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Goal: Zero Troops in Iraq, Rumsfeld Says

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2003 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reiterated that the goal or the "end state is to have no U.S. and no international forces in Iraq because it is their country" in today's briefing with Pentagon reporters.

Rumsfeld, joined by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Iraqis will have to "ultimately" take over the responsibility for securing their country.

"It is unnatural to have foreign forces, U.S. or coalition in that country for any sustained period of time," he said. "We're not there as occupiers. "We're there as people to help facilitate their transition from a repressive government."

The secretary responded there is already a broad coalition support for U.S. efforts in the country when asked whether the United States could continue its mission in Iraq without support of more multinational forces.

He said 32 countries currently have forces in the region. And, Pace added, another 14 more are discussing sending troops.

Pace said that at the end of the major conflict in Iraq in May, there were some 162,000 U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq. He noted "150,000 were U.S. and about 12,000 were coalition." The general reported, however, those numbers have changed. "The 150,000 U.S. (troops are) now down to about 130,000," he noted, with the 12,000 coalition forces increasing to about 23,000 to 24,000, and still "going up."

"And significantly the zero part of that coalition that was Iraq is now 60,000 with another 10,000 in training," he added.

Still Rumsfeld said he supported the need for a U.N. multinational force, which the U.S. will ask for in a new resolution to be presented to the U.N. Security Council soon. He noted it would not only "relieve some of the pressure on our (U.S.) forces," but that he felt it was important to get "additional countries committed to the success of Iraq." He also said the resolution would also make it easier for the international financial institutions to participate with grants and loans to the country.

Rumsfeld also told reporters that work in Iraq is being achieved at a good pace, but that it's going to take "time, patience and sacrifice." He said that success in Iraq will be critical to the security of the American people.

"If we fail, the next battle in the global war on terror could take place here as happened on Sept. 11 and the next time the toll could be higher."

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