers, for example, have devoted more than 80 editorials, combined, since March of 2004 to Abu Ghraib and detainee issues, often repeating the same erroneous assertions and recycling the same stories.  By comparison, precious little has been written about -- by those editorial boards about the beheading of innocent civilians by terrorists, the thousands of bodies found in mass graves in Iraq, the allegations of rape of women and girls by U.N. workers in the Congo.

 

            Yes, there have been instances where detainees have been mistreated while in U.S. custody, sometimes grievously.

 

            But consider these facts.  To date, there have been approximately 370 criminal investigations into the charges of misconduct involving detainees.  Out of 68,000 detainees that have been in U.S. custody over the period since September 11th.  And of some 525,000 service members, men and women of the various services who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in Guantanamo Bay, less than one-tenth of 1 percent have been found to have committed illegal acts against detainees.

 

            It's also important to remember that the people being detained at Guantanamo are, with good reasons, suspected terrorists.  Many, if not most, have been systematically trained to lie and to claim torture. At least a dozen of the 200 already released from GITMO have already been caught back on the battlefield, involved in efforts to kidnap and kill Americans.

 

            Much was made recently of a news story falsely accusing service members of flushing a Koran down the toilet.  But little has been said about the great lengths that the military go to at Guantanamo Bay to accommodate the religious practices of detainees in their care.  There are specific instructions as to how those involved in the custody of detainees should handle themselves with respect to religious matters.  Special meals are provided to meet cultural dietary requirements.  Schedules are respectful of prayer. Indications of the direction to pray are provided.  Detailed guidelines are provided to the service people as to the -- which govern the handling of the Koran.  [To view the standard operating procedure click here.]

 

            Copies of these instructions have been publicly available, but they have received comparatively little media attention.  I have not yet seen a complete printing of those instructions in any journal. This lack of media attention to U.S. policy guidance to treat detainees humanely creates misperceptions.

 

            But to try to equate the military's record on detainee treatment to some of the worst atrocities of the past century is a disservice to those who have sacrificed so much to bring freedom to others.

 

            So, to the men and women who wear our country's uniform, and to their families who support them, I want you to know how proud we are of all of your able service.  We are in your debt.  And to those who may be considering serving our nation, know that there is no finer calling, no nobler cause, and no greater act of patriotism.

 

            General Myers.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Thank you Mr. Secretary, and good morning.

 

            This past Memorial Day weekend was truly a moving several days. We spent the weekend remembering those who demonstrated tremendous acts of bravery, sacrifice and selfless service for their country. And as we always do, we remember the service members and their families and friends who have lost their lives or been wounded throughout this effort in conflict with violent extremism.

 

            On Saturday I had the honor of addressing the future Army leaders as they graduated from West Point.  This 9/11 class represents a new generation who has dedicated themselves to protect our citizens from those who threaten our freedom and our way of life. 

 

            The secretary and I also had the honor to join thousands of Vietnam veterans and others at Rolling Thunder and recognize their service and remember those who haven't come back.

 

            And I also had a chance to participate in the concert on the lawn of the Capitol which paid tribute to World War II veterans on this 60th anniversary of the end of that war.  And we honored those who are currently fighting the war on terrorism and continue the tradition of service with courage.  Their sacrifices have not been in vain.  We're seeing the insurgents in Iraq change their tactics and switch their centers of gravity because of the perseverance and commitment of coalition forces -- and not only coalition forces, but the Iraqi people -- all for a -- aimed at a free Iraq.

 

            Let me tell you what I mean by centers of gravity.  First the insurgents tried to drive out the coalition from Iraq, but we're still there.  Next they focused on Iraqi security forces, but they continue to sign up in record numbers.  And then they attempted to intimidate the Iraqi people, but they went to the polls and voted for a representative government.  And a recent poll in Iraq shows that 85 percent of the Iraqis who responded said that they would likely vote in the October constitutional referendum.  Political progress is key, of course, to success in Iraq. 

 

            And with that, we'll take your questions.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Charlie?

