SEC. RUMSFELD: Good afternoon, folks. In recent days, the Iraqi and coalition leaders have discussed ways to try to accurately gauge and as appropriate accelerate the efforts for the Iraqi government to assume greater responsibility over their territory, their security and the governance of their country.
As the president noted yesterday, coalition forces will stand with the Iraqi people as they take on a greater role in combating the terrorists and the militants in their country. What's being undertaken here is difficult, complex. It's an enormously challenging process to defeat the terrorists and to build relatively stable allies in countries that have little or no history of representative government, that lack the civil institutions and the capabilities that many of us take for granted here, that have little or no experience with an effective criminal justice system, that lack legitimate financial institutions, and where for decades the local police previously had served not to protect, as they do in our country, but as notorious instruments of the state.
Changing decades of tradition and distrust takes time to be sure, but the alternative is unacceptable. Recently, a magazine column was entitled "Would defeat in Iraq be so bad?" Well, the answer is: Yes, it would be. Those who are fighting against the Iraqi government want to seize power so that they can establish a new sanctuary and a base of operations for terrorists -- not one in the remote mountains of Central Asia, but in the heart of the Middle East with access to the world's energy supplies. And that's not a prospect that anyone should welcome, nor should anyone try to shrug it off as not important. Our troops understand that, and they're working through the difficulties. And any idea that U.S. military leaders are rigidly refusing to make adjustments in their approaches is just flat wrong.
For example, when assessments were made that training the Iraqi army needed to be adjusted to focus on internal security and fighting terrorists, the military didn't say, "Well, let's just keep on doing the same," they changed their training strategy. The result today is a security force of more than 310,000 trained and equipped Iraqis bearing the brunt of the battle for their country, and increasingly taking over chunks of their territory.
When it became clear that the coalition's initial plan for transferring sovereignty could be expedited, the timetable for the transfer of sovereignty was accelerated, and the elections and the drafting of a new constitution went forward. The result was a series of successful, unprecedented elections that transformed the struggle in Iraq from a battle against a foreign occupation to an unpopular assault on the democratically elected government of Iraq.
When commanders decided to move more troops, where needed, in Baghdad to respond to rising sectarian violence, several thousand U.S. troops were brought into Baghdad in a matter of days.
In short, the military is continuing to adapt and to adjust as required. Yes, there are difficulties and problems, to be sure. But the goal of a secure Iraq with a representative government that's at peace with its neighbors is the challenge. It will require more work. It will mean giving our troops and the Iraqi people the time to get the job done. We're blessed to have our fine troops, volunteers each of them, doing a superb job and putting their lives at risk every day to help make the American people safer.
Q How can the U.S. and Iraqi forces effectively deal with the militia problem in Baghdad if the Iraqi leadership continues to view Muqtada al-Sadr as a political participant and not as a militia leader?
SEC. RUMSFELD: That is a complicated issue -- his relationship with the militia, the nature of the militia, the extent of his control over the militia, the extent of his support for the government. And it is something that the Iraqi -- sovereign Iraqi government is wrestling with. They have unambiguously said that -- and everyone agrees -- that all militias must be a part of the government; that is to say, any armed element has to either be disarmed or be a part of the government in one way or another. And that is the path that the prime minister has set his government on.
It is a -- it's not going to be easy. It's going to be complicated. And his hope, understandably, quite logically, is to try to achieve a good portion of that politically -- through discussions, through compromise, through a reconciliation process -- and then where necessary use force.
Q Sir, what I don't understand about the benchmark plan, if we can call it that, is what happens if and when the Iraqi government fails to meet the timelines, projections, whatever you want to call them, for some of the major benchmarks? I mean, we've been told that they're not given ultimatums. We've been told -- but we've also been told by the president in recent days that U.S. patience is not unlimited. So there's -- but I don't understand; there must be consequences or responses built into this plan. Can you address that at all?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it's a political season, and everyone's trying to make a little mischief out of this and make -- turn it into a political football and see if we can't get it on the front page of every newspaper and find a little daylight between what the Iraqis say or someone in the United States says or somebody else in the United States says.
And I mean, it is not complicated. I've explained it two or three times. The president did an excellent job of explaining it yesterday.
