Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefed the Pentagon press corps on March 14. Following are highlights of their remarks.
- The Iraqi people are at a crossroads now, choosing between a path toward civil war and one toward freedom and prosperity.
- Iraqis have looked down the path toward civil war and are rejecting it.
- Most of Iraq’s elected and religious leaders are calling for calm and unity.
- The Iraqi military has been loyal to the central government.
- The vast majority of Iraqis are supporting the Coalition’s efforts in Iraq.
- With each subsequent election in Iraq, Iraqis have turned out to vote in increasing numbers, including Sunnis.
- The terrorists tried and failed to stop the elections for the Transitional National Assembly in January 2005, the constitutional referendum in October 2005, and elections for a permanent government in December 2005.
- Iraqis continue to volunteer to defend their nation, despite attacks against the security forces.
- These security forces are increasingly taking on more responsibility: There are some 100 Iraqi battalions in the fight against the terrorists; about 75 percent of operations involve Iraqi Security Forces and nearly half of those are independently Iraqi planned, conducted and led.
- Beyond training and equipping the Iraqi Security Forces, we are training the trainers and also the enablers – those entities beyond the basic numbers of policy and army, such combat support and intelligence, helping to bring more forces and capability on line.
- The Coalition effort in Iraq is contributing to U.S. security.
- A free and stable Iraq will not go to war against its neighbors; use chemical weapons against its own people; harbor or support terrorists; pay families of suicide bombers or seek to kill Americans.
- We must understand as a nation that it takes decades for terrorist organizations to be defeated or to lose their ideology.
- Even if we left Iraq tomorrow, we would still have a long way ahead to defeat terrorism around the world.
- We are going to need forces forward deployed around the world to respond to the terrorist threats to our country.
- Amidst the violence in Iraq there is a string of victories:
- For those who want a single country;
- For those who want a representative system;
- For those who want a constitutional government and for those who are trying to form a new government.
Link: briefing transcript