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, the lull in the months after the election, January election in Iraq, has resoundingly and explosively, I guess you would say, ended in past weeks with hundreds of Iraqis killed and a growing number of attacks, and at least 77 U.S. troops killed last month.  Are you gentlemen concerned and frustrated with U.S. and Iraqi efforts not just to end this, but to curb it?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think I'd put it quite differently, myself. The end -- the period after the elections that you called a "lull," I think, I would characterize it as a period where a country that has little or no experience with democracy or with representative government undertook the difficult task of voting successfully and then forming a transitional government, which they have since done. It took them a period of weeks, to be sure.  It takes most countries a period of weeks or months to do that.  And they've done it in good style.  They have selected their government, and they are beginning that process of preparing a constitution to be voted on by the people of Iraq. 

 

            We have seen from the beginning ups and downs in terms of the number of people -- number of attacks that take place.  There certainly have been attacks that have taken place in recent weeks, and a number of Iraqis have been killed, particularly.  Americans have been killed; coalition forces have been killed and that's always deeply regrettable. 

 

            Is it conceivable that there's some relationship between that and the fact that it took them a period of time to select a government?

 

            I don't know.  I don't think anyone's wise enough to know the answer to that.  What we do know is that it's hard to -- democracy's hard. It's tough stuff, and it takes time.  And they invested that time. And now they're investing their time on a constitution.  And the closer they get to success -- of having a constitution, of having an election on that constitution -- the greater the loss for the insurgents.

 

            And the insurgents now see these Sunnis reaching forward and trying to participate in the constitutional process, even though they bypassed, for the most part, the election process.  To their -- and they recognize that as a mistake.  The Sunnis are reaching out -- the Shi'as are reaching out to the Sunnis and allowing them to come into the constitutional drafting process in a very constructive and healthy way.  So there's an awful lot good that's happening in that country, as well as the periodic attacks that take place and the regrettable deaths that occur.

 

            Q     But aside from the political progress or the political moves in the country, doesn't something more need to be done by security forces, both U.S. and Iraqi, to curb this?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Can I --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You bet.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  First of all, the number of incidents is actually down over 20 percent, depending on what you measure it against, from last November or the January elections.  So incidents are down overall, albeit more lethal because of the increase of the number of folks that putting in there who are willing to commit suicide, and the move to these vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.

 

            I think you should be encouraged, though, by the number of independent Iraqi operations that are going on there, where are -- I think, currently, they may -- some of them may have ended.  But over the last couple of weeks, five operations that were independent Iraqi operations -- 30 different combined with coalition forces -- which is a much different mixture than we had just several months ago.  So, what I'd be encouraged by is that Iraqi security forces are more and more coming to the front.  And then, if you go to Operation Lightning, which was announced by the minister of Defense and minister of Interior of Iraq, which is an Iraqi initiative to put more Iraqis out front in Baghdad to try to quell this violence -- it's the first time they could do something like this.  It's the first time they've had the capability to do it.

 

            So I think we should be encouraged by that. 

 

            I think we should also be encouraged by the political progress, which is no doubt frustrating those that want to divide Iraq either through sectarian violence or a civil war, and that's not happening. The Iraqi people aren't buying this.  I mean, that's the encouraging -- the Iraqi people are not buying the insurgents' line, which is actually no line; it's just violence, it's murder, it's mayhem.

 

            Q     General Myers?  General Myers?

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary?  Mr. Secretary, as someone who has complained or expressed concern in the past about the use of anonymous sources by the press, and someone who was also around at the time of Watergate, I'm curious about your reaction to the news that Mark Felt was identified as Deep Throat.  In your opinion, do you think he's a hero, as his family and some people believe?  Or did he abuse his position, as some of his critics say?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, goodness.  I was in Belgium as ambassador to NATO during that period and --

 

            Q     You're not going to get off that easy!  (Laughter.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Purty near!  (More laughter.)  And I have not followed what's been -- I've not read these articles. 

