Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admits insecurity is a continuing problem in Iraq. But Mr. Rumsfeld tells Congress acts of sabotage and violence are limited and U.S. forces are moving aggressively to remove the threat.
Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mr. Rumsfeld was peppered with questions on a variety of subjects related to the U.S. military presence in Iraq, where American soldiers are being killed and wounded in almost daily attacks.
The underlying concerns of legislators were perhaps best reflected by Senator Ted Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who first voiced pride in the achievements of U.S. forces.
But then Senator Kennedy went on to express alarm over the ongoing threats to American troops.
"I am now concerned that we have the world's best trained soldiers serving as policemen in what seems to be a shooting gallery," said Senator Kennedy.
Secretary Rumsfeld acknowledged there are security problems in Iraq. But he rejected suggestions these are widespread.
"There seems to be a widely held impression that regime loyalists are operating freely throughout the country, attacking coalition forces at will," he said. "That is clearly not the case."
Mr. Rumsfeld said large portions of the country are stable. In the areas around Baghdad where most of the recent attacks have occurred, he said coalition forces are engaged in operations to clear out enemy fighters.
"The problem is real but it is being dealt with in an orderly and forceful fashion by coalition forces," he said.
Mr. Rumsfeld blamed most of the insecurity on remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime who did not surrender. He also blamed tens of thousands of former criminals released before the war began along with foreign terrorists who he said have crossed into Iraq.
Despite the instability, Mr. Rumsfeld said Iraq has been liberated and the former ruling Baath Party will not be allowed to return to power. He also said most Iraqis are better off now than before the war.
Referring to ongoing difficulties in restoring basic services in Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld noted that while residents of Baghdad may not have power 24 hours a day, in his words, they no longer wake up each morning in fear.