More Cooperation Needed to Secure Iraq Borders, Rumsfeld
Complete protection of Iraq's borders is hindered by lack of cooperation from
some bordering states and a need for more trained, local manpower, Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld says.
"My impression is that the border with Kuwait is very secure, and the border
with Jordan and with Turkey is secure, while the borders with Syria and Iran are
not secure," the secretary said in a February 23 interview with Iraqi Media
Part of the reason for that situation, he said, is that "we're not getting good
cooperation by Syria or Iran, and part of it is that we need more border patrol
--- Iraqi border patrol --- to help do that job."
However, Rumsfeld also called the current formation of Iraqi security forces "an
"Indeed, if you think about it, he said, "last June or July there were no Iraqi
security forces, and today, in February of 2004, there are over 210,000 Iraqis
serving in the security forces ... And there are a number of thousands more that
are currently in training."
Morale among Iraqi Civil Defense forces and coalition soldiers remains high,
Following is the transcript of the interview:
U.S. Department of Defense
DoD News Briefing
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
Interview with Iraqi Media Network
February 23, 2004
Q: The first question, Mr. Secretary, for you on Iraqi Media Network: give
your evaluation of the security situation following the meetings with the
military personnel here.
Rumsfeld: My impression is that each one of my now many trips to Iraq is that
I've seen improvements each time. The U.S. and coalition military leaders today
have a strong partnership with the Iraqi security forces and every week the
number of Iraqis who are participating in the security forces is growing. Today
there are some 200,000 Iraqis who are serving in the police and the civil
defense corps and the border patrol and the army. Today the Iraqis are the
biggest partners in the coalition.
Q: Mr. Secretary, why has the border protection not happened in a complete
manner after the regime's fall?
Rumsfeld: The border protection is a very difficult thing to do. My impression
is that the border with Kuwait is very secure. The border with Jordan and with
Turkey is secure. The borders with Syria and Iran are not secure. Part of it is
that we're not getting good cooperation by Syria or Iran, and part of it is that
we need more Iraqi border patrol to help do that job.
Q: Mr. Secretary, do you find, and if you do, why is the slowness in forming the
Iraqi security forces?
Rumsfeld: That's an interesting question. I would say that there has not been a
slowness in forming the Iraqi security forces. Indeed, if you think about it,
last June or July there were no Iraqi security forces. Today in February of 2004
there are over 210,000 Iraqis serving in the security forces. That's an amazing
accomplishment. There are a number of thousands more that are currently in
training. The goal is that by April there will be over 226,000 Iraqis serving in
the security forces. All across the country Iraqis are moving forward and taking
responsibility and helping to protect the Iraqi people and that's a good thing.
Q: Mr. Secretary, how do you see the morale of the soldiers after your meetings
Rumsfeld: America's soldiers or Iraqi soldiers? I've met with both and their
morale is very high. I met with some of the Iraqi civil defense forces and they
are very upbeat. They're proud of what they're doing, they recognize the
historic role they're playing in helping to liberate the Iraqi people. The
American soldiers and the coalition soldiers recognize fully that what they're
doing is noble work, it's important work, and they're proud to be doing it.
They're all volunteers. Every one of them is a person who volunteered to come
over here and to work with the Iraqi security forces to help assure a free Iraq.
Q: Mr. Secretary what about the mechanics for the replacement of the troops
Rumsfeld: It's complicated, but starting in January we began moving something
like 120,000 American troops. We're doing it in pieces, in units, and they're
being replaced by another 115,000 or 120,000 American troops. Most of them are
coming in by air.
Last night I landed at Shannon, Ireland, at the airport; and as I got off the
plane so they could refuel our plane there were 250 U.S. soldiers -- National
Guardsmen from Oklahoma -- flying into Iraq to replace some of our soldiers who
were going home. They are proud to be serving, they're well trained, and they'll
do a wonderful job.
Q: When will this process end?
Rumsfeld: The current rotation should end in May. Those that have been here for
a year will be gone and the new ones will be in in their place.
Q: Mr. Secretary. Maybe one last question. What is the way the government would
be formed following the cancellation of the plans for the elections and the
postponement of the elections according to the U.N. reports?
Rumsfeld: That is a matter that Ambassador Bremer and the Governing Council will
be discussing. It is everyone's goal that there be elections, and the only
question is when is it feasible to have elections. It is everyone's goal to see
that an Iraqi sovereign government is established, and I'm sure that the
Governing Council, and the Coalition Provisional Authority, and the United
Nations will fashion an approach that will be acceptable to everybody.
Q: Personally, Mr. Secretary, when do you think the elections will happen?
Rumsfeld: Oh, my goodness. I am no expert on that. The people from the United
Nations and the people in Iraq will have to decide what circumstances will
permit elections -- elections that everyone wants to be held.
Q: Thank you so much for the(inaudible)and see you soon.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.