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Coalition Forces Will Not Leave Iraq Prematurely, Rumsfeld Says

Washington -- Coalition troops will not leave the country when sovereignty is passed from the Coalition Provisional Authority to an interim Iraqi government this summer, Rumsfeld said. Troop departure will be on "a totally separate timetable," he said.

Rumsfeld made his comments during a February 12 House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on the military budget and again at a stakeout with reporters following the hearing. "There's a lot of confusion in people's minds and ... the [June-July] timetable does not involve security forces ... (it) involves governance and the transfer of sovereignty. And that is all that it involves," the defense secretary said after the hearing.

There isn't a timetable for turning over total security responsibility, according to Rumsfeld. "It will vary in different parts of the country, and always the coalition forces will be prepared to move forward again if for whatever reason that's appropriate," he said.

But putting the security of the country into Iraqi hands is just as much a goal as putting the governance of the country into Iraqi hands, the secretary said. "We've trained up some 200,000 Iraqis to provide security in that country and have been systematically putting them farther and farther forward," he said, noting that Iraqis have taken on more responsibility for army, police, civil defense, border patrol and other security functions. They are increasingly taking on a larger role in those functions, he added, sometimes jointly with coalition forces, other times in the lead with coalition forces backing them up.

These newly assigned Iraqis "will take over security responsibilities on a timetable that's quite different from the political and governance side," the secretary said, "and I wouldn't want anyone to think that any of the coalition countries have any intention whatsoever of leaving prematurely. The goal is to stay there as long as they're needed and not one day longer."

Rumsfeld was also questioned about the absence of any funding estimates in the new Fiscal Year 2005 defense budget for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "My view of this is that there will be a supplemental [budget request in the future] ... there has to be," he said. No one in the Bush administration wants to leave Iraq "in a way that would make the effort there anything other than a success and something that the people who are making the sacrifice and the commitment can be respectful of," the secretary added.

Defense Department Comptroller Dov Zakheim also joined Rumsfeld at the hearing, answering questions on the subject of the supplemental budget request. "We simply cannot predict at this time what a supplemental would require and probably won't have good numbers until the November-December timeframe," he said.

Rumsfeld also made a point of saying that there are a lot of good things happening in Iraq in spite of a difficult, ongoing security environment in which many Iraqis are losing their lives. The secretary acknowledged the growing number of insurgent attacks against Iraqi civilians and pointed to press reports suggesting that terrorists may be purposely targeting them in an effort "to create a conflict between the ethnic groups, the Shi'a and the Sunnis and the Kurds...."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:


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