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Rumsfeld Touts Progress in Iraqi Security Situation - 2003-12-06

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says he sees a dramatic change in the way Iraqis are now providing for their own security. During a trip to Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld said this is an important transformation that has occurred since the end of major combat operations.

Secretary Rumsfeld says, in less than six months, 140,000 Iraqis have been trained to work in security-related fields. That is more than the number of U.S. forces currently in the country. After watching the training of officers in the Iraqi civil defense corps in Baghdad, Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters, they represent one of the most significant changes since the end of major combat operations.

"The role of the Iraqis is dramatically changed," secretary Rumsfeld said. "Every month, it's vastly increased. And that just is the answer. Foreign forces, ultimately, are unnatural, and they ought not to be in a country at that point, where it's possible for the country to have taken over those responsibilities."

Nowhere is that change more noticeable than in the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Here, Mr. Rumsfeld met with Iraqi governing officials, who told him that 90 percent of crime and other security-related problems are being handled now by newly trained police.

That has allowed coalition forces to significantly reduce the number of troops needed in Kirkuk. The 52-year-old governor of Kirkuk, Abd Al-Rahman Mustafa, told VOA, the handover of security responsibilities is happening gradually, and, so far, successfully.

He's saying that the situation here in Kirkuk regarding the security is better than other provinces, and he's saying that taking [transferring] the authority from the coalition to the Iraqis is happening, but it's happening through stages, slowly, but it's successful.

In both Kirkuk and Baghdad, top field commanders told Mr. Rumsfeld that deadly attacks against coalition forces have gone down significantly in recent weeks.

Major General Raymond Odierno says, even in the so-called Sunni Triangle, where most of the deadly attacks have occurred, the number of violent incidents dropped by about two thirds. General Odierno says better intelligence information is helping coalition soldiers track down Iraqi insurgents.

"What we have to do is be able to sort out, to make sure that it is accurate information," he explained. "I say we are about 90 percent accurate now, when we act on information. When we first started, we were probably about 50 percent. And a lot of it has to do with just our ability to understand the situation, understand the ethnic groups and understand the sources."

So, Secretary Rumsfeld heard a generally upbeat message during his third trip to Iraq since the end of major combat operations last May.

Mr. Rumsfeld says he would still like to accelerate the recruiting, training and deployment of Iraqi security forces - a move he believes will bring more stability and a better atmosphere for the reconstruction of this country.