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Despite Violence, Iraq Is Making Steady Progress, Rumsfeld Says
By Howard Cincotta


June 27, 2005

With a sovereign government in place, expanding security forces and progress in writing a constitution, Iraq continues to make solid progress despite the deadly actions of a violent insurgency, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said in a series of television news appearances Sunday.

On ABC's This Week and NBC's Meet the Press, Rumsfeld cited the growth of Iraqi security forces, which now number 168,500 and include police and border guards as well as regular army troops. There are an additional 50,000 to 70,000 site-protection forces, he said.

Rumsfeld predicted on NBC's Meet the Press that Iraq would be able to deploy 200,000 security forces by October 2005, when the Iraqi people vote on their new constitution and prepare for parliamentary elections in December.

"The success in training the Iraqi security forces has been significant," Rumsfeld said on ABC's This Week. "And the respect for the Iraqi security forces by the Iraqi people - the polls show that they are very well respected because of what they're doing."

The insurgents do not constitute a national movement and offer no vision for the Iraqi people except violence and death, Rumsfeld said on NBC's Meet the Press, pointing out that insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian engaged in killing Iraqi civilians.

"They know they have a great deal to lose. If they lose this, and if Iraq becomes a constitutional, representative system in the middle of the Middle East, the effect on the terrorists will be devastating," Rumsfeld said.

Appearing on CBS's Face the Nation, General John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, expressed confidence in the ability of Iraqi and coalition forces to prevail, saying that "the enemy cannot win."

The war in Iraq is a marathon, not a sprint, Abizaid warned, and the enemy "can cause chaos, kill people, grab headlines." They can create the impression that we are not making progress, according to Abizaid.

"Yet, when I talk to my commanders in the field," he continued, "you get a clear sense of progress, of confidence, and what was most encouraging ... is that Iraqi commanders were confident. They knew that their capabilities were increasing."

Abizaid said of the foreign terrorists entering Iraq: "These people will come at us and try to attack us any way they possibly can. And we've got to stay in the middle of the fight, in the middle of the Middle East to give the broad majority of the people who are moderates a chance to win. We're trying to shape the equation for people in the region to win this fight, the good people of the region."

On NBC's Meet the Press, Rumsfeld said that he foresaw coalition forces being reduced over time, but rejected calls to set any kind of specific timetable. Reduction of forces will be governed by a set of variables, according to Rumsfeld, among them the number and quality of Iraqi security forces, the intensity of the insurgency, and the behavior of Syria and Iran in permitting foreign terrorists to enter Iraq.

General Abizaid, appearing on CNN's Late Edition, said that while he is realistic and anticipates more violence, he sees an end to U.S. and coalition military operations when the Iraqi government and security forces can come together in a way that dominates the insurgency.

"The end comes when the insurgency clearly understands and recognizes that they can't achieve any progress; the only thing they can achieve is killing innocent people," Abizaid said.

Vice President Dick Cheney, also appearing on CNN Late Edition, recalled the intercept of a message from terrorist leader al-Zarqawi a year ago, which basically said that if Iraq established a successful democracy, "he'd have to pack his bags and go elsewhere."

Cheney said that since that time Iraq and the coalition have had considerable success in transferring sovereign authority, holding free elections and instituting a process to draft a new constitution, following by a referendum and national elections.

"I think the months immediately ahead will be difficult months," Cheney said. "But I think it is well under way. I think we will, in fact, succeed in getting a democracy established in Iraq. And I think, when we do, that will be the end of the insurgency."

In a separate appearance on Fox News Sunday, Rumsfeld discussed the treatment of prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. All prisoners are treated humanely, he said, adding that any allegations of mistreatment have been investigated, and those found guilty of prisoner abuse have been punished.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Rumsfeld said, the president decided the nation could not afford to treat terrorists as common criminals, and instead should use military tribunals to remove them from the battlefield and interrogate them for information to prevent future attacks.

"The people in Guantanamo Bay are suicide bombers, they're terrorists, they're murderers," Rumsfeld said on NBC's Meet the Press. "These are bad people, these are not good people. In fact, we've been releasing hundreds of them, and 11 or 12 have already turned up back on the battlefield trying to kill innocent men, women, and children."

In response to a question about military recruitment, Rumsfeld pointed out on ABC's This Week that the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps have met their recruitment goals and that retentions - or reenlistments - in the Army remain on target.

Only Army recruitment is low, Rumsfeld said, in part because the United States is increasing the size of the Army by 30,000 troops.


On the Web:

The transcript of Rumsfeld's remarks on Fox News Sunday is available at the Fox News Web site.

The transcript of Rumsfeld's remarks on Meet the Press is available at the MSNBC Web site.

The transcript of Abizaid's remarks on Face the Nation is available at the CBS News Web site (PDF).

The transcript of Abizaid's and Cheney's remarks on CNN's Late Edition is available at the CNN Web site.

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