And the situation is this; it is -- it is that the United States, in the persons of our ambassador and the embassy and General Casey and his team, have been, over a period of time, in continuous discussions with the Iraqi government at various levels, and they've been discussing the way forward through the rest of this year and next year. That's a perfectly logical thing for them to do.
As they do that, they then discuss, well, when might something happen? And it isn't a date and it isn't a penalty if it doesn't. I mean, you're trying to add a degree of formality and finality and punishment to something. My goodness.
You could sit down today and take the remaining 16 provinces in the country and say, well, when -- today, when do we -- the U.S. and the Iraqis -- government -- think that this province might move over to the governance of the Iraqis instead of the multinational force? What about this province and that province? And you could lay out and say, well, in this quarter or this two- or three-month period that might -- we might be able to do that, and lay it out. And as I've said before, in some cases you may beat it; you may do it faster than that. In some cases you may do it later than that. In some cases you may do it exactly when you thought and then find it didn't work out, and then you'd have to go back in, take it back, fix it, and then give it back again.
Now, you're looking for some sort of a guillotine to come flowing down if some date isn't met. That is not what this is about. This is complicated stuff. It's difficult. We're looking out into the future. No one can predict the future with absolute certainty.
So you ought to just back off, take a look at it, relax, understand that it's complicated, it's difficult, that honorable people are working on these things together; there isn't any daylight between them. They will be discussing this and discussing that; they may have a change here or a change there, but it will get worked out. And the value of it, in my view, is that you are, in effect, establishing priorities. You're saying, among the coalition and the Iraqi government, that the goal is to kind of get from where we are to there, and "there" is having the Iraqis govern their country and provide for their own security. And the way to get there is in steps. And we've already passed over two provinces to the Iraqis, and we've already passed over some divisions to the Iraqi military chain of command.
But it's not just security, it is, as I've said, the reconciliation process is going to have three or four major milestones. You can't know when you're going to find agreement with the Sunnis and the Kurds and the Shi'a on some of these complicated things. You can say, "Well, we'd like to try to do it in the first quarter, or the second quarter," and then you can, you know, work hard to try to achieve that, but you may or may not achieve that. This is -- the situation in Iraq is not going to be solved militarily, obviously. It's political, it's economic, and it's security, and all of those have to go forward. And therefore, it makes it that much -- it's multidimensional; it's that much more difficult to predict when any one of those pieces will, in fact, arrive at what today, sitting here in October of 2006, looks like would be desirable or possible.
And so this is something they're going to work through. And I wouldn't waste a lot of newsprint trying to find daylight between everybody on this, or try to find things that are wrong with it. I think -- the idea of saying, "We're here, we want to get there, here are some steps to get there. Let's go ahead and tell the world that we think those are the steps we want to get there, we've kind of agreed on them," and then see if we can't do it. And then, of course, you can point with alarm and say, "Oh my goodness, you didn't make it." And you can have a front-page article and everyone will have a good time. And we'll say, "That's right, you didn't make it." And then the ones that we make earlier than we thought, we'll never see it on the front page.
Q I've got a quick question on the Army budget. Last week, Gordon England came out with his three-page fiscal guidance to the Army, giving them $120.6 billion in '08 instead of the $138 billion that you and General Schoomaker have pressed OMB on.
Question one, why did you not get the larger figure? And two, how are you going to make up this rather large shortfall where the Army --
SEC. RUMSFELD: The premise of your question is imperfect. I know that will come as a stunning shock to you. (Laughter.)
But first of all, I've read all this stuff about General Schoomaker going over to OMB and doing this and doing that. That's just nonsense. Just it's -- it's mythology.
The only time General Schoomaker -- (laughs) -- I believe has been involved with OMB is I had a COCOM dinner at a restaurant when they were in town, and we had the service chiefs and the secretaries and the combatant commanders and a few other people mixed in. And I was standing there and Rob Portman was across the room, and I said, "Pete, let me introduce you to Portman!" And we introduced them and they just stood there having a drink and talking for a few minutes before the dinner started.
So I have -- I'm the one who does it. Gordon England does it. We do it with OMB. I do it with the president, to the extent that's appropriate. And I think there's an awful lot of stray voltage flying around about that subject.
