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Rumsfeld Denies US Forming Hit-Squads for Iraqi Insurgent Leaders

  • Al Pessin

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says the United States is not training Iraqi forces to target insurgency leaders for assassination. The secretary was commenting on a report on the Newsweek Magazine Web site that his department is considering sending U.S. military Special Forces teams to Iraq to do such training.

Secretary Rumsfeld calls the Newsweek report "nonsense" and "flights of fancy" written by people, who "read too many spy novels."

"The Pentagon doesn't do things like are described in the reporting on the story, since I have not seen the story," he said. "Second, the task of training the Iraqis is to train them to [do] the things they need to do to provide security for their country. And it does not involve the kind of things that are characterized in that story, at all. It just doesn't."

The Newsweek Magazine Web site reports that the defense department is considering sending Special Forces teams to Iraq to train Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shi'ite militiamen on how to launch assassination attacks on Sunni leaders of the insurgency. The article says the U.S. forces might even lead such missions into neighboring Syria, where some of the insurgency leaders are believed to be operating.

Secretary Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news conference Tuesday there is no such training program, and that U.S. forces are not operating in Syria. But he would not comment on whether any incursions into Syria are being considered.

Newsweek says the idea of assassination squads comes out of frustration that attacks on insurgent strongholds, like Fallujah, have only spread the insurgency, rather than slowing or ending it.

Secretary Rumsfeld also described the Iraqi election, scheduled for January 30, as "an enormous success and victory" for the coalition, and said the "entire civilized world" has a stake in the process.

He said whatever government results from the election will be broadly representative of the Iraqi people, including Sunnis, whose leaders have called for a boycott. He said the goal of the election is to finally give Iraqis the chance to determine their own future, and to establish an Iraq governed by Iraqis, with security provided by Iraqis. He acknowledged there is some way to go on the security front.