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Rumsfeld: Security to Remain Coalition's Task After June 30

Washington -- The turnover of political sovereignty in Iraq on June 30 is not to be confused with coalition forces turning over responsibility for security then, says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"The deadline applies to political governance of the country. It does not apply to the security responsibility," Rumsfeld pointed out. "There is no plan to change the security situation on June 30th. The only thing that changes is ... the political situation, as to where sovereignty resides," he said, adding that he had "not seen anything that would suggest that that date should be extended."

Rumsfeld made his remarks April 6 at a press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer during a seminar on military transformation capabilities at the Allied Command Transformation headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia.

Asked about direct NATO involvement in Iraq, de Hoop Scheffer responded that several political developments that could affect that decision are in
play: the role the United Nations would have in Iraq after June 30; the ability to obtain a new U.N. Security Council resolution specifically mandating a longer-term, international stabilization force there; and the wishes of the new, sovereign Iraqi government.

He could not predict at the moment, he said, how a discussion on the matter, if held, would turn out, but he noted that 17 of the 26 NATO nations are already on the ground in Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition.

De Hoop Scheffer said that Afghanistan is NATO's top priority. The alliance has responsibility for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul and is expanding its involvement by providing force protection for some provincial reconstruction teams outside the capital. The secretary-general characterized this effort as "a major obligation the alliance has entered into."

"I said in the beginning [of his term as secretary-general], I want to see that political commitment ... completely and fully translated into the military resources that requires," he said. He also said that Afghanistan will hold elections this September and NATO is looking at ways to support the electoral process there.

Rumsfeld agreed that the focus of NATO is Afghanistan, as its first out-of-treaty-area mission. He also said the United States has been encouraging the United Nations to play a vital role in Iraq and there have been discussions about an additional U.N. Security Council resolution. "I would be delighted to see NATO take a larger role [in Iraq]," he said.

Regarding the recent attacks in Iraq's "Sunni triangle" area north of Baghdad, Rumsfeld pointed out that coalition forces had entered Iraq from the south "and the Iraqi forces pretty well threw in the towel about the time that the forces moved up through Baghdad. The area north of Baghdad," he said, "the area [where] Saddam Hussein had the highest concentration of support, was an area that really never saw the battles during that early period."

As a result, he said, those Iraqi soldiers and members of the special forces of Fedayeen Saddam and the Republican Guard "just disappeared into their homes." Some of these former remnants of the regime, as well as foreign terrorists, are involved in "attempting to reestablish their authorities," he said.

He also said the coalition, working with photographs of people involved in the killing and mutilation of four American security contractors in Fallujah, is engaged in a methodical effort to capture the perpetrators.


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