Q But you did get a top line last week that's a lot lower than --
SEC. RUMSFELD: You see, the trouble with chasing that number until you look at the totality of it is that in the environment we're in, we have to give guidance, so the work has to be done, and then the services do the work. And then they start putting all that together, and simultaneously there is a -- the issue of a supplemental. And it is very difficult to know what ought to go in the budget and what ought to go in the supplemental.
And as I think you know, we've been working very hard to try to get reset money for the Army. The Army needs it. So does the Marine Corps. So do some of the other services have reset problems.
And we've had good luck, and we feel that we had a good slug in the last sup. And I think we have some reasonable understandings with OMB about the coming year and the supplementals and the importance of not having a two- or three-year lag in getting the reset taking place.
So I think what you ought to do is assume that, like other years, there'll be an announcement. And when there is an announcement, that'll be the news. And then you'll have to look not just at the budget and the top line, but you're going to have to look at the supplemental as well, and those numbers are still moving around quite a bit within the department, quite understandably.
Q Mr. Secretary, back to the business of benchmarks. Without --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Where's -- (name inaudible)?
Q He was here the other --
Q He's in London.
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Laughs.)
Q On benchmarks, without some formality to the process, without some specific incentives or disincentives, doesn't it become just more wishful thinking, which some critics will claim is the way much of the war has been run so far?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you know, I mean, if you take -- go to the last year or two, there were benchmarks or projections or hopes or expectations. The hope would be that you could draft a constitution and elect a constituent assembly, and that you could have an election based on that constitution -- and they did it, and 12 million people went out and voted. Impressive.
Now, that is a benchmark. The dates, in some cases, were earlier, in some cases were later. But the same thing will be true next year. The advantage of having targets or projections or benchmarks -- whatever you want to call them -- if they're agreed, which they would have to be; you're dealing with a sovereign country, you'd have to come to some understanding -- it drives priorities, it drives their budget. They would have to decide, if those are their priorities, then their budget ought to reflect that. And then they look at the legislative calendar in their parliament, and they'd have to kind of schedule things to fit the reconciliation process or to fit the federalism issue. And those are decisions they're going to have to make.
But what it does is it allows people to point towards something and kind of track along that line. And to the extent they're public, it gives people a sense of that's the direction you're going. And that's encouraging in a democracy for people to say, okay, they've kind of indicated -- when they do; they have not done it yet, obviously, because they haven't come to understandings on it -- but when they do announce it, they'll say, "That's where we're going, out that way. And here are kind of the steps we hope to take." And that means the parliament has to get ready and see if they want to arrange their calendar to fit that, or they may disagree in a democracy. Parliaments occasionally do, we've noticed.
So I think that -- I think there's an advantage in having it public because it's a declaration of your priorities and what you think you would like to accomplish. The risk of it is that someone will say: Oh my goodness, look at there, they missed it by a day or two or a week or something else, and fuss at you. Well, that's life. People fuss anyway. (Scattered laughter.)
Q Mr. Secretary, there were some pretty biting comments from Prime Minister Maliki today. He says he could get control of the violence in Iraq in six months if he had more weaponry and more control over his forces. One quote said, "If anyone is responsible for the poor security situation in Iraq, it is the coalition." And he says, "You have to be careful fighting militias and terrorists because they are better armed than the army and police."
Your thoughts on this?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, first, let's say I haven't seen the remarks. And I like to read -- I certainly accept what you're saying is what you read. I don't know if you were there to hear him say it or that you understood the translation. Certainly I didn't. Therefore, I'm kind of old-fashioned; I'd like to see what he actually said, what the context was, and what the questions being raised. I find almost every day I see all kinds of mythology repeated in the press day after day of things that never happened, just unbelievable what I see.
Now, first of all, he's got a tough job. He's under a lot of pressure. He's got a parliament, he's got a cabinet, he's trying to get things done, and it's difficult. And there's no doubt but that they -- there's a NATO train-and-equip program that's assisting the Iraqis and providing weaponry and things for their security forces. Is it first-line U.S.-type equipment? No. In many cases it's coming from Eastern European countries, and it tends to have Soviet and Russian backgrounds in some of those Eastern European countries, which is where the Iraqi capabilities had been.
