In memo, Rumsfeld says U.S. faces'long, hard slog' in Iraq, Afghanistan
ARLINGTON, Va. — The United States is in for “a long, hard slog” in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to an internal memo sent last week by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
The Oct. 16 memo, first obtained by the newspaper USA Today, also states that the Department of Defense has no way of measuring success against terrorist threats, and can’t adapt fast enough to capture terrorists.
The memo was sent out to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers; Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz; Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs; and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.
In it, Rumsfeld notes “mixed results with Al Qaida,” “reasonable progress in capturing or killing the top 55 Iraqis” and “somewhat slower progress tracking down the Taliban.”
The memo “is clearly at radical odds with the picture the administration paints” of the global war on terrorism and the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Andrew Bacevich, director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University, said in a Wednesday telephone interview.
“The good news story is that these guys are not deluding themselves that everything is on track,” Bacevich said. “But it’s dispiriting that they basically insist on being … less than forthcoming with the American public.”
In order to keep Americans supportive of any effort that will be a “long, hard slog,” “you can’t talk out of both sides of your mouth,” the former West Pointer said.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters after receiving copies of the memo from Rumsfeld himself on Wednesday morning, two U.S. congressmen praised the secretary for tackling serious issues.
“These are the kind of questions I am glad to see asked,” said Rep. Jim Turner, a Texas Democrat who just returned from a Middle East trip that included two days in Iraq.
Rep. Jim Saxon, R-N.J., who traveled with Turner, agreed that the memo raised important questions and “commended” Rumsfeld for writing it.
But Saxon took issue with the secretary’s suggestion that the U.S. troops will be in Iraq for a long time.
“We all know the war on terror is going to be a long, hard slog,” Saxon told Pentagon reporters. “But Iraq doesn’t necessarily have to be considered to be a long, hard slog.”
Pentagon officials said that USA Today “mischaracterized” the memo.
“This is just not breaking news,” Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita told reporters Wednesday. “It’s not a memo about Iraq and Afghanistan… . It’s asking the big questions on the war on terror — questions Secretary Rumsfeld has been asking in a variety of ways” since Sept. 11.
Rumsfeld wrote the memo because “it occurred to [him] that it might be useful to remind people this is a global war on terrorism,” Di Rita said. “This isn’t an action item,” referring to a directive that would require a specific response at a specific date.
The memo, supporters say, shows Rumsfeld’s willingness to constantly reassess the status quo. He notes that the DOD was organized to fight other large militaries.
“It is not possible to change DOD fast enough to successfully fight the global war on terror,” Rumsfeld wrote. “An alternative might be to try to fashion a new institution, either within DOD or elsewhere — one that seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies on this key problem.”
The memo may have been intended to spur military leaders to “think big,” but its contents nevertheless “provide tasty fruit” for Bush critics, Bacevich said.
“Fair or not, it’s fodder for critics who say ‘you guys have a credibility gap; you haven’t been straight with the American people,’” he said.
Full text of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s memo
October 16, 2003
TO:Gen. Dick Myers, Paul Wolfowitz, Gen. Pete Pace, Doug Feith
SUBJECT:Global War on Terrorism
The questions I posed to combatant commanders this week were: Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror? Is DoD changing fast enough to deal with the new 21st century security environment? Can a big institution change fast enough? Is the USG changing fast enough?
DoD has been organized, trained and equipped to fight big armies, navies and air forces. It is not possible to change DoD fast enough to successfully fight the global war on terror; an alternative might be to try to fashion a new institution, either within DoD or elsewhere — one that seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies on this key problem.
With respect to global terrorism, the record since September 11th seems to be:
— We are having mixed results with Al Qaida, although we have put considerable pressure on them — nonetheless, a great many remain at large.
— USG has made reasonable progress in capturing or killing the top 55 Iraqis.
— USG has made somewhat slower progress tracking down the Taliban — Omar, Hekmatyar, etc.
— With respect to the Ansar Al-Islam, we are just getting started.
Have we fashioned the right mix of rewards, amnesty, protection and confidence in the US?
Does DoD need to think through new ways to organize, train, equip and focus to deal with the global war on terror?
Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental? My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?
Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?
Does the US need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists? The US is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan, but we are putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists. The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists’ costs of millions.
Do we need a new organization?
How do we stop those who are financing the radical madrassa schools?
Is our current situation such that “the harder we work, the behinder we get”?
It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog.
Does CIA need a new finding?
Should we create a private foundation to entice radical madradssas to a more moderate course?
What else should we be considering?
Please be prepared to discuss this at our meeting on Saturday or Monday.
Source: The Department of Defense