Rumsfeld Cites Progress Toward Iraqis Providing Their Own Security
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2005 People who wonder why it's taking so long for Iraqi security forces to become capable of providing for their nation's security need to look at what's happened since coalition forces toppled Saddam Hussein's regime, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in a Nov. 8 radio interview.
Speaking with Samir Nader on Voice of America's Radio SAWA, Rumsfeld pointed to the progress evident today in building Iraq's security forces from scratch.
"First of all, it's not taking so long," Rumsfeld said. "It's been two and a half years, and we've gone from zero to 210,000 Iraqi security forces trained and equipped. They are every day and every week taking over more and more responsibility for the security in the country."
Recent operations near the Syrian border in Iraq's Anbar province have involved a large number of Iraqi forces, the secretary added. He also noted that Iraqis provided almost all of the security for the country's Oct. 15 constitutional referendum and will do the same for the Dec. 15 parliamentary election.
"They're getting bigger and better equipped and better trained and more professional every single day, and as a result, they're taking over more and more responsibilities every day," Rumsfeld said.
The secretary expressed optimism about the upcoming parliamentary election and its aftermath.
"I think that what we will have seen is three elections in less than one year," he said. "Each one will be successful. I would guess there will be a higher turnout on Dec. 15 than in any of the previous two. We'll see the Sunnis participating to a greater extent."
The election of a popularly chosen, representative government, he said, will send a clear message to the Iraqi people and to insurgents bent on derailing Iraq's progress toward democracy.
"I think that at that stage, it will be pretty clear to everyone in Iraq that anyone who is going out blowing up buildings and killing innocent Iraqi people (is) not opposing the coalition," Rumsfeld. "What they would be opposing is the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government and the Iraqi constitution. I don't think the Iraqi people are going to have a lot of tolerance for that kind of behavior, and I think they'll turn people in who do that, and I think we'll see a better environment post-election."
Rumsfeld warned of the likely consequences if people like fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, were to gain control of the country.
"If Iraq were turned over to the terrorists, the Zarqawis, the people who chop off people's heads -- here's a country that's wealthy, it has oil, it has water, it has intelligent people, it has an important history -- it would be a disaster for that region," he said. "To the extent that Iraq is -- as I believe it will be in the period ahead -- a single country, at peace with its neighbors, that's democratic, respectful of all the different elements within it, it will have a transforming effect in the region, I believe.
"It will be a terrific thing for the world," the secretary said. "They are well on the path to achieve that."