 

            I think that any time wrongdoing occurs it's important that that wrongdoing be reported, and I think that's appropriate.  Now, who one reports that to, the authorities is one thing, or somebody else is another.  But I'm not knowledgeable enough to be in a position to judge it.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary?

 

            Q    May I do a follow-up, first of all?  I have a question for General Myers.  But if you'll indulge me, you've been very tough on leaks from that podium and elsewhere.  And it would seem to me that if you have somebody here, a number two in the FBI who's leaking, you would feel very strongly one way or the other that he's either a hero or a criminal.  But you kind of are ducking this, the way it sounds.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, I'm not in a judgmental mood.  (Laughter.)

 

           

 

            Q     What happened this morning?  (Laughter.)

 

            Q     General Myers, General Myers, did the Iraqi government make a mistake by telegraphing Operation Lightning, say, up to 48 hours, giving some of the insurgents time to get out of Dodge?  Is that a tactical mistake, do you think?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Gee, I don't know.  I -- we'll probably -- you know, we'll analyze that later, or the Iraqi government -- we'll help the Iraqis analyze that later.  I think the encouraging thing is that this is Iraqi initiative.  It's an important concept.  I mean it's their country.  They're eventually going to have to be the ones that take the fight to the -- to these extremists.  And I think that overshadows any tactical issue of whether they telegraphed or not.  I think the important thing is that they're working as a sovereign country to solve the problem.

 

            Q     General Myers?  Mr. Secretary?  General Myers?

 

            Q     With all this back-and-forth on Islamic websites about the health of Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, and then this new audiotape that surfaced, saying -- in which he said that he's not seriously injured, can you give us the military assessment of Zarqawi now and where you think he may be and his status as far as operations?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  I don't know that we know where he is.  I think the -- our assessment is that he has been wounded.  The severity -- I don't know that we know that, so we won't make a judgment on that.

 

            Clearly he leads one of the most dangerous factions, not only in Iraq but in the region, perhaps in the world, because he's part of the al Qaeda network now.  He has operated in other places before, up in the continent, certainly in Iraq before.  He's -- so he's not a stranger to violence.  And we know that he has no regard for human life at all -- fellow Muslim or whomever, man, woman and child.  So he's a dangerous character.

 

            Having said that, if -- and another thing I would say is that we've kept the pressure on him, and we will, 24 and 7.  So as you know, we've wrapped up a number of his lieutenants, either captured or killed them, and lots of folks that work with and for him, into the hundreds.  We will continue that pressure, and we're getting better at it.  We're better this week than we were last week.  And so the pressure will mount on that organization.  We do not know where he is right now.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary --

 

            Q     General Myers? 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I would add one thing.

 

            The current assumption is that he's in Iraq.  It would certainly -- were a neighboring country to take him in and provide medical assistance or haven for him, they obviously would be associating themselves with a major linkage in the al Qaeda network, and a person who has a great deal of blood on his hands.

 

            Q     Sir, is that a warning?

 

            Q     Speaking of other countries.  You've spoken out many times from this podium about Syria and Iran, but the counterterrorism group SITE just came out with a report saying that some 40 percent of the suicide bombers Zarqawi has enlisted in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia. Do you feel that the border with -- between Iraq and Saudi Arabia is also a problem with suicide bombers coming across there?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think that the -- it is not clear how people are getting into Iraq, although every border is a problem, just as borders for our country are a problem.  And it may very well be that people from one country go into another country to enter Iraq.  We've seen that people from a variety of different countries entering through Syria, for example, on buses that have been captured.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary? What about Saudi Arabia?

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary? 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  There's no question but that there have been a number of Saudis involved that have been captured throughout the entire activity.  I mean 9/11 had a number of Saudis involved.  The violent extremism is -- has generated in that region from a number of locations, and is today.  And it's a very dangerous thing to civilized societies.

 

            Q     General Myers?

