Rumsfeld stands firm on disputed number of combat-capable Iraqi forces
February 5, 2005
ARLINGTON, Va. — Iraq’s recent elections won’t stop the violence in that country, but they may prompt ordinary Iraqis to be more forthcoming with information about the insurgents, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday.
“I doubt one can say that that election will change” the minds of individuals determined to oppose the new Iraqi government and the coalition, Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters Thursday. “I expect that level of violence and the insurgency to continue.”
However, “I think [the election’s success] means intelligence will improve, more people will be willing to provide information” that leads to the capture or death of insurgents, he said.
Rumsfeld maintained that Iraq now has 136,000 security forces “trained and equipped at the appropriate level,” even though the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, told Congress on Thursday that only 40,000 of those troops are fully combat-capable.
Rumsfeld said that he has validated the 136,000 figure, despite assertions by some members of Congress that the number of fully trained forces is considerably smaller.
“I spent an hour this morning with [commander of the Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq Lt. Gen. David] Petraeus, going over every one of these numbers, and with Gen. [George] Casey,” the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Rumsfeld said.
Petraeus has been tasked with overseeing U.S. military efforts to train and equip the Iraqi forces.
Rumsfeld touted what he said was the dramatic growth in the Iraqi defense forces, “when we first started with zero” after the war in 2002.
In fact, the training program in Iraq is so robust that “we are heading toward 200,000 [Iraqi Security Forces] in October this year, when the constitution is voted on,” Rumsfeld said.
But he would not quantify when Iraqi Security Forces will be large enough, or capable enough, for U.S. forces to begin coming home from Iraq.
“It depends on the conditions on the ground,” he said. “There’s no simple, neat answer to your question, because there are variables. ... As the numbers of Iraqi Security forces increase, obviously there will be less need for coalition forces.”
Rumsfeld said he was not aware of comments made Thursday morning by Myers, who told a Senate Armed Services Committee that U.S. military leaders have said of among the 136,000 Iraqi forces, “about 40,000 can go anywhere in the country and take on any threat.”
Not all of the Iraqi forces need to be “deployable,” Rumsfeld said, citing a local policeman “walking the beat.”
“A policeman is local,” Rumsfeld said. “He doesn’t need the mobility” that a military unit might require.
There are “about 56,000 Iraqis in military forces, and another 80,000 in police forces,” according to Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who appeared with Rumsfeld during the Thursday news conference.
Rumsfeld bristled at a reporter’s suggestion that his insistence on adhering to the 136,000 tally is “misleading as to the capability of those forces.”
“A number does not give you capability, it gives you numbers. ... Capability and capacity to do something are something else, ” Rumsfeld retorted. “It is flat wrong to say anyone is misleading anyone.
“No one should expect Iraqi security forces are going to come out of some training pipeline and instantly become battle-hardened veterans,” Rumsfeld said.
Stripes reporter Leo Shane contributed to this story from Washington.