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Rumsfeld: Iraqis Would Deal With Civil War

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_iraq;_ylt=ArntyBhVjYHJPASvm2GlrO2s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA2Z2szazkxBHNlYwN0bQ-- Rumsfeld: Iraqis Would Deal With Civil War By ROBERT
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 9, 2006

      Rumsfeld: Iraqis Would Deal With Civil War

      By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer 1 hour, 9 minutes

      WASHINGTON - Dealing with a civil war in Iraq would be
      the responsibility of Iraq's own security forces, at
      least initially, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
      told Congress on Thursday.

      Testifying alongside senior military leaders and
      Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Rumsfeld said he
      did not believe Iraq would descend into all-out civil
      war, though he acknowledged that sectarian strife had

      Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the
      Middle East, said the situation in Iraq had evolved to
      the point where Sunni-Shiite violence was more of a
      threat to U.S. success there than the insurgency,
      which continues taking a deadly toll on Iraqi and
      American troops, and to impede efforts to stabilize
      the country.

      Rumsfeld previously had been reluctant to say what the
      U.S. military would do in the event of civil war, but
      in an appearance before the Senate Appropriations
      Committee he was pressed on the matter by Sen. Robert
      Byrd (news, bio, voting record), D-W.Va.

      "The plan is to prevent a civil war, and to the extent
      one were to occur, to have the — from a security
      standpoint — have the Iraqi security forces deal with
      it, to the extent they are able to," Rumsfeld told the

      He did not elaborate on the implication of his remark:
      that at some point the Iraqi security forces might be
      overwhelmed by a civil conflict and ask the Americans
      to get involved militarily.

      One of Rumsfeld's chief critics in Congress, Sen.
      Edward Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass.,
      issued a statement after the hearing urging the
      administration to explain more fully what it would do
      in case of a civil war.

      "Obviously, it's not realistic to depend on the Iraqi
      security forces, which are not yet able to fight on
      their own," Kennedy said. "So, Secretary Rumsfeld is
      basically saying that if the prevention strategy fails
      and Iraq plunges into civil war, U.S. troops will
      inevitably be deeply involved."

      Rumsfeld said the key to avoiding civil war is for
      Iraq's political leaders to form a government of
      national unity.

      Both Abizaid and Rumsfeld cited progress in the
      training of Iraqi security forces. Abizaid said more
      than 100 Iraqi battalions are now conducting
      counterinsurgency operations, compared with only five
      in 2004. He did not mention that the number of Iraqi
      battalions rated as capable of operating without U.S.
      military assistance had recently dropped from one to

      During an extensive question-and-answer session with
      committee members, some Democrats including Byrd and
      Sen. Herbert Kohl (news, bio, voting record) of
      Wisconsin sharply criticized the war but the overall
      tone of the hearing was not hostile.

      Rice's opening statement to the committee was
      interrupted by a man in the audience who stood and
      shouted, "How many of you have children in this
      illegal and immoral war? The blood is on your hands
      and you cannot wash it away." As he was escorted from
      the room by security officers, the man also shouted,
      "Fire Rumsfeld."

      An AP-Ipsos poll released Thursday shows 77 percent of
      Americans think civil war is likely to break out in
      Iraq. They're evenly divided on whether a stable
      democratic government can survive in Iraq.

      More than half of Americans continue to disapprove of
      President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq.

      Abizaid, who frequently visits Iraq and has overall
      responsibility for U.S. military operations there,
      cited the dangers of rising sectarian violence.

      "There's no doubt that the sectarian tensions are
      higher than we've seen, and it is of great concern to
      all of us," he said, adding that he was pleased with
      the professionalism that Iraq's own security forces
      have demonstrated in responding to the surge in civil
      strife since the late-February bombing of a Shiite
      shrine in Samarra.

      Abizaid described the situation in Iraq as "changing
      in its nature from insurgency toward sectarian
      violence." Asked about that comment after the hearing,
      Abizaid told a reporter, "The sectarian violence is a
      greater concern for us security-wise right now than
      the insurgency."

      At a later news conference in the Capitol, Abizaid was
      asked if Iraqi troops would be expected to handle any
      outbreak of civil war.

      "It's my impression that Iraq is not moving toward
      civil war," he said, adding that the plan is for Iraqi
      security forces to "take the lead on most military
      operations, like they're currently doing, and we'll be
      in support."

      The hearing was called primarily to hear the
      administration's defense of its request for $91
      billion in emergency funds mainly to pay for the wars
      in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rice and Rumsfeld said the
      money was vital to continuing U.S. efforts on the
      military, political and economic fronts to establish a
      stable government.

      Asked about the prospects for a U.S. troop withdrawal
      from Iraq, Rumsfeld said it would be counterproductive
      to set a timetable, stressing that he's confident the
      Iraqis realize the enormity of the stakes at this
      stage of the process.

      "They have everything to lose," he said. "If they are
      not able to put together a government in a relatively
      short period of time, they are facing a very difficult
      situation for all of the people involved in governance
      in that country."

      There are now about 132,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The
      U.S. death toll since the start of the war in March
      2003 exceeds 2,300, in addition to more than 17,000


      On the Net:

      State Department at http://www.state.gov

      Defense Department at http://www.defenselink.mil

      Central Command at http://www.centcom.mil
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