U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday defended his department's $419 billion budget request for next year, and a more than $70 billion increase for the current year, in testimony to two congressional committees. He said the money is needed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to fight terrorists worldwide. But he also said help is needed from U.S. allies, large and small.
Secretary Rumsfeld told the committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives that his budget provides for the modernization of the U.S. armed forces, while they continue to operate in trouble spots and around the world.
But the secretary also said other nations must participate in the effort, particularly in fighting global terrorism and weapons proliferation. And he called on the Congress to accept a Bush administration program designed to help more nations get involved.
"We encourage you in Congress to support a global peace operations initiative, to be managed by the State Department, that will help other less-developed countries send peacekeeping forces and stabilization forces to potential trouble spots,” said Mr. Rumsfeld. “And we ask Congress to offer more incentives and capabilities to friends and allies battling insurgents who need help in training and equipping their own forces."
Secretary Rumsfeld praised the development of Iraq's security forces, an effort U.S. officials say will be increased in coming months. He said the Iraqi forces demonstrated what he called their "valor" in the battle for Fallujah, and in helping to secure Iraq's election last month. And he noted that nearly as many Iraqi troops as American troops have been killed in insurgent attacks, or battles against the insurgents.
Some members of Congress tried to get Secretary Rumsfeld to estimate the size of Iraq's insurgency, but he declined. He did say that an Iraqi estimate of 240,000 insurgents is far higher than U.S. estimates. He also said he views U.S. intelligence estimates on this subject as unreliable. But speaking to reporters later, Mr. Rumsfeld said the raw numbers are not the only thing to consider.
"I don't mean to be dismissive of it,” he added. “People are doing the best that can be done. And the fact is that people disagree. It's not clear to me that the number is the over-riding important thing. For one thing, it changes from time to time. The size of the problem is one thing, the lethality of it is quite a different thing. The Zarqawi group, within that problem group of the insurgency, clearly is the smallest, and it's clearly the most lethal."
Secretary Rumsfeld also declined to say when a substantial number of U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq, but he said coalition members will begin to reduce their forces in the country as Iraqi forces gain capability. He told the members of Congress there has never been a war that was predictable in terms of its cost, length or casualties.