Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says more Iraqi and international troops - instead of more U.S. soldiers - are needed to bolster security in Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld made the remarks on a trip to Iraq to visit military commanders and American troops there.
Secretary Rumsfeld says another military division may be needed in Iraq, but that it should be made up of international forces. He also indicated that lower-ranking, former Iraqi soldiers might be recruited to bolster the new Iraqi army. He said training and equipping Iraqi forces is better than sending more American troops because, he said, foreign forces should be only temporary.
While in Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld is to visit American troops and U.S. military commanders and meet with leaders of the U.S.-led provisional authority in Iraq.
The defense secretary's remarks came as the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, told reporters he has enough troops to perform the current mission. But he said he would need more soldiers for other security tasks, such as guarding borders and countering terrorist attacks.
Mr. Rumsfeld's visit comes as U.S. diplomats circulated a draft resolution at the United Nations aimed at broadening international participation in the reconstruction of Iraq.
An estimated 140,000 U.S. troops are currently in Iraq along with some 20,000 troops from a score of other countries. U.S. officials say there are nearly 60,000 Iraqis serving in various Iraqi security organizations.
U.S. military officials say American troops Thursday killed three Iraqis who were laying explosive devices on a road 50 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. Such improvised devices have killed dozens of American troops since the end of heavy combat was declared four months ago.
American military officials say U.S. forces also raided homes in Tikrit, the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein, looking for bomb makers. They took fire from rocket-propelled grenades. No casualties were reported.
Meanwhile, the recently appointed 25-member cabinet, which is to oversee day-to-day operations of the ministries, gets a mixed review from ordinary Iraqis.
Some Iraqis have expressed cautious optimism, saying the cabinet is another step in the right direction of granting more and more authority to Iraqi leaders. However, others say they reject the cabinet because it came from the Iraqi Governing Council, which was appointed by the coalition and was not elected by the Iraqi people. Coalition authorities say national elections are planned next year after a commission drafts a new constitution for the country.