Rumsfeld, Rice Brief Congress on Iraq Visit
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 3, 2006 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today it's highly unlikely his senior officers at U.S. Central Command and Multinational Force Iraq will recommend any U.S. troop reductions until the Iraqi government is fully up and running.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld answers a question from the media after congressional testimony May 3, as Virginia Sen. John Warner, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, looks on. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with House and Senate members to report on their recent trip to Iraq. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, USN
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
But once that begins, those discussions are likely to begin, Rumsfeld told reporters after he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with House and Senate members to report on their recent trip to Iraq.
The two visited Iraq last week to meet with Iraq's newly chosen prime minister, president and parliament speaker. Rumsfeld and Rice promised the new leaders the United States stands ready to help and support Iraq's new unity government.
Today Rumsfeld and Rice visited Capitol Hill to share their impressions during closed-door sessions, then spoke with reporters. Rice said she's impressed by the direction the new Iraqi government is taking. The Iraqis believe in a unity government with autonomy for the provinces, "and that is what we are going to try to support them in," she said. "I think we ought to support them in their view of what Iraq ought to be."
Rumsfeld noted that there's still work ahead, with leaders yet to be appointed for the government ministries. And until the ministers are appointed and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad meet with them, recommendations for troop reductions are unlikely, he said.
"But I do expect that after that happens, they will be having those discussions," he said. "As we pass over more responsibility, we ought to be able to reduce our forces."