Press Availabiity with Secretary Rumsfeld and Estonian Minister of Defense Jurgen Ligi
Q Mr. Secretary, can we ask about Sadr City?
SEC. RUMSFELD: This is a good size group you've got out here waiting for the end of that meeting.
I'm aware of the reports. I've not talked to General Casey this morning, but will be later today. So I don't know that there's much I could add.
Q Do you know whether it was an order from the prime minister that resulted in removing the roadblocks, and do you know if that'll have any impact on the search for the missing soldiers?
SEC. RUMSFELD: That's what the press is reporting, but I can't validate it. I simply have not -- I've been in other meetings all morning.
Q Do you feel that the Iraqi government is too soft on the Mahdi Army? Do you want to see some concrete steps taken in the next days?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I wouldn't say that, that they're too soft. I think that the government of Iraq has a very difficult, complex job. It has a country that does not have a lot of experience in representative government. It's been in office a relatively short period of time. It has fashioned a set of ministers and a parliament that are compromises with the various elements -- the Kurds, the Shi'a, the Sunnis and others.
And what they have to do is to work their way through these tough issues. I was impressed that the prime minister, shortly after he was named and elected, announced that he recognized the fact that people in that country bearing arms ought to be people who are connected to the government, and people who are not connected to the government ought not to be bearing arms.
Q Have his actions followed up those words?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I think that he's -- as I say, he's been in there less than the baseball season's length, so it is -- he clearly has focused on it. He's also focused on reconciliation, which, again, it's easier to say reconciliation than it is to achieve it. It takes time and it's difficult.
But he's got support. You know, 12 million people went out and voted, and clearly the overwhelming majority of the people in Iraq want a peaceful Iraq. And clearly there are a number of people, a minority, who don't and who are determined to try sectarian violence and strife and kill innocent men, women and children. So it's a complicated set of issues he's dealing with.
Q Were you concerned when you heard the reports today about the checkpoints being taken down? Did that worry you?
SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, I tend to validate things first and get on the phone and find out precisely what took place and what the reasons were rather than expressing the kinds of adjectives and adverbs and --
Q Can you tell us where you are in considering the possibility of increasing the number of Iraqi security forces beyond the 325,000?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I've got on my desk the proposals, the charts, and I was hoping to have a meeting sometime later today to come to some closure on it. But at the moment, I think it's correct to say that the Iraqi government and General Casey have made their recommendations, and General Dempsey, and that I'm very comfortable with the increases they've proposed and the accelerations in achievement of some of their targets that they have proposed.
And the question -- and I understand that the Iraqi government is, and that therefore now it's simply a matter of our pressing forward and getting our portion of the funding from the Congress and working to see that it's executed.
Q (Off mike.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: I'd rather wait until they have something to announce. And as I say, I've got to go back up and make sure I understand precisely what we're getting for the investment.
Q Would it be substantial increases? Hundreds? Tens of thousands?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Of Iraqi security forces?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I'm not going to characterize it. We'll have an announcement when they have an announcement. It's their forces, not ours.
Q But there will be an increase. That's your expectation.
SEC. RUMSFELD: That's my expectation.
Q Will this involve an increase in U.S. forces, Mr. Secretary?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, these are Iraqi security forces we're talking about completely.
Q Mr. Secretary, when you talk about this increase in Iraqi forces, does that necessarily mean anything for the presence of U.S. troops in terms of the level of troops or the time frame and how long they will be there? Is it connected? I don't understand.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure you don't. Don't kid me. You understand perfectly. The goal is to have the Iraqis have a number of security forces that are sufficiently capable and equipped and trained and effective that they can provide for the governance -- correction -- the security in that country and support the government.
That's the goal; and the sooner, the better. We've said that all along. Now, what that means is that obviously, if that happens, if and when that happens -- and we believe it will happen -- U.S. and coalition forces will not have the need to be there doing the kinds of things they're doing.
In terms of patrolling, in terms of presence, those are the kinds of things that would very likely be less needed as the Iraqi forces increased. The kinds of things that would lag would be the combat support and combat service support, because the training and the development and the equipping for those functions are somewhat behind the combat forces. And the embeds that we have with the Iraqi security forces would very likely also lag, the people that are actually doing the mentoring and the training and equipping. That's a big job.
Q I'm sorry, what I really mean to be asking -- when you say "lagged," to make sure I understand, you mean that they would be there longer. In other words, if you increase the size of the Iraqi military, does it then follow that some number of U.S. troops would be there longer to accommodate training that increase?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, because they're all different pieces. There are people who do the training. And obviously if they're training people, they're going to be there. There are people who do the patrolling and the security for various portions of the country. And as those are passed over, coalition forces would be not needed.
The things that I mentioned would be needed somewhat longer are the combat support and combat service support, because the logistics systems and all the things that you have to do to support military forces are things that the training is taking place now and has not advanced to the extent that the combat forces training has.
STAFF: Last question.
Q Won't you need more military trainers to do that? Won't you need more U.S. military trainers to do that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I doubt it. These people are pushing people's through-put pretty fast, and --
Q What's the -- (inaudible) -- out there?
SEC. RUMSFELD: -- and I just -- I doubt it. I just don't think there's a likelihood. We have trainers in Afghanistan and trainers in Iraq, and they're doing a terrific job. But the -- and then there are some that are embedded after the training process, and they're doing an excellent job. And they're getting the job done. It's very impressive what they're doing.
Excuse me, and we'll make this the last question.
Q What's the rationale behind the increase? Does that mean the security environment has proved more challenging than when the initial target of 325,000 was set?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I guess the way to think of it is that at the outset, a number was developed, I suppose by the Coalition Provisional Authority. And then the governing council came in, and then the interim government, and then the transitional government, and now a permanent government.
And second -- so they've had different groups of people looking at it. And so have we. What we've done is about every six months, I've said, "Okay, the world isn't static; it's dynamic. Things are changing. And let's send another assessment team in." So I think we've sent in three different assessment teams over time.
(To staff.) Do you remember how many it is? Three? I think so. And each time they've come back and said, "Here's the circumstance and here's our recommendation." And then we've taken that recommendation, gone to the Iraqis and discussed it, and come up with some adjustments as to levels and mix of police, as opposed to ministry of defense forces and pace, the speed at which this work would be done and the speed of equipping them.
Now, we've done that three different times. Each time the situation has changed on the ground and the assessment teams have come back with different proposals and we've been able to, in each case, advance the work, and in some instances increase it, and in some instances alter the mix slightly. But it's been an instructive process that's been going on in an orderly way now, and I think that the proposals that have come in very recently are sensible. And my guess is the Iraqi government will be announcing them at some point.
Q Any election predictions?
SEC. RUMSFELD: In Iraq? They just had their election. (Laughs.)
STAFF: Thank you.
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