Rumsfeld memo: Iraq tactics not working
By ROBERT BURNS,
AP Military Writer
President Bush said Saturday he wants to hear all advice before making
decisions about changes in Iraq strategy, even as it was disclosed
that Donald H. Rumsfeld called for major changes in tactics two days
before he resigned as defense secretary.
"In my view it is time for a major adjustment," Rumsfeld wrote in a
Nov. 6 memo to the White House. "Clearly, what U.S. forces are
currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough."
Existence of the classified memo was first reported by The New York
Times on its Internet site Saturday evening in a story for the paper's
Pentagon press secretary Eric Ruff said he was not the source of the
leak to the Times, but confirmed the memo's authenticity to The
Associated Press late Saturday.
"The formulation of these ideas evolved over a period of several
weeks," Ruff said in a telephone interview.
He said the options presented in the paper were Rumsfeld's personal
ideas developed in conversations with a variety of people, not part of
a formal Pentagon review that also is under way. Rumsfeld had
previously said publicly that he believed U.S. efforts in Iraq were
not working well enough or fast enough, but he has not called for a
"major adjustment" in the U.S. approach to stabilizing Iraq.
Ruff also emphasized that Rumsfeld does not endorse any one particular
recommendation, and that he notes in the memo that "many of these
options could and, in a number of cases, should be done in combination
Lawrence Di Rita, who was Rumsfeld's chief spokesman before he left
the Pentagon last spring, said in a telephone interview Saturday
evening that the broad range of options presented by Rumsfeld belies
the notion, often cited by his critics, that he is inflexible and
reluctant to consider alternative approaches.
"I see this thing as classic Rumsfeld," Di Rita said. "This is the way
The president acknowledged the difficulties in Iraq in his Saturday
radio address and said: "I recognize that the recent violence in Iraq
has been unsettling. Many people in our country are wondering about
the way forward. The work ahead will not be easy, yet by helping Prime
Minister Nouri al-Maliki strengthen Iraq's democratic institutions and
promote national reconciliation, our military leaders and diplomats
can help put Iraq on a solid path to liberty and democracy."
Bush added: "The decisions we make in Iraq will be felt across the
broader Middle East."
The president is under pressure to decide a new blueprint for U.S.
involvement in Iraq. A bipartisan commission headed by James A. Baker
III, a former Republican secretary of state and Bush family friend
from Texas, and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana is to
present its recommendations to Bush in the coming week.
There is no hint in the memo Rumsfeld sent to the White House a day
before the Nov. 7 elections that he intended to resign. However, a
person familiar with the sequence of those events told the AP that
Rumsfeld did know when he wrote it that he would be leaving. The
person discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.
Bush announced Rumsfeld's impending departure the day after Democrats
won control of the House and Senate. The president has designated
Robert Gates to replace Rumsfeld.
Before listing options for change many of which are similar to
various proposals by people in and out of government, including
Democratic critics in Congress Rumsfeld noted that the situation in
Iraq "has been evolving" and said U.S. forces have adjusted from
"major combat operations, to counterterrorism, to counterinsurgency,
to dealing with death squads and sectarian violence."
Rumsfeld said the administration should "announce that whatever new
approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis.
This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course,
if necessary, and therefore not `lose.'"
At the end of his list of "above the line" preferred options, he
recommended: "Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how
we talk about them) go minimalist."
Specifics on his options checklist:
_"Publicly announce a set of benchmarks agreed to by the Iraqi
government and the U.S. ... to chart a path ahead for the Iraqi
government and Iraqi people (to get them moving) and for the U.S.
public (to reassure them that progress can and is being made)."
_"Significantly increase U.S. trainers and embeds, and transfer more
U.S. equipment to Iraqi security forces."
_"Initiate a reverse embeds program ... by putting one or more Iraqi
soldiers with every U.S. and possibly coalition squad."
_Aggressively beef up Iraqi ministries by reaching out to U.S.
military retirees and Reserve and National Guard volunteers.
_Conduct an accelerated drawdown of U.S. bases, noting they have
already been reduced from 110 to 55. "Plan to get down to 10 to 15
bases by April 2007, and to 5 bases by July 2007."
_"Retain high-end ... capability ... to target al-Qaida, death squads,
and Iranians in Iraq, while drawing down all other coalition forces,
except those necessary to provide certain key enablers" for Iraqi forces.
_Provide U.S. security forces "only for those provinces or cities that
openly request U.S. help and that actively cooperate."
_Stop rewarding "bad behavior" with reconstruction funds and start
rewarding "good behavior."
_"Position substantial U.S. forces near the Iranian and Syrian borders
to reduce infiltration and, importantly, reduce Iranian influence on
the Iraqi government."
_Withdraw U.S. forces from vulnerable positions and move to a quick
reaction force status, operating from within Iraq and Kuwait, to be
available when Iraqi security forces need assistance.
_"Begin modest withdrawals of U.S. and coalition forces (start `taking
our hand off the cycle seat') so Iraqis know they have to pull up
their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country."
Rumsfeld also listed a handful of "below the line" (less attractive)
options that included continuing on the current path, moving a large
fraction of all U.S. forces in Iraq into Baghdad, increasing U.S.
forces substantially, setting a firm withdrawal date and pushing "an
aggressive federalism plan" that would lead to three separate states
Sunni, Shia and Kurd.
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