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Rumsfeld Acknowledges Iraq Shortcomings


U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has acknowledged that things have not gone well recently in Iraq. Wednesday, President Bush announced Rumsfeld would leave the administration in the wake of the Republican party's defeat in congressional elections - a defeat opinion polls indicate was based largely on Iraq policy.

Secretary Rumsfeld spoke at a previously-scheduled event in the midwestern state of Kansas, where a member of the audience asked him about the situation in Iraq.

"It is very clear that the major combat operations were an enormous success. It is clear that in phase two of this it has not been going well enough or fast enough," Rumsfeld said.

But Secretary Rumsfeld also said much has been accomplished in Iraq, and he said his successor will have to continue to make adjustments and persevere to help the new Iraqi government and security forces achieve self-sufficiency.

He said one key element in the broader war on terrorism is the need for the United States to help other countries build their abilities to fight violent extremists.

"Today's war against a global enemy requires first and foremost that we enable our friends and allies especially those in the Muslim world to confront and defeat the extremists within their own borders and on their own airwaves," he said.

The secretary said some of the best people in the U.S. military will have to become advisors to foreign militaries, and that "there is perhaps no more important mission" for the U.S. military to perform. He says that is already happening, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Thursday, Rumsfeld visited a U.S. Army fort in Kansas where some of those trainers are themselves being trained for their new jobs.

The otherwise-routine appearance by Secretary Rumsfeld was colored by the announcement the day before that he will soon end his long tenure at the defense department.

Introducing the secretary, the former top U.S. military officer, retired General Richard Myers, disputed claims by some that Secretary Rumsfeld ignored military advice in planning the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The secretary has been sharply criticized by many former service members, and by some still on active duty.

In his speech, Secretary Rumsfeld made a point of praising U.S. troops several times, and he appeared particularly moved by the applause he received from the crowd of soldiers, students and teachers at Kansas State University.

"Thank you very much folks. I really appreciate that very warm welcome that you have given me," he said.

A Pentagon spokesman says business is continuing as usual in the department, and that Secretary Rumsfeld is exercising his full authority. But the spokesman, Bryan Whitman, says the secretary touched many people in the huge department and that no one is able "to check their feelings at the door" on this day after the announcement that he will be leaving.

That statement undoubtedly applies equally to those who are sorry to see him go, and those who are not.

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