Rumsfeld says Iraq pullout talk helps "insurgents"
As pressure growing for setting a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld declined to make any promise and said Sunday commanders' assessments will determine the pace of any military downsizing.
Some 160,000 American soldiers are in Iraq as the country prepares for next month's elections. According to the AP, the Pentagon has stated it intends to scale back troop strength to its pre-election level of 138,000.
Rumsfeld stressed there was progress in training Iraqi security forces. "The Iraqi security forces are out engaged in the fight. Some are in the lead, some are working with us in tandem, others are working with us where we have the lead, and that's perfectly understandable," he said on ABC's "This Week."
Rumsfeld suggested that talk of withdrawal tells "insurgents that if they wait, they prevail, and they'll be able to turn that country into a haven for terrorism."
U.S. troops, according to Rumsfeld, believe they are making progress in a "noble cause" in which the U.S. will prevail. "We have to all have the willingness to have a free debate, but we also all have to have the willingness to understand what the effects of our words are," he said.
Rumsfeld made these comments after the Sunday Times of London reported U.S. military commanders have drawn up a plan to start pulling troops out of Iraq after Dec. 15's vote. The plan -- calling for the withdrawal of more than 60,000 troops by the end of 2006 -- has been submitted to Rumsfeld, the weekly said. It added the pullout would leave some 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq by the end of next year.
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