Friday, December 15, 2006

Political Progress Essential in Iraq, Afghanistan, Rumsfeld Says

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA

Dec. 15, 2006 – The
U.S. military can't lose in Iraq or Afghanistan, but the situation won't improve beyond a certain point without significant political progress, outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said last night. "We're in that unusual situation where the Department of Defense is looked at for the situations in those countries, when the reality is that we can't lose a single military battle in either country at all, not possible," Rumsfeld said in an interview with Brit Hume on Fox News Channel. "But we can't win without help from others."

The U.S. State Department and the Department of Agriculture, among other organizations, need to step up and help develop the economic, criminal justice and agricultural systems necessary for a fully functional society, Rumsfeld said. For example, the banking system in Iraq needs to be improved so Iraqi soldiers don't have to leave their units to take their pay to their families, he said.

More U.S. troops should only be sent into Iraq if there is a strong
military objective for them to achieve, Rumsfeld said. "You ought to have something that you believe is military in nature that can be accomplished," he said. "Otherwise you are putting people into a risky situation, where they are just more targets for the enemy to shoot at. And if you don't have an understood military objective, I can't see that there is much purpose in doing it."

Rumsfeld emphasized that the level of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has always been driven by commanders on the ground, not leaders in Washington. The commanders who make those recommendations are talented, serious people who are not influenced by politics, he said.

As he begins his last few days in office, Rumsfeld said he is proud of the military transformation that has taken place in the last few years. The transformation, which he said is essential to success in the 21st century, started before he took office and will continue when he leaves, he said.

"You know, you think about it, this institution basically was designed to fight big armies, big navies and big air forces," he said. "And that isn't what we're doing today, and that isn't what we're likely to do in the period immediately ahead. We simply have to be able to deal with irregular warfare and the asymmetrical challenges that are so advantageous to the enemy."

Rumsfeld leaves office Dec. 18, when defense secretary designee Robert Gates takes over. Rumsfeld's farewell ceremony is today at the Pentagon.

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