And so he sees the contrast, obviously, between our forces' equipment and the equipment that his forces have, and they're not -- it's not as good. And that's fair enough. If I were in his shoes, I'd feel the same way. (Chuckles.) I'd say I need more and better equipment sooner.
Now, what we've done is we have recently -- I've done it three times now, in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan -- been uncomfortable with the proposals that came to me and the path that we were put on for Afghan and Iraqi security forces. And I've had, I think, three separate assessments teams go in and take a look and come back and say, "How do you feel about it today? The situation's changed." So, over a period of 2-1/2 years, we've had, I think, three different assessment teams, and each time they've come back they've had a different view, that the mix ought to be different, or the pace of it ought to be faster.
And so, within the last -- oh, I'm going to guess three months -- I looked at it again, and was again dissatisfied. And I talked to General Dempsey and to the folks in Afghanistan, General Eikenberry, and they have come back in with new proposals as to the levels they believe the security forces in those two countries ought to be, the mix among them, and the emphasis as between combat forces, police, support, airlift, intelligence, and the various other pieces. And we now have that -- my -- our latest set of recommendations circulating in the interagency.
And we intend to do two things; one is to increase the budgets -- their budgets -- they have to increase their budgets as well -- and our effort. And second, to increase the levels of their capabilities, with some adjustments in the mix. And third, to move the date at which it would be accomplished to the left, and try to achieve some of it still sooner, at a higher level than had previously been estimated.
And it shouldn't be any surprise that that's what you have to do in this business. No one is going to sit down and paint a perfect picture. Two, three years ago, they painted what they thought was best, and then we looked at it six months later and didn't like it, and we fixed it up better and tweaked it. And we're in the process of doing that once again. And I think that the prime minister is aware of that and is pleased with it. He may -- I shouldn't say he's aware of it; I don't know, because he wouldn't know the state of play in our interagency process.
But it is -- we are absolutely convinced that the right way to do this is to see that they are able to take care of their own security. And it is an awful lot cheaper for the taxpayers of America to have Iraqi and Afghan soldiers out there providing their security than it is to have coalition forces doing it.
Q. But when you hear comments from him that sound like he has a difference with Washington, is it possible that some of that is for his own domestic political consumption?
SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, I -- you'd have to climb in his mind. And he's a politician; he's a prime minister of a country. He has to cope with a lot of different things.
I've said in this room, a year or two ago, that hang onto your hats, when Afghanistan gets a parliament, Mr. Karzai's going to have a whole set of different issues facing him, and you're going to hear someone saying this, and someone saying that, and disagreeing with us, and disagreeing with something that was said here.
Same thing in Iraq, I've said. Count on it. And it's happening, and we ought not to be surprised. You were all forewarned that that would happen. And now we just sit back and enjoy the democracy that's there.
Q Mr. Secretary, General Casey and General Caldwell have talked in the last couple of days about --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Who's the second one?
Q General Caldwell, sir, and General Casey --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Caldwell.
Q -- have spoken in the last couple of days about increasing operations against death squads and militias. And they've spoken at length about some of the most recent operations.
My question is this; if that is now part of the U.S. military mission, is it the job of the U.S. soldier to step in between Sunni and Shi'a violence, to step into civil unrest in that country?
Is that -- are you concerned that that's mission creep? Is that -- to step into the Sunni-Shi'a violence, is that the job of the U.S. soldier?
SEC. RUMSFELD: The -- that's a very complicated question. The president addressed it yesterday. And I'd suggest you get the transcript of his remarks if you didn't see it.
Q (I'm only ?) interested in your views as secretary of Defense.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I agree with the president.
Q I'm extremely interested in your views.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I agree with the president.
Q Could you please articulate an answer?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Are you trying to find some daylight between the two of us?
Q (Off mike) -- I'm simply interested -- I'm sure you have a very articulate answer.
