Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says the London terror attacks that killed more than 50 people and wounded 700 will not affect the ongoing U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Rumsfeld said the United States would continue its policy of fighting terrorists abroad so as not to fight them at home.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday in a joint media session with Italian Minister of Defense Antonio Martino, Mr. Rumsfeld expressed his condolences to the British people.
While some have blamed the London attacks on the British government's support of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and its pursuit of al-Qaida operatives, Mr. Rumsfeld said the deadly bomb attacks would not change the way the United States and its allies deal with radical Islamic terrorists.
"You have to try to defend, but you have to know the only way you can successfully defend is to go after the terrorists wherever they are," Mr. Rumsfeld says. "And to see that they don't have safe havens where they can plan, train, organize and then attack innocent men, women and children."
Mr. Rumsfeld added that the attacks in London would have no effect on the military and diplomatic efforts underway in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"We have plans in each country that are going forward, milestones are being met, and the tasks that remain ahead are clear, unambiguous and I believe will be achieved," Mr. Rumsfeld says.
Last week Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced that his country would withdraw 300 of its troops stationed in Iraq this September. Mr. Berlusconi has been a staunch supporter of President Bush, but relations between Washington and Rome have grown strained in recent months following the killing of an Italian intelligence agent by U.S. soldiers in Iraq. More recently, an Italian judge ordered the arrest of 13 U.S. citizens linked to the Central Intelligence Agency on charges they abducted an Egyptian imam from Milan.
Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino said Italy's troop withdrawal was being done in close consultation with the United States and other allies, including the government of Iraq.
"The Prime Minister said that Italy would continue to stay in Iraq as long as necessary. Second, he said all our decisions would be made in agreement with our allies and with the government of Iraq," Mr. Martino says. "Third, it is true that as the training and formation of new Iraqi military and police proceeds and the Iraqis are gradually more and more capable of taking care of their own security by themselves, then our presence will become progressively less important."
There are 33 hundred Italian paratroopers currently stationed in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, which Defense Minister Martino noted has been relatively calm and peaceful. They will be replaced in September by an armored brigade of three thousand troops.
Mr. Rumsfeld was also asked about news reports citing a British memo that said the British Defense Department was looking at withdrawing all its troops by the end of 2005 while the United States was looking to cut back its own troop levels to 66 thousand from 136 thousand. Mr. Rumsfeld said he hadn't read that specific memo, but that there are ongoing discussions about U.S. and coalition troop levels.