The departure of U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld this month roughly coincides with the end of Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli's tour as Commander of Multinational Forces in Iraq. As VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports, both officials agree that the war in Iraq cannot be won by military force alone.
In a farewell meeting with Pentagon employees, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said a precipitous U.S. pullout from Iraq would be a terrible mistake that would inject further instability in that country and the Middle East. He added that the military is doing everything possible to help stabilize Iraq.
"But they can't win this, quote, unquote, militarily. It has to be won by the Iraqi people. It has to be run through a reconciliation process and through a political process. And it is those diplomatic and economic and political things that have to move forward in that country."
Meanwhile, General Peter Chiarelli, who relinquishes command of Multinational Forces in Iraq next month, echoed Secretary Rumsfeld's assessment, adding that the U.S. mission in Iraq can succeed, given proper resources. He spoke by video link from Iraq. "We need to get out of thinking this is solely a military conflict where we must simply apply more U.S. or coalition and Iraqi forces against an enemy that we can destroy. All our nation's strengths -- diplomatic, economic, political -- must be leveraged to help the Iraqis find their way through this process."
General Chiarelli underscored the importance of creating jobs for young Iraqi men, whom he characterized as angry, in order to help secure the country. He said the February terrorist bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra sparked Iraq's current sectarian strife by changing people's view of their identity from Iraqi to Sunni or Shia.
Secretary Rumsfeld said terrorism is a weapon of choice for violent extremists whose ultimate goal is to dominate the Muslim world.
"They want to destabilize moderate mainstream Muslim regimes and establish a Caliphate, and have a handful of clerics determine what everyone in that country can do, and then spread that across the globe from Indonesia to the Middle East through North Africa and Southern Europe."
Reflecting on his six years as Pentagon Chief, Mr. Rumsfeld said the saddest day of his tenure was when he learned about prison abuse at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison. He said his happiest day will probably be next Monday… the day he leaves office.