SEC. RUMSFELD: You are, huh? Well, I think the way to think about it is this, that our challenge, and it's tough, is to get the Iraqi people capable of governing and providing security for their country. Therefore, we are functioning in support of that government. And there are people trying to prevent that government from succeeding, and they are of various types. You've heard General Casey comment that -- you say, "Well, who's the enemy?" And the answer is the enemy is different in different parts of the country. There's more than one enemy. There are different elements to the insurgency and to the al Qaeda activities. And there are common criminals who are hired by various elements there to go out and put out IEDs and do various other things.
So -- and there's sectarian violence. And there are also people that would be characterized as al Qaeda or insurgents trying to take over that country, extremists, who are trying to foment sectarian violence and they -- I mean, the golden dome and the intelligence we've received on various pieces of what's taking place was purposeful; it was to try get a civil war going between the Shi'a and the Sunnis.
And therefore, I'm not going to try to characterize and begin at one end of the spectrum, go to the other end of the spectrum and say when is it or is it not appropriate for U.S. military personnel to be involved in the conflict, other than to say that the president addressed it. I have addressed it by saying they're there to support the Iraqi government.
And clearly, sectarian violence can have the effect that the people who are fomenting it want, and that is to cause the government to fail. And our goal is to help the government from failing.
Q Mr. Secretary?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes?
Q General Casey left open the door for adding more troops, as he said --
SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, that is -- I think that's unfortunate to characterize it that way. If you ask me the question: Is it possible there could be more forces? Yes. Is it possible there could be fewer forces? Yes. The headline is: "Casey Thinks There May Be More Forces." Now, is that --
Q He did say that --
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, he didn't say it that way.
Q He said he would consider it, and he -- maybe he would --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Listen, we're in the political season. You know that. And that's what's happening. People are trying to take what he said and turn it in a way that it plays the way they'd like to see it play. He didn't say any -- he did not leave anyone with the impression that he was thinking about more troops or fewer troops or the same number of troops. He just gave a truthful answer --
Q His statement, when he was asked, will you increase --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Ask him the second question: Could it stay the same? Maybe. Could it go down? Maybe. He would have answered the same way for every one of them. They're where he wants them. Think of that.
Now, that is mischievous -- I don't mean by you. But the environment in -- (laughter). What'd you say?
Q By General Casey? I mean someone --
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, not by Casey! (Laughter.) The concept is mischievous. But, I mean, that's what happens! We're all adults, we know what's going on here.
Q May I ask you a practical question, nonetheless --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Implying the first one wasn't. (Laughs; laughter.)
Q If he does come back to you and say I think we need more troops, will you automatically support the recommendation? And have you begun to identify what troops could go? Or would you extend? Or would you send more?
SEC. RUMSFELD: So, first we have him implying -- the way the press carries it -- that there are going to be more troops. And then you have me explaining, yes, we're already studying which new troops we'll put in.
I mean, come on! I didn't just fall off a turnip truck! (Laughter.)
Just a second! Just a second! Just a second! Just a second!
The process, just so we get it clear here, is that General Casey deals with his commanders -- General Chiarelli, and Chiarelli deals with the division commanders, and they then come to some recommendation -- more, less, same, reallocate within the country; shift emphasis, more people doing training and equipping and embedding; fewer people doing something else; fewer people doing embedding and training -- I got to do both sides; I got to box the compass with you, or else you'll grab one piece and run with it.
Now, then they come to Abizaid and Abizaid looks at it, gives them his advice. And then they come into Pete Pace and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and they look at it, and they give their thoughts. They're the principal advisers to the President on this. And then they make a recommendation to me.
And then, at some point, we sit down with the president and say, "Here's what this process has produced." And he'll want to know what did General Casey think or General Chiarelli or Abizaid and General Pace, and what do the chiefs say. And that's the normal process. It's the statutory process. It's the constitutional process. It works. It's measured. And I think that is a -- answered a better question than was posed. (Laughs)
Q But speaking of numbers, you said in your introduction there were 310,000 Iraqi forces.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Actually, that's close. That's close enough.
Q And you said 310,000 trained and equipped, quote, "bearing the brunt of the battle."
SEC. RUMSFELD: Is there a majority --
Q And the President said six of 10 are in the lead.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah, and --
Q If that's the case, why are you increasing the number of U.S. forces? You have over the past several months. There were 130,000. Now there's roughly 140,000.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Because that's --
Q We know that some have been extended.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Because --
Q You've leaving the impression that the Iraqis are doing much better bearing the brunt of battle, in the lead. If that's the case, why can't you reduce U.S. forces?