 

            Q      Excuse me Mr. Secretary, I wasn't sure you finished your thought when you talked about another country giving aid and comfort to Zarqawi.  Would there be consequences for another country if they did that?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, I think what I said was fairly clear; that any country that decides it wants to provide medical assistance or haven to a leading terrorist, al Qaeda terrorist, is obviously associating themselves with al Qaeda and contributing to a great many Iraqis being killed, as well as coalition forces, in Iraq.

 

            And that's something that people would want to take note of.

 

            Q     General Myers, on what do you base your assessment that Zarqawi appears to have at least been wounded?  And can you tell us where that might have occurred?  And has the U.S. military discounted the previous speculation that all of this may have been part of a disinformation campaign to throw the U.S. military off his trail?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  I don't know about the disinformation campaign.  I know we work that very, very hard, and we have folks that are pretty knowledgeable about their tactics, their techniques and their procedures.

 

            The best guess is that he was injured out near the -- in western Iraq, near the Syrian border.  And we believe it because the postings on their website, on their Web pages, seem to be consistent with other things we've seen that were true.  And so the conclusion is that it's most likely that he is injured.  The severity we do not know.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I still don't want to be judgmental, but I also wouldn't want to send the wrong signal to people in the Department of Defense.  Anyone who sees wrongdoing has an obligation -- who works for the United States government has an obligation to report that wrongdoing to the Department of Justice or to the proper authorities in the department.  That is, I wouldn't want to leave any ambiguity about that. 

 

            Q     Not The Washington Post?

 

            Q     (Laughs.)

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Oh, it's so easy to do today.  I mean, you know, the number of hot lines -- fraud, waste and abuse hot lines and other avenues --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Whistleblowers and --

 

            GEN. MYERS:  -- whistleblower laws --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It's an easy thing.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  It's an easy thing to do.  (Cross talk.)

 

            Q     Speaking of accountability, can you talk about the tanker accountability report that the IG just finished -- speaking of wrongdoing -- that was reported?  Did that report conclude more Defense officials committed crimes against the United States in crafting an ill-conceived tanker deal?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Has the report been released?

 

            STAFF:  It has not been released, and there's no public version of it yet.  So we've provided it to the Congress.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Apparently the report is finished --

 

            STAFF:  It is completed.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  -- and it's been given to the Congress.

 

            STAFF:  Right.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And at some point --

 

            STAFF:  We'll be able to provide details, but we're not --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Details will be provided by the department.  I don't have any insight in it.

 

            Q     General Myers, can I ask you, you've got new units going back into Iraq that have served there before -- the 101st Airborne and the 4th ID.  Can you talk about how their experience there is likely to affect the battle against the insurgency coming up?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  Well, I think the first thing that comes to mind is that there -- given that there will be somewhere between 40 and 50, maybe 60 percent it's the same personnel that were there last time, or have experience in Afghanistan or Iraq, that their spin-up time will be a lot less, and their learning curve won't be as steep as units that for the first time are going into that very challenging environment.  So I think from that standpoint it will benefit them and make us more effective against violent extremists and more able to help -- more familiar with the Iraqi culture and more able to help and mentor Iraqi units, which is one of our primary goals right now.

 

            Q     General Myers, is there a down side to that because they fought an entirely different war the first time they were there?

 

            GEN. MYERS:  No, personally I don't think so.  I think what we've seen is the U.S. military is a military that as we go into the 21st century, was set up to do conventional warfare, basically, and the thought that had been given to the kind of challenges we face today was not near as great as how we conduct a more conventional conflict.

 

            And so, no, I think they'll adapt very quickly.  And they've been adapting -- they've had to adapt, as you know, throughout this whole conflict, and they'll continue to adapt.  I don't see that as an issue.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I must be in a reflective mood today, because I've reflected on an earlier comment that involved Saudi Arabia.  And I think it's very important to draw a distinction between a country such as Saudi Arabia, that's been attacked by al Qaeda, that is aggressively going after al Qaeda and capturing and killing terrorists in their country, and a country that is not doing that.  And that, to me, is a very important distinction.

