|US Officials Assess 2nd Anniversary of Iraq War
By Paula Wolfson
20 March 2005
Top U.S. military officials say two years after the invasion of Iraq progress is being made, though considerable work remains to be done. They spoke in a series of interviews on American television.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld put the focus on the positive in all his interviews.
On ABC's This Week, he listed a series of achievements since the invasion. He said two years after the war began, 25 million Iraqis are free.
"You have economic activity, you have political activity, a constituent assembly met for the first time last week, you had a successful election," said Donald Rumsfeld.
He was then asked if any mistakes were made during the invasion. Was there anything he wished had been different?
"Had we been successful in getting the fourth infantry division to come in through Turkey in the north when our forces were coming up from the south out of Kuwait, I believe that a considerably smaller number of the Baathists and regime elements would have escaped," he said.
Secretary Rumsfeld noted U.S. force levels have been drawn down a bit in recent days, though the number is likely to rise again before another round of elections is held next year.
On NBC's Meet the Press, America's top military officer said there will be significant withdrawals once Iraq's new government can defend itself. General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said about 142,000 Iraqis have been trained so far. He said the goal is to train and mentor around 200,000, and predicted that number will be met in less than six months.
"I think 200,000 is this summer as a matter of fact," said Richard Myers. "And then it continues to build a bit. And then the Iraqi government may decide that number is too low. That is something they will decide when they have an elected government at the end of this year."
Meanwhile, negotiations continue in Iraq on the composition of a transitional government. The current foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, told CNN's Late Edition that an agreement is close.
"I am a member of the negotiating team," said Hoshyar Zebari. "We believe we will reach an agreement very soon. Hopefully before the end of March we will have a complete package to get on with the job."
Mr. Zebari also talked about security matters, and agreed with General Myers that any major American withdrawal must be tied to a build-up of Iraqi security forces.