Media Availability with Secretary Rumsfeld at the Senate Armed Services Committee
SEC. RUMSFELD: Good afternoon, folks. We have had a good session over on the House side with a lot of the House members, and just finished a session with a good many of the members of the United States Senate. And we had General Eikenberry, who's not with us at the moment, who is the senior military official in Afghanistan, and David Satterfield, who is a senior Department of State representative, and General Pete Pace. And what we did is update them on the war on terror, and on Afghanistan and Iraq, and respond to questions. And we've been doing this since a couple of -- two and a half hours, or something.
We'll take a couple of questions.
Q General Pace -- (off mike). (Off mike) -- Marine intelligence officer who -- (off mike).
GEN. PACE: First of all, right now the center of gravity in this battle is the capital -- Baghdad. We know that. And al Qaeda has told us very clearly in writing that they understand that Baghdad is it. We've got about 15,000 U.S. troops and about 45,000 Iraqi troops right now working to secure Baghdad. That does not mean that Al Anbar is not important. It is. But the Iraqi divisions that are out there are still recruiting to full strength, and they're still building up the proper mix so it's a national division, a mixture of Kurd, Sunni and Shi'a.
The intelligence officer who rendered his assessment was telling his boss, the commander of Marine forces out there, what he, the intelligence officer, believed were the reasons for the ongoing insurgency. And he did exactly what he should do, just tell his boss what he sees and why he believes that those things are happening. It's up to, then, the operational commander, who is a Marine major general out there, to determine how to react to that, how to apply forces against that, and the like.
So it is not that Al Anbar is not important, it is that the Iraqi army is being built, that the forces are properly so supporting the building of that Iraqi army. And the main battle right now is to ensure that the capital -- the violence in the capital, sectarian violence, is reduced.
Q But why is the Iraqi army building up? A lot of the forces -- (off mike). So do you need more troops in Anbar now?
GEN. PACE: You need more troops in the country as a whole, but they have to be Iraqi troops. More U.S. troops, more coalition troops is not going to do it. This is an Iraqi country; an Iraqi army and Iraqi police force that must come forward and --
Q But they're a year behind in Anbar, the Marines there say that. They're a year behind on Iraqi forces in Anbar, at least.
SEC. RUMSFELD: The Marines don't say that. A Marine intelligence officer said that. The commanding --
Q No, the --
SEC. RUMSFELD: -- the commanding officer did not agree with the intelligence officer's conclusions. We didn't disagree with the intelligence assessment.
Q I was briefed by the Marines myself in Anbar recently. They told me they're at least a year or a year and a half behind in the Iraqi forces. This is the unit in charge there. They also told me the operations officer was like a Dutch boy, this famous Dutch boy who has his finger in the dike. And they're having to send forces to Baghdad, and they were unhappy about that.
GEN. PACE: I was there probably about the same time you were. I was there about three weeks ago. I sat down with General Zilmer and his entire leadership team to include the intelligence officer. They gave me a very thorough briefing.
It is true that the two Iraqi divisions that are allocated to that region are not fully manned yet. Why? Because the Iraqi government probably still wants that division to be representative. They can fill it up with all Shi'a, but that's not going to help in a mostly Sunni province. They want to get a proper mix between Sunni and Shi'a in the province.
And we have not taken forces -- have not taken forces -- from Al Anbar. We have in fact reinforced Baghdad from other forces, but we have not sent extra forces -- we have sent extra forces to Baghdad. We have not sent extra forces to Al Anbar.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Does anyone else have a question?
Q With all due respect, there -- to change subjects, there's been rumors that the Pentagon is considering changing the policy for the National Guard to accelerate the deployment schedules. (Off mike) -- the next deployment is going to be heavier National Guard. Would you do that? Would you change policy on this?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I haven't been -- seen any proposed changes in the policy. As a matter of fact, we've had a point some -- many months ago where we very high in representation in Iraq of National Guard and Reservists. I think they represented about 40 percent of the force, and I think it's now down into the teens, a very small percentage of the force is Guard and Reserve. And I know of nothing that you could be referring to.
Q How about accelerating deployment schedules so that we increase the number of forces in Iraq right now? We are above 144,000 -- (off mike).
SEC. RUMSFELD: We're looking at a whole lot of ways that we can sustain the force levels that are going to be required, and they involve using forces from other parts of the world, they involve a variety of techniques. We're increasing the operational army and reducing the size of the institutional army. We've -- I don't know how many different things we're looking at to see how we can do that in a way that relieves some stress on the force and manages it in a way that is appropriate from the standpoint of the troops.
Q (Off mike.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: Here's the commander, General Eikenberry.
Q (Off mike.)
