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Media Availability with Secretary Rumsfeld and Iraqi Minister of Defense, Abdel Qadr al-Mufrji

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
July 12, 2006

            TRANSLATOR:  Peace be upon you.  We are very happy to receive the visit of Defense Secretary of the United States of America.  We had a lengthy meeting in the presence of the delegation that the Defense Secretary is having as well as the Prime Minister.  We had a long discussion about -- around the different directions of  the different issues that have to do with the realities of the Iraqi security forces, whether it be Interior or the Defense and the path of dealing with these forces.  The Multi-National Forces – Iraq (MNF-I) is in coordination with us to work with these entities.  Traditionally, we have to be prepared to receive the security of the country according to technical and military considerations for specific purposes [Inaudible] of military and capacity, and the army is dealing with all the security forces themselves.

 

            The discussion was honest, was open, and we had very broad lines that we were able to [Inaudible] in order to reach the purposes that we want to define for the next phase.  We welcome very heartily to Secretary Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America, and I give him the floor.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.  We have indeed had good meetings with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense first, and then with the entire national security team.  There’s a great deal to discuss with this new government.  General Casey and General Dempsey and General Chiarelli, the ambassador and the U.S. Mission will be meeting with the government officials over a period of time to fashion a way forward that is comfortable for both the government of Iraq and the coalition countries. 

 

            President Bush has, of course, committed himself and the administration, and the Congress has voted in overwhelming bipartisan majorities that we have the intention of seeing this government and the people of Iraq succeed.  We will be fashioning a way forward that will be designed for that for success.  A free and successful Iraq, needless to say, is seen as inconsistent with the goals of the extremists who are attempting to defeat this government. But the Iraqi people – to their great credit – are building a nation that will be inhospitable to terrorists, to people who behead people, hostage-takers, assassinators and murderers. 

 

            Mr. Minister, I look forward to working closely with you in the weeks and months ahead.

 

            Thank you very much.

 

            Q:     First of all, my question is: Secretary of Defense, you have spoken about the honesty, the frankness.  Was there discussion concerning the other security ministries because one of the people in charge said that whatever is passed by the American side.  My question is, to you, Secretary, concerning more the role of security -- [Inaudible].

 

            MR. al-MUFRJI:  These are -- [Inaudible]; these are [Inaudible].  The Iraqi Army came about after 2003.  That means that this army has to reach levels that start from category four to category two and we have the Iraqi Army [Inaudible] and then was working shoulder-to-shoulder with a decision from the United Nations.  The forces of MNF-I are within the coalition forces and -- [Inaudible] -- Iraqi forces.  That's why the Iraqi forces when they do an operation, there is complete coordination with the MNF-I, and it is not an operation of elimination of authorities.  It is a coordination so that there will not be friend against friend, but in the present situation has to create a new coordination system and the – with the utmost of coordination as face to face terrorist operations.  This is what we discussed.  This is what we discussed so that we can have a common approach together.

 

            Q:     My question to you: The parliament had discussions from the security person – the security field that the Minister of Interior and the Secretary of Defense is always clashing with the defense adviser within those ministries and that delays things.  What is your comment?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'm afraid I'm just not knowledgeable about the premise for your question.

 

            Q:     What I meant is to say that maybe there is a complaint in the department of Iraq -- [Inaudible] -- when he said that security cannot be when there is always an impediment constituted in the advisers -- the American advisers who are security advisers and within the security ministries and they want -- the Iraqis want more of the role to control the security.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, I'm -- I'm somewhat reluctant to respond to a question that I don't fully understand, but I will boldly attempt to do so.  My impression is that the -- General Casey, our ambassador, and the security officials of the government of Iraq have a very good working relationship.  I don't know of disagreements.  I don't know of impediments.  And it seems to me that what we have to learn to do is understand that there will be people in parliament or in our Congress who will have views that will differ.  And it's inevitable -- it's a free country -- and that what the Iraqi people are going to have to do is the same thing the American people have to do, is to get used to hearing a variety of different views, understand that it’s perfectly proper for people to have different views, but also recognize that the government is the government, and the parliament is the parliament. And that our government is working very closely with your government, and that we will fashion a joint way forward that will be agreeable to both of our countries. 

 

            And throughout that process and throughout that period, you'll be hearing people from parliament, from the press, from independent organizations expressing their views, which may or may not fully agree with the combined views of the government of the United States and the government of Iraq.  I hope that was helpful.

