Rumsfeld Discusses Troop Levels, Fallujah at News Conference
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 20, 2004 There is "no intention" to keep the 20,000 American soldiers extended in Iraq any longer than 90 days in the country and 120 days in the theater, Defense Department officials said today.
But if U.S. Central Command commander Army Gen. John Abizaid decides he needs 135,000 U.S. service members in Iraq, rather than the 115,000 planned, then other troops will come in, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news conference.
What DoD will do remains to be seen. As with all military operations, the enemy will have a say in what the coalition will do, said DoD officials. Officials said they have any number of plans ready for any number of situations.
In Fallujah, the cease-fire continues. Marines in the city are poised for offensive operations, but are only defending themselves. Members of the Iraqi Governing Council are speaking with local city officials and religious leaders to try to negotiate a peaceful end to the situation there. Rumsfeld noted the enemy forces are not taking part in the negotiations.
"Let there be no doubt, it is essential to hold to account those murderers with strong ties to Iraq's deposed regime," Rumsfeld said. "It is also important to demonstrate to those Iraqis who may feel disenfranchised that there is a place for them in a new, democratic and peaceful Iraq."
Rumsfeld reiterated that the vast majority of Iraqis even in the Sunni Triangle area where most problems occur want to see freedom flourish and the rule of law take root.
The secretary said the current state in Fallujah will not continue indefinitely. "Thugs and assassins and former Saddam henchmen will not be allowed to carve out portions of that city, and to oppose peace and freedom," he said. "The dead-enders, threatened by Iraq's progress toward self- government, may believe they can drive the coalition out using terror and intimidation, or foment civil war between Sunnis and Shiias, or block the path to Iraqi self-rule. But they are badly mistaken."
Rumsfeld said the thugs who intimidate women and children are now facing soldiers and Marines, and those enemy forces will find intimidating coalition service members will be "considerably more difficult."
He said the United States is in the midst of a long struggle. It is often difficult to understand what is significant while in the middle of events, he said. "But the American people have a good center of gravity," the secretary added, "and they know the stakes are high and that it will take patience and resolve."