MAJ. GEN. KARL EIKENBERRY: Yes, very satisfied with the level of forces that we have in Afghanistan. We have the NATO expansion that's going on in Afghanistan. And on the 31st of July of this year, they took over the responsibility for southern Afghanistan. We expect later this year, then, that they will expand and take over the responsibility for all of Afghanistan, and our force levels that we have -- of course, for support of NATO and then for our other missions -- we see those being maintained at about the current level, and I'm very satisfied as the commander that that's the right level right now.
Q Mr. Secretary, do you -- (off mike) -- Defense Department and U.S. government have confidence in Prime Minister Maliki's government that they are able to do the task of crushing the insurgency in Iraq?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We have been impressed with Prime Minister Maliki. We did not know him well when he was selected by the people of Iraq. He has said the right things consistently. He has opposed militias. He has favored reconciliation. He was determined in resisting the appointment of people to the key security ministries who were more political than substantive. And he held out over many months and got people in there that he believed would manage those important ministries from the center and not favor one element of the country over another element.
He's dealing with a difficult situation. He's got ministries that are relatively weak. There are some armed militias in the country. He has to deal with difficulties being imposed by some of his neighbors. There are people who have, as General Pace indicated, announced that Iraq is the center of the war on terror and the main battle in that war, and they're determined to incite sectarian violence and they're trying to do it. And they are having some success in inciting sectarian violence in that country.
The bulk of it is in three or four or five provinces. The -- way the bulk of it is in Baghdad, which is where the media is and where the international community is and where the seat of the government is. So it has a particular impact, and they design their attacks to have an impact. When they went after the Golden Dome shrine, it was because they knew it would have an impact, and indeed it did.
But I must say that for the relatively short time that the prime minister's been in office and the much shorter time that his ministers have been in office, that I've been impressed by what he has said and the steps he's taken. That's not to say it's not going to be tough, because it's a lot easier to talk about a reconciliation process than to achieve one that has a unifying effect in the country, for example.
Q Thanks, Mr. Secretary. At what point does sectarian violence become a civil war? (Off mike.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: I guess people will all go to their dictionaries and their military histories and try to find out what different types of civil wars there have been in the world, and then what are the principal characteristics of a civil war, and then different people -- there are people who already say it's in a civil war. The commanders on the ground say it is not. And the government of Iraq says it is not. There's a high level of sectarian violence, to be sure, but it's not for me to announce something like that. People will come to their own conclusion.
And I think the determination that I see on the part of the Iraqi government -- you know, think about it. They -- 12 million people went out and voted for a constitution and for elected president and a parliament. And they're going to have provincial elections in the future.
And an awful lot of the people in that country don't want a civil war. They don't want sectarian violence. They don't want the kind of assassinations that take place. They want a country that's peaceful. And they get a vote, too, and we'll see what happens.
Q Mr. Secretary, there are almost 300,000 Iraqi security forces right now --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Three hundred and two (thousand), I'm told.
Q Excuse me. Three hundred and two (thousand) trained and equipped right now in Iraq. Yet even though the number continues to rise, the number of American forces in there has gone up by about 20,000 in the last few months. I mean, at what point are there going to be enough Iraqi security forces that are trained and equipped that United States troop levels begin to go down?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah. If we look at it one dimensionally like that, there's no answer to the question, because the problem is not a military problem. The implication of your question is that at a certain point there will be enough security forces that the problems will be solved. But in fact the reality is, it's a political governance problem, and it's a governmental problem, and it's a problem of reconciliation. It's a problem of the people of that country deciding they're going to do something rare in that part of the world, really rare, and rare for that country. And that's to say that they're going to put their faith in a piece of paper, a constitution, and an election and believe that it will keep each other from each other's throat. Now, that is a big thing in a country that was held together by a vicious dictatorship and repression.
Now, we talk about the violence that's going on in that country, and there is violence in that country; let there be no doubt. But there was violence before. I mean, there are -- hundred thousands of people are in mass graves all over that country. Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds, his own people, as well as his neighbors. So violence is not something that's new to Iraq. Indeed, it's a pattern in that country.
And what's going to -- what it's going to take is a recognition that it is not simply security forces, it is not going to be won militarily -- it can't be lost militarily, but it's going to be won by the Iraqi people, over time, as they are able to move forward on all three fronts -- the political front and the governance front and assurance of people that in fact it's a fair system, it's a fair constitution; they're going to get a fair break when they amend the constitution; they're going to get a fair break in the federalism debate; they're going to get a fair break in the oil legislation that has to pass; and the economic progress -- when people say, "Okay, it's going to make it," and they start nodding their heads, and they vote with their feet, and the economic circumstance improves.
The security situation is a function of all of that. You can't take them apart and say, "Gee, if you -- when you get to X number of hundreds of thousands of security forces, everything's going to be just fine," because that isn't the case.
MR. : That's got to be the last question.
Q (Off mike.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: We've got to go, folks.
MR. : We're behind.
GEN. PACE: Thank you.
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