 

            Q:    Mr. Minister, could you -- could you give us your timetable for coming up with a self-sustaining Iraqi Army -- a reasonable timetable when the Iraqi Army will be able to take the lead in the counterterrorism fight?  And how soon would you like to see American troop reductions and how large would those reductions be initially?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  This is a question that the American press asks 50 times a day.  (Laughter).  They alternate asking it and they ask it in different ways and try to pretend it's not the same question, but in fact it is the same question.

 

            MR. al-MUFRJI:  We are planning to establish an army that is on the level of -- that is on the level of four.  We have three divisions that are at level two, and we have units - twelve brigades on level two which means that this needs the support of the MNF-I and continues to be so. 

 

            Concerning the timetable -- technical timetable -- that would be [Inaudible].  We are -- have to always test our preparedness of our units.  It -- then it is presented to the prime minister, who is the chief and commander of the armed forces, and we have to get it to the level that is requested and required.  In Iraq, to build an army the right way is to arm it in the right way, to equip it in the right way, and train it in the right way.

 

            Q:     These days, my sense is the security situation is deteriorating.  That comes from the work of the militias and there has been a -- [Inaudible]-- the militias and the culture and work of militias.  Is there, yes?  And we have statistics to approve and what our brother said. 

 

            MR. al-MUFRJI:  We need to have a very quick reaction to many operations that kill within 10 minutes innocent civilians and any army in the whole world would not have the ease to move to a remote place in order to respond to a crisis.  We have made teams, which Iraqi forces have, and there are leaderships that are coordinate among one another because if they don't, that will be friendly fire. This force will be one of quick reaction and quick response.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I agree with the response.  The type of conflict we're engaged in this country and some other places in the world is not against big armies navies or air forces -- it is a conflict with terrorists, with extremists, violent extremists who kill innocent men, women and children, who operate in networks, who don’t have nations, who don’t have real estate to defend, and that means that the success depends on very close coordination among the military, the police, the intelligence officials and the population.  It's important that the people of the country provide the information and the tips, the intelligence that will enable the responsible officials of the government to be successful in repressing any sort of violence of the type you are describing. 

 

            I should also say one other thing.  We make a mistake when we take the security question and think of it as separate from everything else -- it isn’t. The political process is critical to success on the security side.  The prime minister's effort with respect to reconciliation will be critically important in achieving better success with respect to security.  The people of the country will have to feel that they have a stake in the country – in the success in the country and that people who are violent and trying to terrorize the population -- are against the Iraqi people, they are against the Iraqi government, and it's up to the Iraqi people to see that there is a process politically, economically, as well as from a security standpoint. 

 

            Q:    Secretary Rumsfeld, concerning the deterioration of the security forces, this decision to decrease the number of U.S. personnel -- [Inaudible] -- is still standing and MNF-I are not carrying out their duties as they are required with the UN resolutions.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  First of all, I believe that you stated “the deterioration of the security forces” and it may have been translated inaccurately or not, but there has been no deterioration of the security forces.  Indeed, the Iraqi security forces have improved in experience, in training, in equipment, in professionalism and have done, in my view, they are performing a great service to the Iraqi people. 

 

            Second, if you did not mean that, which you clearly meant deterioration of security in Iraq. I don’t agree. I say that because we need to define what security means.  Under Saddam Hussein, mass graves were filled with hundreds of thousands of human beings, prisons were filled with ten of thousands of human beings.  People were fearful; they were repressed.  That, to my mind, is not good security -- to fill graves with hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi people -- with all respect.

 

            MR. al-MUFRJI:  We -- you talk about the state of security in Baghdad itself.  Iraq is not only Baghdad and that terrorism is in the capital now because it is the center of media and anything can happen that can happen that can have greater impact, but we are concentrating also on the other governorates with the security situation, not only in the capital, but all over the country.  There is escalation of the terrorist attacks, and we are observing it in Baghdad and we have to plan for it, but we have to also work within the security areas, all over Iraq, and not only Baghdad and not only the capital. 

 

            (Off Mic):  We have time for two more questions.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  [Inaudible] – If you think about it, we're seeing in Baghdad, where Iraqis have a free press, are able to ask the questions they want, they are able to say what they want, they can write and put on television and radio what you want and you have the security to be able to do that.  Under the previous regime, you did not have that security.  People could not write what they wanted, could not ask questions they wanted -- people could not go on television – how many television cameras are here? Fifteen? Twenty? Every one of them can say whatever they want tonight on the evening news and that wasn't the case.  That's a different kind of security.  [Inaudible]

 

            (Off Mic):  Two more questions. 

 

            Q:     I have a question for both defense ministers.  [Inaudible] -- the preparedness of the Iraqi forces -- [Inaudible] -- that there is an intention of the Iraqi government to take the security (within the governorates ?) to the -- [Inaudible] -- forces and what is the preparedness now and how much more they can carry? 