SEC. RUMSFELD: That's a rather accusatory way to put it. But I'm not leaving the impression -- anything other than exactly the facts. And I use that number because it's a correct number. I think it may be 307(,000) or 312(,000), but it's close enough.
They are -- have moved into the lead. A majority are already in the lead. And General Pace the other day was down here, and I think he indicated the dates or the time frame -- no penalties, mind you; you got that -- the time frame that they hope they'll all be in the lead. And I think he announced how that would work.
You know, the situation on the ground is what determines the situation. And he decided -- this process came up with a recommendation, not that they were doing badly. The reason I say they're carrying the brunt -- they've been taking casualties at three times the coalition rate and -- I think that's right -- two and a half, three times. And they're out there doing things. And it's tough. It isn't easy. And there's a lot of people trying to stop them from being successful. And there's a lot at stake. And there are a lot of people that don't want it to work out.
And so the -- when we looked at the proposal that came in for some additional troops, we nodded our heads and said yes. The president said, "Fair enough. This is important, we've got to get this done, and we'll do that."
And it wasn't your first choice, obviously. I remember going up on the Hill and people saying to me, "Oh, what's the October surprise going to be? You're going to reduce a whole bunch of troops or produce Osama or something?" And well, the October surprise was, we increased troop levels. (Chuckles.) Why? Because it was the right thing to do.
Q Mr. Secretary, on the benchmarks question, has the Iraqi government agreed on the need for benchmarks and, as you suggested, to make them public? And have they agreed to establish this process by the end of the year, as I think Ambassador Khalilzad said?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't know. I don't know. No.
Q They haven't agreed?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, they're still in discussions. These things are -- you know, it is not something that starts and ends. You end up having meetings -- and I'm not out there in the meetings, so I can't tell you precisely where they are at any given moment, but there are political meetings, there are economic meetings going on, there are security meetings going on, and as they develop an approach, he undoubtedly -- the people they're dealing with undoubtedly have to then go to Maliki and go to the cabinet, and then they may in some instances have to go to the parliament.
So it isn't going to be tied up with a ribbon and announced, "There it is."
Q Well, you said --
SEC. RUMSFELD: It's not going to be the way it'll work.
Q You said it would be made public --
SEC. RUMSFELD: It will be, as we go along, I suspect.
Q But --
SEC. RUMSFELD: I'm not out there.
Q But you're not sure if the Iraqi government has agreed to this sort of process you made out of setting quarterly targets, more or less?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I have made a practice of not speaking for foreign governments for six years, and I'm not going to start now. They will announce what they've agreed to. They will -- all I know is what I hear from my people, that they have meetings, they go well, they're working their way through it, it's tough, complicated stuff, but we're making progress.
Q (Off mike) -- saying the Iraqis --
Q (Off mike.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: The last question right here. Last question, I'm told, by the people who are standing up, saying I'm getting the hook.
Q Sir, General Casey and the ambassador said the Iraqis had agreed that they would go through this exercise. Are you saying they haven't agreed on the need to do it? (Off mike.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: The problem is the word "it."
Q Benchmarks -- to lay down benchmarks.
SEC. RUMSFELD: (Chuckles.) Don't go there.
You say have they agreed to "it"? Are they meeting and having discussions on these things? Yes. Have they been meeting for some weeks and months? Yes. Does that imply a certain amount of understanding that that process might be useful? Yes. But can I say that they -- that is to say the prime minister and his government -- have come down and said, yes, we'll do this, we won't do that or, yes, we will do this, we won't do that, and we'll do it by this time? No. I -- one would have thought they might have announced that if they decided all of that.
Q So you don't know if in the end they will lay down benchmarks?
