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Radio Interview with Secretary Rumsfeld with Jeff Katz, WBT, Charlotte, NC

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
October 26, 2006 1:35 PM EDT

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Okay, Rumsfeld here.

 

            KATZ:  Jeff Katz.  How are you, Mr. Secretary?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, I'm fine.  How are you?  I guess you were here at the Pentagon for Radio Day, and I missed you.

           

            KATZ:  You did.  You owe me a lunch, but this'll make up for it.

           

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, all right!  (Laughs.)

           

            KATZ:  I appreciate your taking time to be here, and let's jump right into it.  At one of your briefings recently at the Pentagon you indicated that the situation in Iraq is not going to be solved 100 percent through military means.  Tell us what, in addition to the military means, we're going to see in place.

           

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, you bet.  That's a critically important question.  You know, we're in this funny situation -- not funny, but a complicated situation, unusual, where the military can't lose a battle in Iraq or Afghanistan, but they cannot win all by themselves.  They need, for example -- we can train the Iraqi security forces and the Afghan security forces; we can equip them.  And then they go out and they may capture somebody and want to put him in a prison.  Well, to do that, you've got to have a criminal justice system.  You've got to have a prison system.  They then pay their troops, and their troops need a way to get the money to the families, or they have to leave their bases and go physically take the money to their families so the families can eat.  They need health care.  So we can train and equip an Iraqi army, but when they're ill, who takes care of them?  Who fixes a gunshot wound or an illness of some kind?  You have to have a health system that's functioning. The military decides -- you train and equip the military, and they need to buy equipment, and to do that you've got to have a finance ministry that's functioning and a ministry of interior and ministry of defense.  And all of those kinds of things are non-military, but for the military piece to work, they have to be there. 

           

            Second, the military really is never any better than the government, and you have to have a government that supports the military and that the military supports.  And so the governance process in Afghanistan and Iraq is critically important, and that's what makes, for example, on the political side, the reconciliation process that the Iraqis' government is currently going through so critically important, so that all the people in that country, the Kurds, the Shias, the Sunnis, all feel that the reconciliation process was fair and that the government is being fair to them.

           

            So those are the kinds of things beyond military that are needed.

           

            KATZ:  Well, we hear from a number of folks in the media, we certainly hear from some of the opposition politicians on the Hill that these benchmarks -- in particular, security benchmarks -- are just not being met by the Iraqis.  True or false?

           

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, they are being met.  I don't know who says that.  But broadly, if you think about it, we laid out a plan to train and equip the Iraqi security forces for the defense department's -- the Ministry of Defense forces, and the Department of Defense of the United States took that responsibility and they've proceeded apace.  The police were not part of the Department of Defense effort, and we only got responsibility for them, as I recall, late last year.  And they are well behind the army, and the problems you've been reading about I think basically involve the police forces. 

           

            But if you think back, one of the benchmarks was that the Iraqi security forces would provide security for the referendum on the constitution and for the election that took place last December.  Well, they did, and the elections were successful and 12 million people voted.  They're doing a very good job.  Every once in a while they'll have trouble and they'll get outnumbered or outgunned by some militia or some terrorist group, and we'll have to go in and give them a hand, and that's understandable.  It's not a nice, smooth road. 

           

            But I think people who run around denigrating the Iraqi or the Afghan security forces are out of touch.

           

            KATZ:  Mr. Secretary, can you give us a ballpark figure on the number of terrorists, the number of insurgents that we're actually battling over there?

           

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, goodness.  You know, the experts can, and what they'll tell you is -- they'll start out this way, and they'll say -- and that's their job -- and they'll say:  "Well, first of all, it varies in different parts of the country.  It's a big country."  And it'd be like you asking me, "Well, what's the crime problem in San Diego as opposed to Sacramento or some other part of the state of California?” and it differs in different parts.  And what's the composition?  And the composition ranges across the following:  al Qaeda, foreign fighters, Sunni insurgents, the criminals who get paid by any of those groups, foreign mischief-makers from Iran who are in there trying to foment problems, and then every once in a while you'll get what is characterized as sectarian violence.  Sometimes it's spontaneous, but other times it may be that one of the militias or one of the other groups I've just mentioned will want to foment sectarian violence, so that they will go out and take an act that is calculated to get the other ethnic group or religious group to react negatively to it and try to start a civil war.  So you have this mixture that's taking place.

           

            The last thing I would say is it has evolved over time.  The nature of it is somewhat different today than last year and the year before, and therefore it's perfectly possible for you to ask experts and get quite different answers, because you have to be very precise as to what part of the country you're talking about, what time -- now or last week or last month.