 

            MR. al-MUFRJI:  There are more governorates besides -- [Inaudible]. The preparedness is there.  We are working on a very systematic way in the army and in very anticipated steps.  We are very sure of ourselves. 

 

            Q:     I pose this question to Mr. Rumsfeld.  [Inaudible] -- the Iraqi government to participate really in the operation in investigating the rape of the young woman in Mahmoudiya at the hand of the U.S. soldier?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  The first thing I want to say about that is the United States takes allegations and issues of that type very seriously.  No one in the United States military has immunity.  My understanding is that there have -- and I hope I'm correct and that someone will tell me if I'm not.  My understanding is that every individual who was allegedly involved in the matter you raised has been charged in one court or another as is proper, and that punishment will be decided in an orderly way in the judicial systems that have been agreed upon between this country and the United States.  I -- the ambassador is the individual who has discussed these types of matters with the Iraqi government, I'm not, and I will leave it there.

 

            Q:     And the -- [Inaudible]. You as a people in charge and with the Secretary of Defense of the United States and you, the Minister of Iraq -- [Inaudible] -- the Iraqi people would like to know when will -- [Inaudible] and this -- how do you see the situation?  The question is addressed to both of you.

 

            MR. al-MUFRJI:  What is happening now in Iraq, when we plan for operations within Iraq we have confidence -- [Inaudible] -- possibilities and we take the worst scenarios in consideration.  We know that Iraq is fighting a war-- [Inaudible] -- war with other countries interfering -- [Inaudible] -- financially and every means.  [Inaudible] terrorism in the world is focusing on -- [Inaudible]. This is not an easy matter to discuss, to work with.  All of the means of United States of America are -- could not prevent the attack against the World Trade Center, and all the means that the United States could not stop surprise attacks and unexpected attacks. 

 

            The security matter in the country is not -- does not rely only on the arms of American forces.  The security responsibility is the responsibility of all and it is first of all a political responsibility.  Security is -- to compromise, to take steps to -- towards one another.  Security -- [Inaudible] -- to sacrifice personal -- [Inaudible] -- for the sake of citizens and certain situation -- [Inaudible] -- but there is -- [Inaudible] -- experience themselves -- [Inaudible] -- security is for the security operations and therefore there should be political plans -- and this is what we have been discussing -- [Inaudible] -- resolution and there should be military action -- [Inaudible] -- and it is not only a government endeavor. 

 

            I as the minister of defense, I am -- I am responsible for [Inaudible] -- not only Baghdad alone.  I am -- [Inaudible] -- of the levels of terrorism -- [Inaudible] -- Baghdad that I have a comparison between the previous months and the explanation? -- [Inaudible] and I know that the statistics -- [Inaudible] -- from one sect and why.  We do not -- and we do not plan for these results and that the citizens would be under this worry. We work for -- for the better tomorrow for the citizen, but that is not now. Iraq is in a staunch war and -- [Inaudible] -- should cooperate for the sake of the citizens and including -improving this business of fighting terrorism. 

 

            We -- how many times we have heard from citizens telling us that they -- [Inaudible] -- somewhere or there is a factory or a cache of weapons nearby and we respond to that.  All this -- [Inaudible] -- doesn't happen, we cannot fight terrorism -- [Inaudible] -- with the speed that we want.  We can differ -- [Inaudible].

 

            Q     I would like the answer by Secretary of Defense.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I have nothing to add.  

 

            I would say one thing.  This is the year 2006 -- July.  This country has come a long way in a short period of years.  You have crafted a constitution and the people have approved. You have had two elections.  In each election -- [Inaudible] -- the number of people participating has increased.  The Iraqi people have a country with a proud history.  They have oil wealth, water wealth, industrious people, and this country is going to succeed. 

The reason it will succeed will not be because of the government solving the security problems or the government solving a problem that's economic or the government solving a problem that is political.  It will be a combination of all those things, and it will be the Iraqi people who will succeed, and I will -- I am very confident that in a period of a short number of years you will see that that, in fact, happens -- [Inaudible] -- because the Iraqi people decided to be supportive of the government that they see as fair and responsible and they will grow tired of the violence and of this killing by terrorists and they will find it unacceptable -- and they will create an environment in this country that's inhospitable to people who cut off people's heads, inhospitable to people who assassinate and murder.  And then when that happens, this country will be able to find success for the people in this country and for the entire region.

 

            Thank you all.

 

            MR. al-MUFRJI:  Thank you.

   

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