SEC. RUMSFELD: My impression is they already are, and that it is a process, not an event. I think that your -- the tone of this group is to think of it as something that will be revealed or chipped in stone and announced by the Maliki government or by Zal or somebody, and that is not what it is. It is a sovereign country working with the coalition to see how we get from where we are through this year and through next year and accomplish the things that are in our mutual interest. That is what that is. It is a perfectly normal, rational thing. And then to the -- and it's not just security, and so I'm not involved in all the reconstruction or the political governance issues, and I can't speak to that. And they have groups that meet and talk together and how are we going to do this and when should the parliament do this, that or the other thing -- this is a sovereign country that you're dealing with. And when you say have they agreed to "it," I don't know what "it" is. Are they involved in the process? You bet they are.
Q (Off mike) -- ambassador specifically said that they would have a plan by December.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, then why are you asking me?
Q (Off mike) -- sound like you're uncertain that they have agreed to lay down benchmarks.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Look, I -- Zal's got his job, the prime minister's got his job, and I've got my job. And they'll speak for their jobs and I'll speak for my job. And I can say this, I think that people are making an awful lot of this and confusing the issue.
And I think if you'd step back and look at it and say, "Well, isn't that the most normal, sensible, rational thing to do" -- it's like you do it in a corporation;, it's like we do it in the government of the United States -- they talk to the Congress about this, work on that, try to figure it out. There's nothing mysterious about this.
And trying to say, well, he agreed to this then, or he agreed to this now -- that isn't the way it works. It just isn't the way it works.
Q But given the record, Mr. Secretary, can you blame us for the tone, expressing some skepticism? Because --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, no. That's your job. You can express all the skepticism you want.
Q Every time a benchmark has been laid down in terms of security forces, and the like, the Iraqis have been unable to meet them.
SEC. RUMSFELD: That is just false.
Q And you have no --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Just a minute. Just a minute!
That is false!
Q That is not false.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Every time a security benchmark has been laid down the Iraqis have failed to meet it? Wrong! Just isn't true. And it would be a shame if people walked out thinking it.
Just a minute! Just a minute!
SEC. RUMSFELD: Now, why do I say it's wrong? Well, first of all, it has the benefit of being true that it's wrong. The Iraqi security force training program that we have laid out has been proceeding in an orderly, reasonable way. We have projections that we release to the Congress every month or two or three; we show them what we think we're going to have by way of training and equipping. We show them that the chain of command's been set up. We've shown them when the new divisions get shopped over -- Iraqi divisions -- to the chain of command because they have the capability of handling it. We've done it -- two of them now. There will be more coming along. We can't say precisely what day that will happen. But it's all laid out there. We think it's working. They're doing a good job. When we said that they would handle the bulk of the security for the last election, they did. We were in an outer cordon, they were handling it in the inner cordon. They did a good job. The election took place.
I mean, to say that every security -- I mean, that's -- there's people ranting like that up on the Hill, but that is just wrong to say that! It's not even -- it isn't even close to being true!
Q They have met the benchmarks in numbers, but not the ability to stand up and take control. It was evidenced here. General Casey said as much in the fight to retake Baghdad, that when the U.S. military called on the Iraqi military to provide forces to assist in that operation, they provided only a small fraction of what is needed.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Okay. Look at it this way. Have there been instances, many instances, when the Iraqi security forces have been able to do precisely what was intended and what was predicted? Answer: Yes. Have there been instances where they were not able to do what was predicted and hoped for or intended? Answer: Yes.
That means your question, your statement, your assertion is flat wrong. You said "every" security benchmark has been missed. That's not true! They've done a darn good job.
Q Perhaps the assertion was too precise --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Too precise? It was inaccurate.
Q But in terms of their ability --
SEC. RUMSFELD: You might want to retract it. Just for the fun of it, just retract it.
Q In terms of their ability to provide for their own security, there are many times when the U.S. has called upon them where they just haven't stood up. Is --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, wait a second. Wait a second. Wait a second; there are many times. There are some times. There are some times where they took over something, it didn't work, and people had to go back in and help them, no question, and take it back. I've said that from the beginning. That's part of this process.
It is not a smooth road. It's a bumpy road. We know that. We've said it repeatedly. There's no surprise to it. But anyone who runs around denigrating the Iraqi security forces and minimizing their capability is making a mistake and doesn't understand the situation.
Q Are the people of Baghdad safer than they were six months ago?
(No audible response.)
Q Thank you.
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