 

            Q     But if its border is just as porous, isn't it also just as much a problem as Syria or Iran?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, as I indicated earlier, I think it's -- there's a good question as to exactly how people are coming in through which countries.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  And I think Saudi Arabia -- and my last visit there would indicate that what the officials there worry about are any border violations going one way or the other; about their own internal security or about the security of Iraq.  They worry about both of those.  And it's a reasonably well-protected border from the Saudi perspective, for sure.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Pam?

 

            Q     Can I take it back to your opening statements?  What do you -- what would you say to the idea that's been talked about in the press that the White House decision not to apply the Geneva Conventions to the global war on terror -- I'm not talking about Iraq --  has opened up a Pandora's box?  Because it puts the Defense Department in particular from a starting point where -- if it had been under Geneva Conventions -- that human rights were paramount, and the opposite assumption is true then if Geneva Conventions are not applied; that you're sort of starting out behind the 8-ball?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, I think -- personally think that's a stretch in this sense:  when the White House made that decision -- which they made and announced -- they made it with the conviction that it would have been wrong to have treated people as a organized military; because they didn't have uniforms, they didn't carry weapons publicly.

 

            They were -- made a practice of killing innocent civilians, and that to accord them the same arrangement under the Geneva Convention as qualified militaries would have diminished the value of the Geneva Convention.

 

            Second, when the president and the White House made the announcement, it was very explicit that detainees were to be treated humanely.  He said it.  I said it.  It was communicated directly.  And the implication that because you characterize them -- correctly, in my view, the White House did -- that that means that you should not treat them in a humane way is simply not an accurate characterization.

 

            Q     But it seems to me this is maybe a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, you talk about the treatment and the application of Geneva Convention to the prisoners.  Then, on the other hand, you have the Geneva Convention's effects on the U.S. military and that it's always reflected honor on the military.  And I wonder if taking that out, the military's been put into a position where they have to sort prove themselves double.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't know.  Do you --

 

            GEN. MYERS:  I'm not sure where --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't know quite how to respond.

 

            Q     Is it… was it --

 

            GEN. MYERS:  But you know, you're always concerned about how your own military is going to be treated, and that is why, despite the atrocious behavior and the savage behavior of this particular adversary, the U.S. military has conducted itself in accordance with Geneva Conventions, in accordance with the laws of warfare.  And we've worked that very hard.  I mean, going back to Afghanistan but certainly major combat in Iraq -- I mean, there's never been a more humane -- if there's -- if you can put "humane" right next to "war," as -- there's never been a more humane war, as we looked and tried to manage the impact on the civilian population.  And that continues today.  I mean, that's how they have to operate and --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And Iraq has always been under the Geneva Conventions, because it was a war against a country --

 

            Q     General Myers --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  -- and the Geneva Conventions applied from the outset.  Obviously, what took place on one shift in Abu Ghraib -- not the shift before, not the shift after, but on one shift -- what took place was not consistent with the Geneva Convention.  And as a result, dozens of people have been prosecuted and are being punished, as they should be.

 

            Q     Have you considered moving the GITMO -- the terrorist prison in Cuba to America, given the criticism and given the Supreme Court decision that says there is some review there?  Have you ever considered that?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I haven't, no.

 

            Q     Would it have given any advantages of some transparency or better oversight or --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, my goodness.  There's so much transparency in Gitmo and so much oversight.  The reforms that --

 

            Q     There are arguments that's outside the --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Let me finish answering your question.

 

            There have been so many reforms instituted -- and the list is available from Mr. Di Rita -- in the Army, in the Navy, in the Air Force, in the Department of Defense.  And the oversight and the attention that's given to what's taking place at Gitmo is expensive. And the implication that it's a gulag is what's wrong, not what's going on at Gitmo.

