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U.S. Not Asking for Long-term Iraqi Bases

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2003 – The United States has neither asked nor considered asking a future Iraqi government for use of four air bases, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today.

Rumsfeld called a New York Times story that suggested such a thing "unhelpful." He said such articles left people in the Middle East with the impression that the United States is planning to occupy the country. "Not so," he said as he thumped the lectern at the Pentagon briefing studio. "It's flat false."

Rumsfeld said the United States went in to Iraq to change the regime, find and dispose of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and stop the country from threatening its neighbors. He said the subject of long-term use of the air bases has not come up during Pentagon discussions.

U.S. forces are using bases in the country Baghdad International Airport, Tallil in southern Iraq, H-1 in western Iraq and Bashur in the north as logistics hubs for coalition forces engaged in combat operations and to funnel humanitarian supplies.

The United States will consider the size of the American "footprint" in the area after consultation with allies in the region and outside of it. Rumsfeld did say it is his feeling fewer American service members would be needed in a Middle East without the threat of Saddam Hussein.

Inside Iraq, coalition forces continue to face resistance from the remnants of Saddam Hussein's death squads and the foreign fighters. Rumsfeld said there are still some number of "dead-enders" that remain in the country.

"As the coalition works to remove the remnants of regime, the Iraqi people are emerging from the shadow of Saddam's tyranny to help coalition forces find death squads, uncover weapons caches, capture regime leaders, recover POWs and restore order and basic services," he said.

The secretary stated that this spontaneous cooperation is growing all over the country, and called it "a sign of the growing trust between coalition forces and the majority of ordinary Iraqis."

The secretary said that U.S. support for the men and women in uniform is heartwarming. The USO has distributed more than 80,000 CARE packages to men and women in Southwest Asia and delivered more than 100,000 calling cards to service members.

"I'm told that a man from North Carolina and a woman from Illinois found foster homes for pets of deploying forces and between them they've placed roughly 2,000 dogs, cats and at least one pot-bellied pig," he said. He said there are hundreds of similar stories.

Finally the secretary thanked the families of those deployed overseas. "It can often be harder to be the one left behind, especially when the loved one is leaving for war," he said. "In wartime, military families endure extended periods of separation, not knowing where their loved ones are, what they're doing, and whether or not they are safe or in danger or whether they're going to be coming home.

"These are burdens that the families of the men and women in uniform have carried in the course of this war," he continued. "They've carried them for the country, and the country is grateful and proud of their service and sacrifice as well as that of our men and women in uniform."

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