           

            KATZ:  Well, let me ask you, in terms of the number of troops, we look at the number of troops that are on the ground in Iraq, in Afghanistan.  We see that there's obviously a boatload of trouble in Iran, in North Korea.  Are we so committed in Iraq and Afghanistan that we couldn't deal with these other issues?

           

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No, Jeff.  The situation is this:  We have a hundred and -- for the sake of argument -- forty-seven thousand troops in Iraq.  The active duty force for the United States of America is 1.4 million.  The Guard and the Reserve is another 6(00,000), 700,000.  So you're up over 2 million.  And then you have Individual Ready Reserve of another number, so you're over 2 million people that we have access to.  Volunteers, every one of them.  And we're talking about out of 2 million, 147,000 are in Iraq.

           

            KATZ:  Now, I know, and --

           

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Wait -- wait one second.  I'm sorry.  The last thought -- it was the last part of your question -- the chairman of the Joint Chiefs meets with the chiefs of staff of the services on a regular basis, and they ask that very important question you asked.  They say, "Okay, given the nature of our world and given the war plans we have and contingency plans, and given the dangers that exist in Asia or in Europe or wherever -- Middle East -- do we have the capability to fulfill the responsibilities that the country expects of us?"  And every quarter they come back out and say they do.

           

            KATZ:  Let me ask you a question, Mr. Secretary, about these timetables.  We've heard so many people who have been opposed to action in Afghanistan and Iraq from the very beginning, consistently calling for timetables which -- which clearly provide a blueprint for terrorists.  "Hey, if we can wait it out so long, then, you know, we're home free."  But we now also have the president clearly saying that the phrase "stay the course" has gone by the wayside.  So what's changed?

           

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, it is an interesting thing.  Of course it's -- we have to begin with the beginning, and the beginning is this is an election season.

           

            KATZ:  Yeah.  (Chuckles.)

           

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And there's a lot of mischief being made and things that are being said. People are trying to, oh, say there's daylight between what the president said and what the prime minister said or someone else.

           

            The fact is this, that you're quite right.  A timetable -- that is to say, a date at which we will withdraw our forces, coalition forces, is exactly what the enemy would like. They would -- they would -- they win then.  They can just sit there and wait, and then they can go back in and try to turn Iraq into a terrorist haven and have the benefit of that oil and put the Middle East and, indeed, the United States of America and the American people at risk.  The consequences of that would be terrible.

           

            Therefore, instead of that, what's being done is -- the president said, "Look, we're going to stay the course."  And by "course" he didn't mean we were going to stay there in perpetuity.  We're not an occupying power.  We don't want to be there in perpetuity.  What he was saying is we're going to get the job done, and we're going to prevail.  We're going to win.  We're going to achieve that which we wanted to achieve, and what we wanted to achieve is the following -- is to have a country that is respectful of all of its varying elements, the different religious groups and the people in that country, a country that's at peace with its neighbors and is not a terrorist state and not a haven for terrorists.  And that's the goal.  And the method of getting there is by training and equipping the Iraqi security forces and by creating an environment within which the constitutionally elected government of Iraq is able to provide governance for the people of Iraq.  And that means that what our task is is complicated and difficult.  We've got to help that government get going. We've got to help train and equip the Iraqi security forces.  But in the last analysis, it's going to be the Iraqi people that are going to govern their country and they're going to provide for their own security, not the American forces.

           

            KATZ:  Well, Mr. Secretary, let me ask you this final question.  The thoughts of all Americans, I hope, are with the troops.  They're with the men and the women that have the boots on the ground there.  You and the Department of Defense clearly have the America Supports You program.  Give us some sense of what we here in the United States can do to demonstrate our concern and our support for those guys and gals over there.

           

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, I sure appreciate that.  It is -- it is just inspirational for me to have the privilege of working with the men and women in uniform that are in Iraq and Afghanistan and here in the Department of Defense and around the world.  Each one is a volunteer.  Each one has offered to put their lives at risk to protect the American people.  They're professional.  They're well-trained.  They're well-led.  They're well-equipped.  And God bless them, they're doing important work for the world and for our country. 

           

            We have a website called Americasupportsyou.mil, m-i-l, and anyone who would like to can go to that website and see what the -- what a wonderfully generous and compassionate people the American people are.  It tells what schools are doing, what corporations are doing, what hospitals are doing, what organizations of different types are doing, not just for the troops -- and God bless them for doing that -- but the families of the troops also serve and sacrifice, when you think about it.  And there's a lot on the website that can show ways that people can be of assistance to the families of the troops, and it is a wonderful thing to see how much -- how much the American people step forward to help out.

           

            KATZ:  Well, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, I thank you so much for taking the time.  Please let those troops know they are in our thoughts and prayers, as you are.  God bless you.

           

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Thank you so very much.  I appreciate it.  It was good to visit with you.

           

            KATZ:  Thank you.

 

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