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Rumsfeld Says Iraqis Need to 'Step Up' to Help Coalition Provide Better Security

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

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2003 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters this weekend that help from the Iraqi people will be needed if the security situation in the country is ever to improve.

"This country belongs to the Iraqi people, and in the last analysis it's the Iraqi people who will provide the security in this country," he said. "Instead of pointing fingers, it seems to me, at the security forces of the coalition because there are acts of violence taking place against Iraqi people in this country, it's important for the Iraqi people to step up and take responsibility for the security by providing information to General Sanchez and his people to a greater extent than they're doing."

The secretary has spent the past week in Iraq, meeting with Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, Coalition Provisional Authority administrator, and Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition ground forces there. He also met with members of U.S. and coalition forces.

Rumsfeld said 55,000 Iraqis have now been trained and are involved in helping coalition forces provide security by patrolling borders and guarding government buildings and holy sites.

"All of these (efforts) are being increased at a good rate, and I believe (they) will create a circumstance over a period of time where we can have high confidence that the responsibility for this security in this important country will be in the hands of the Iraqi people, rather than in the hands of coalition forces, which is a good thing," Rumsfeld said.

Assessing the security situation in Iraq, Sanchez said that over the past five days, attacks against his troops had averaged 15 per day. He said that 50 percent of those attacks were conducted at a long range, outside of contact of the American and coalition forces.

"The enemy has made a decision to stay away and not engage us other than with improvised explosives that are being remotely controlled, or with mortars where they can escape readily," he said. Sanchez added that the other 50 percent of attacks are being conducted with a combination of small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosives.

However, Sanchez added, the attacks will not deter the U.S. led mission in Iraq.

"The only way that we will fail here in this country is if we choose to walk away from Iraq and make America the next battleground on the global war on terrorism," Sanchez said. "That's the only way we can lose. That's the choice we have to make here. I don't need additional forces, and the choice that we need to make is to stay right here and defeat the enemy."

Meanwhile, Rumsfeld said, additional forces could be on the way to ease the security situation there. A new resolution by Bush administration will seek more United Nations involvement.

Rumsfeld said he is not sure whether the new U.N. resolution would result in additional troops in Iraq, but if it did, it would be a "good thing."

"I think it would broaden the number of countries that are interested in seeing Iraq succeed," he said.

Rumsfeld said the United States has 130,000 troops in Iraq, serving with about 25,000 coalition service members from other countries. "We would like to see a still broader number of countries involved during this period when security is an issue," he said, " as we're continuing to increase the numbers of Iraqis who ultimately are going to have to take over security for their country," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld told reporters he gets criticized for not traveling enough, but he felt a need come to Iraq because of the "importance of what's being done," and to show gratitude to the thousands of U.S. troops deployed in the country.

"It is important that they understand how important what they're doing is to the Iraqi people, to the region, to the United States of America, and to the world," he said.

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