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'Success' is Exit Strategy in Iraq, Rumsfeld Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2003 - With "success" as the exit strategy, the numbers of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq in the meantime "will depend on the security situation on the ground," the Defense Department's top civilian told foreign journalists here today.

Speaking to reporters at the State Department's Foreign Press Center, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld added that American troop strength in Iraq also depends "on the pace at which Iraqi security forces are able to assume additional responsibilities."

DoD planners estimate U.S. troop strength in Iraq decreasing from around 130,000 today to about 105,000 by May, when a rotation of fresh troops arrives.

The purpose of the troop rotation "is not to reduce the number of U.S. forces in Iraq," Rumsfeld asserted, or to develop an exit strategy.

"Our exit strategy in Iraq is success; it's that simple," Rumsfeld declared. "The objective is not to leave," he noted to the reporters, but rather is "to succeed in our mission."

Iraqi forces involved in internal security - about 118,000 today -- are expected to increase to 150,000 to 200,000 by the end of 2004, Rumsfeld said.

U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq today are on the offensive, Rumsfeld pointed out, capturing or killing pro- Saddam Hussein diehards and anti-coalition foreign fighters.

"And we're doing so with a growing number of Iraqis," the secretary remarked, "who are participating in the defense of their country." And, 32 nations are now providing on- the-ground support for Iraqi reconstruction efforts, he added. Rumsfeld is expected to discuss Iraq issues with South Korean and Japanese officials during an upcoming trip to those countries.

Insurgent actions in Iraq make it "a dangerous place," Rumsfeld conceded. Each country, he emphasized, has to decide according to its own interests whether or not to send people to assist in Iraqi reconstruction.

Rumsfeld asserted that Iraq is "an important country" that for decades had suffered under a brutal dictator.

Saddam's Stalinist-styled regime, the secretary noted, destroyed Iraq's infrastructure, repressed its people, and killed "tens and tens and tens of thousands" of innocent Iraqi men, women and children, as well as neighbors.

Wouldn't most nations want to participate in Iraqi reconstruction, "to do something truly important for a terrible troubled region in the world?" Rumsfeld rhetorically asked.

"I think most countries would like to," the secretary answered, noting he wasn't surprised that 32 nations are providing on-the-ground assistance in Iraq.

"And, I hope, there are more," he concluded.