STAKEOUT MEDIA AVAILABILITY WITH
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DONALD RUMSFELD
LOCATION: THE U.S. CAPITOL, WASHINGTON, D.C.
DATE: THURSDAY, JULY 27, 2006
SEC. RUMSFELD: Good afternoon. We -- I might just mention a couple of things -- three, to be precise.
First, this morning we've been -- and this afternoon, this evening we've been meeting with members of the House and the Senate, authorizers and appropriators, in that they are now in the stage of preparing their legislation, both the authorization bill and the appropriation bill, and discussing what the two houses have done, and our -- on each bill, and our preferences with respect the differences that remain between the House and the Senate on both the authorization and appropriation bill.
We also discussed Lebanon and the fact that the department and the U.S. government has been successful in moving 14,000-plus people out of Lebanon, with -- that's a city, that 14,000 people -- (chuckles) -- without a hitch and safely through various locations -- (cell phone rings) -- tell him hello -- in various locations, in Turkey, Cyprus and other locations, some straight back to the United States.
And at the moment, the number of people who are seeking the ability to leave Lebanon has dropped dramatically, down from the thousands per day down into the very low hundreds per day, and the implication being that most of the people -- American -- dual citizens or American citizens who happened to be in the country -- probably for the most part are out. And there undoubtedly will be others from time to time, but the bulk of the problem and -- has pretty well been dealt with.
I think there were some 6,000 U.S. military personnel involved. There were some six ships involved. There were, I think, 18 helicopters, Marine and Army helicopters, that were assisting, and both in terms of the actual task but also in terms of the force protection that's required.
I might just add one other thing, and that is the fact that the -- General Casey has requested and General Abizaid has recommended and I this afternoon, about an hour before I came up here, have signed a -- I guess it's called a deployment order, which will request that the Stryker Brigade that has -- is from Alaska extend their stay in Iraq for up to 120 days. They have been doing a terrific job in the Mosul area. They'll be positioned by General Casey, as I understand it, for the most part in the Baghdad area.
The security situation in Baghdad has been in need of more attention, and as a result, the combatant commander, George Casey, and the government of Iraq have been discussing an approach to improve the security situation there. They have increased the number of Iraqi security forces several thousand. They've increased U.S. security forces, moving them from other parts of the country. And in addition, they will be making a decision as to where the location for this Stryker Brigade -- and I'm not going to say where they're going to be or how many people, because those are probably matters that General Casey looks at once he's been given the authority to retain that unit.
I did also say to the troops in the Stryker Brigade that the Department of Defense and the president and the American people appreciate what they're doing for the country, and they recognize that it is a disappointment for them and their families that they had hoped to be coming home in the next few weeks. And in this instance, we'll -- are being asked to extend their stay for a period of up to 120 days. They've done a terrific job, and we appreciate it. And we've had to do this from time to time over the past several years.
You may recall that we've strengthened the size of our force during election periods, certain -- occasionally during a religious holiday, during the referendum on the constitution, and we've moved force levels up and down depending on conditions. And I think that no one ought to draw any conclusions as to what force levels will exist in the months ahead from this. It's just simply the reality that the president -- as the president as said, the conditions on the ground have to determine the force levels of the coalition. We've been very successful with the Iraqi security forces. We're now up over 275,000 Iraqi security forces having been trained and equipped, and particularly the Ministry of Defense forces are doing increasingly an excellent job.
We are in the process of embedding our U.S. military personnel with the police, and we will have much better visibility as to how they're doing as those embeds are able to work with them and report back.
With respect to the men and women in the Stryker unit, and indeed, all of them over there, these are all volunteers; these are people who have raised their hand and said they want to serve in the United States military and defend the country. And the American people and the country are very much in their debt.
I will answer a couple of questions, and then I'm going to depart.
Q Mr. Secretary, did you ask for additional money for the war in Iraq or Afghanistan?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No.
Q Did you discuss the Army readiness issue --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes.
Q (Off mike.) -- solution to that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: What we had was a good discussion about the fact that the first thing that needs to be done is to recognize that we need to see that the Army and the Marines, particularly, but all the forces, are reset in a manner that is appropriate and reflects the much higher usage of equipment and the loss of some equipment. And so that is the first part.
The second part is that it's important that we have a readiness scheme that reflects reality in the 21st century, and that we have -- (inaudible) -- consistent in the assumptions in those presentations, and we're working to try to get everyone on the same sheet of music to do that. There's no question but that resetting the force after the heavy usage that's occurred is -- costs money and will have to be funded in supplementals for a period of time because of the lag that occurred.
So, if we had no troops in there tomorrow -- I'm not suggesting that's the case. (Laughs.) When you started to write, I got nervous! (Laughs; laughter.) If -- and this is highly theoretical -- if we had no troops tomorrow, we still would need a period of some months thereafter, probably a couple of three years, of funding in supplementals to reset the force so that it had -- the equipment was brought up to speed. And those of you --
I didn't realize you were standing here. Admiral Giambastiani is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he probably has better answers to these than I do.
Q Would you oppose adding $10 million from lawmakers -- (off mike)?
SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, I guess the way to phrase it is that I work for the president and the president has not been asked that question and has not answered it. And at that point where he does, I'd be happy to be supportive of him. And I'll give my advice to him as to what his answer ought to be privately.
Q Mr. Secretary?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We'll make this the last question.
Q (Off mike) -- situation in Baghdad. What difference can this Stryker force make?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I'll leave that to General Casey. He's the one who made the request, and --
Q You signed the order, sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Of course I did.
Q Why did you sign the order?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Because he requested it and, after reflection, I decided he was correct.
What is important is to recognize that the -- first of all, if you want to get into the security situation in Iraq, in 14 out of the 18 provinces, the situation is relatively nonviolent, the number of incidents of violence are relatively few. In four, that's not the case. In Baghdad it is particularly difficult.
Why is that? Well, first of all, it's the capital. It's the seat of their government. It's the seat of the international community. And it's the seat of the world's media. And the people who are engaged in this recognize that the center of gravity of this war is not on a battlefield, it's in the media. And it's in the media here.
And they have media committees so that they can manage their affairs in a way that will attract attention, increase funding, increase recruits and have shock value. So they chop off people's heads and do those types of things to get everyone's attention, and they do it very successfully.
What will make a difference? The security situation in Baghdad is, to be sure, in part a security problem. But it is much more than that. It is a political problem, in this sense. The new prime minister, Maliki, who has been here recently, this week, has proposed a reconciliation process. I would make the case that the reconciliation process in that country is every bit as important as the police and the security forces.
Until such point as they are able to persuade the various elements in that country -- Shi'a, the Sunnis and the Kurds -- that a constitution, a piece of paper is going to be sufficient to provide them protection from each other than violence against each other -- which it never has in the history of that country. What held that country together and reduced -- and permitted it to function was a vicious dictatorship that put hundreds of thousands of people in mass graves. That is what managed that country.
So the violence levels today, while they're high -- compared to under Saddam Hussein and filling mass graves with hundreds of thousands of people and putting all these people in prison -- it's a totally different situation. It's a new experience for them.
And they are just in office a relatively short period of time. They have only appointed their ministers within the last period of weeks. They now have to strengthen those ministries. They have to get through the silent chains of command, and they have to execute a policy that will address the militias on a political basis as well as a security basis and will move the reconciliation process forward and provide better police protection in that city. And that is what will accomplish it. It is done in a way that this government is attempting to achieve it.
Thank you, folks. I'm --
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