 

            Q     Sir, on Friday, 14 senators wrote to Chairman Principi of BRAC saying that the Pentagon's, quote, "failure" to release the underpinning information, justification for the BRAC decisions was putting them behind the eight ball as far as preparing for their regional hearings, and they asked for delays in them.  Then yesterday, Senator Bond met with Chairman Principi and demanded that the St. Louis regional hearing set for a week from today be postponed, and Principi agreed and postponed it to some time indefinite because supposedly the Pentagon is not supplying the proper information.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  The Pentagon is supplying the proper information. The department has made a mountain of material available to the BRAC commission.  They, as of yesterday, made, I believe, what could be properly characterized as all information on this subject available to the BRAC commission on a classified basis -- a portion of it on a classified basis. They have an accelerated -- so there's no difficulty with anyone in the BRAC commission or in the Congress who has clearance for classified information, going and doing whatever research or finding any information they may want. 

 

            The task of going through that enormous digital database and determining what's classified and what isn’t is something that will take a few more days.  I don't know how much longer --

 

            STAFF:  June 4th is when we expect to be able to --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  They hope to be able to finish it by June 4th, at which point another large trove of this material will be made available to the public.  And as I say, all the remainder is available to the BRAC commission and the Congress, as of yesterday.

 

            Q     So what's going on – is there a misunderstanding?  Why was the hearing postponed?  Is this taking longer than you had thought?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, it isn't taking longer.  There's a great deal more information than ever before.  The previous BRAC commissions did roughly the same thing; they made what was clearly unclassified available.  They then made what was clearly classified available only on a classified basis.  And as new information evolved, they were able to increase the amount of information that was available.  And as you go through that process, it -- let me just -- I don't think I want to discuss one aspect of why things are classified.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary --

 

            (Cross talk.)

 

            GEN. MYERS:  A couple -- a couple of things we've thought about though --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  There are real reasons.

 

            GEN. MYERS:  The data are comprehensive, as the secretary said. The second thing is, it's now all on electronic media.  So you take a comprehensive database that is on disk, and it can be -- you know, transferred very, very easily.  So all that had to be considered.  But they have what they're supposed to have, and they'll get more.  And we'll keep working on the classified piece of it.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Last question.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, in an interview with the Associated Press, Iraq's foreign minister expressed concern that the U.S. may pull out before Iraqi forces are ready.  I imagine you probably haven't read that interview yet.  But what sort of assurances can you give to the Iraqi people, to the American people of what the bar is for when -- how do you know how ready the Iraqi forces will be?  What are you looking for when you come up with these sorts of assessments?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It's interesting.  One day, someone says that the -- they might stay longer than they're needed; and the other is they might leave before -- while they're still needed.  And I suppose it's an imperfect world.  The president has answered that question, repeatedly.  He said we have a -- committed a great deal to this effort; 25 million people have been liberated, a transitional government is in place.  Our desire is to assist the Iraqi people in fashioning Iraqi security forces that can assume responsibility for their security, and pass over responsibility for their security as rapidly as they're capable of assuming it.

 

            That process is well under way.  We're now over 165,000 Iraqi security forces.  There are a number that are operating independently.  There are a number that are operating semi-independently but need logistic or lift or other types of quick reaction force assistance. 

 

            And each day it gets better.  When you ask, "How can you can you know," the important thing to realize is, it's their country.  It's the Iraqi people's country, and they're going to have to provide for their own security.

 

            Q     But can you say that the U.S. will not pull out forces before the Iraqis --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  The president said we'd stay as long as we're needed, and that is as long as they're not capable of handling their own security needs.  The progress is significant that's been made, and they are doing an increasingly good job.  And there have been some metrics developed that look at how one ought to determine their capabilities and their capacities.  And part of it involves the strength of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior, in terms of its competence; the chains of command, how effective they are; their ability to be equipped and have the kind of mobility that they're going to need to function.  And we have typical DOD metrics, where we look at each unit and try to assess that and then try to accelerate as rapidly as possible what it will take to get them to that point.  And the number is going to be going up into the 200,000 range of total people.  And again, quantity isn't just the whole thing; it's quality, as you suggest.

 

            But good progress is being made, and the United States has indicated and the coalition has indicated they intend to stay and complete the job in proper order.

 

            Thank you, folks.

 

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