REP. HUNTER: We had a great hearing as all of you I’m sure covered in fulsome manner with the Secretary. The questions ranged across the entire gamut and array of the two theaters in Afghanistan and Iraq. And the Secretary will take a couple questions. We have General Abizad, here, and General Casey who is the combat commander in Iraq, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Let’s start right here and we’ll, everybody, do four questions here.
QUESTION: Could you elaborate (inaudible) lack of confidence (inaudible)
GENERAL ABIZAD: I’m not sure I could actually quantify for you why it is one way or the other. I think the observation is true. I think we need to pay attention to what the commanders in the field are saying, what the troops in the field are saying, what Iraqis and Afghans are saying, and give them credit and not just take causality reports as a way to measure success or failure in the war. The troops in the field are doing well. The Afghan security forces are doing well and the Iraqi security forces are doing well and we want to make sure that people understand that.
QUESTION: Why (inaudible) American people (inaudible).
RUMSFELD: They hear what the general said. I mean they are constantly hearing negative pieces as opposed to a balanced approach as to what’s actually happening there. There’s some very tough fighting going on. People are being killed, let there be no doubt. And as we get closer to the constitution vote and closer to the elections, its entirely possible that violence could go up. But, as that happens there are also a number of important things happening. Iraqi security forces are doing a very good job. They’re getting larger and more confident every day. The political process is going forward. The economy is moving forward. These people are doing something that is very tough to do. They’re going to try to put their confidence in a piece of paper, a constitution, to protect them against each other. They’ve never done that and they’re going through this political process. People complain, “The election was January 30th, it took them, what, how many weeks to get a government voted on and agreed to.” It seemed like a long time. It was a short time. They’ve made enormous progress. Now, am I painting too rosy a picture? No. It’s a tough business and it’s going to be difficult and hard.
RUMSFELD: They’re getting pushed by a drumbeat of negative perceptions about it that are different than the ones that General Abizad sees, that General Casey sees, that reporters see when they go into the AOR, the area of responsibility. When they’re there and they see the things; they see progress; they see good things happening. They also see people getting killed, I mean let there be no doubt. But it’s a balanced picture. Back here they’re seeing a lot of one foot going down and very little of the other foot.
QUESTION: There are a handful of Senators who (inaudible) Karl Rove (inaudible).
RUMSFELD: Two, to be precise. That’s a small handful, young lady.
QUESTION: Well, I have small hands. They (inaudible) war is not a Democrat or Republican issue (inaudible). Is that because you think the comment is inappropriate?
RUMSFELD: Are you trying to get a headline? Are you trying to get a little daylight between people? No, I answered very well. I’m pleased with my answer. I think it’s the correct answer and
UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Mr. (inaudible) was satisfied with that answer.
QUESTION: (inaudible) how far are you willing to go (inaudible).
RUMSFELD: You know, I said what I said in there and it’s the truth. I have seen so many things in the press that are inaccurate reporting. People grab a sentence out of context and then try to wrap it around people. I don’t know what he said. I didn’t even see the New York Times article. I have no idea if the New York Times article is accurate. So why should I comment on it?
RUMSFELD: I obviously have said that I agree or disagree with things that I agree or disagree with. I’m perfectly comfortable to do that in life and I do it frequently.
REP. HUNTER: Let’s concur that the support for this operation is bi-partisan support for our troops. It’s bi-partisan and I think we had a pretty good showing of that today. Very (inaudible) questions by members of both parties and we look forward to support by Democrats and Republicans for this very important operation and folks, thanks a lot.
You want to ask, one general question for a general.
GENERAL CASEY: You’re talking about political and diplomatic actions. I would say from my perspective that Syria’s not helping, they’re hurting. And they need to change what they’re doing, not only on their borders, but they need to reduce the flow of foreign fighter that are coming through Damascus, working their way through Syria and into Iraq. They can stop it.
GENERAL CASEY: That’s way above my pay grade. We’ll work in the border side (inaudible).
RUMSFELD: Let me say one other thing about Syria. Syria lives next door to Iraq. The Iraqis don’t like what’s going on and they’re going to be in that neighborhood for a long time. And they’re bigger and they’re wealthier and they’re going to be unhappy because Iraqis are being killed because terrorist and jihadists are coming across those borders and being allowed to do that. And it is notably unhelpful what Syria is doing, let there be no doubt.
REP. HUNTER: Folks, thanks a lot.