Rumsfeld: US forces may stay years in Iraq; Mass grave found in southern Iraq
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appealed for realistic expectations on Friday in the U.S.-led efforts to rebuild Iraq, while his top war commander said basic services such as water and electricity were not yet at an acceptable level.
Briefing reporters at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy Franks also said it was not possible to know how long U.S. forces would remain in Iraq, suggesting it could be years.
"It is a very difficult transition from despotism and repression into a freer system. It's untidy. There'll be fits and starts, and a couple of steps forward and a step back. There'll be bumps along the way," Rumsfeld said.
"And it strikes me that what it requires is for people to be realistic, to look at other countries that have made that transition and ask how was that done?" Rumsfeld added.
"How long did it take? How difficult was it? How untidy was it? And recognize that this country does not have a history of representative or democratic systems. It's going to take some time. It's going to take some patience."
Franks expressed optimism about the reconstruction process while acknowledging some shortcomings. "Iraq's best days are yet to come," he said.
"Security in that country is absolutely critical to everything else that's going to be done there. A condition has to be established so that the people of Iraq can feel free to unshutter the windows of their shops and go to work and so forth," Franks said.
Neither Franks nor Rumsfeld would estimate how long the U.S. military presence in Iraq would last. "What the future will hold a year, two, three ... ahead of us is not exactly knowable." Franks said.
Rumsfeld said the United States is prepared to keep troops in Iraq "for as long as it takes to create a secure and permissive environment so that they (Iraqis) can go about their business of reconstructing their country."
Meanwhile, a mass grave uncovered in southern Iraq may hold the remains of Kuwaiti prisoners missing since the 1991 Gulf War, US defense officials said Friday.
A Kuwaiti POW task force and US-led forces are investigating the site, found this week near Samawah, a Pentagon official said. "Based on evidence found ... this could possibly be the remains of Kuwaiti citizens missing since the 1990 Iraqi invasion of the country," the U.S. Central Command said in a statement.
Kuwait says 600 people were taken during Iraq's 1990-91 occupation of the country. (Albawaba.com)
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