Bloomberg – 2005-04-13 23:14:25
(April 12, 2005) — The US has no exit strategy or timetable for withdrawing its forces from Iraq and a pull-out depends on the readiness of the Iraqi Security Forces, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said.
“We don’t have an exit strategy, we have a victory strategy,” Rumsfeld told soldiers during a surprise visit to Baghdad, according to a pooled broadcast report from the capital. “The goal is to help the Iraqi Forces develop the skills and the capacity to provide their own security.”
The defense secretary arrived in Iraq today to meet with Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and President Jalal Talabani, Captain Darren Luke, a US military spokesman, said by telephone from Baghdad. He’ll press the two, who were both elected by National Assembly members last week, to continue moves toward democracy, the Associated Press reported.
The US currently has 150,000 soldiers in Iraq, the strongest foreign contingent there followed by the U.K., South Korea and Italy. Poland, which has 1,700 troops in Iraq, today announced it would recall its forces by year’s end, Polish TVN24 television reported.
The presence of coalition soldiers in the nation of 26 million people is contested by some Iraqis, tens of thousands of whom took to the streets of Baghdad on April 9 calling for US troops to leave immediately.
The Iraqi government wants US forces to stay until they have quashed the insurgency which began after the March 2003 US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.
The Iraqi Police and Army has about 152,000 members, according to Iraq’s interim government. Progress is being made in their training, Rumsfeld said today, without indicating how long it would take for them to become fully “competent.”
“We have to see the institutional capacity developed so that they can take over the security responsibility,” Rumsfeld said referring to Iraqi Security Forces. “As that takes place, the responsibility of the coalition forces will decline and they will be able to move away and leave.”
The Defense Secretary, whose visit wasn’t disclosed until his arrival for security reasons, praised the US soldiers he addressed in Baghdad and told them that they’ll earn their place in history for fighting “a war where victory depends not only on military successes but on reconstruction and civil affairs.”
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