MARGARET WARNER: For months, the Pentagon has resisted giving the U.N. a bigger role in Iraq. And as recently as yesterday, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said there wasn't any need for more troops there. The size and composition of the force in Iraq dominated today's Pentagon briefing with Rumsfeld and General John Abizaid, head of the central command.
DONALD RUMSFELD: General Abizaid has indicated that, at the present time, he believes-- you can say it yourself-- at the present time you believe that the U.S. level of forces is about right.
REPORTER: So if...
DONALD RUMSFELD: That's right.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC News: That's what you said before, right?
DONALD RUMSFELD: That's what I said.
MARTHA RADDATZ: So if a multinational force beyond what is there now, is introduced, what do you see that force doing? Does it augment the forces already there? Does it allow some of the U.S. troops numbers to be reduced? What do you see them doing? And also training for those troops, what kind of troops they would be, what you need?
GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: The question always comes up after a major incident: Do we need more troops? And I think, before I've answered the question by saying there's a lot of things that we need. Sometimes you have to change the way that you're using your troops. So you do tactics, techniques and procedures differently. We've made some adjustments. You have to bring in different types of troops. For example, you saw that, as the third infantry division, the levy force, left, we brought in the 82nd Airborne Division, lighter troops.
As foreign troops come in, as other coalition comes in and as Iraqi forces become more mature, we intend to turn over some of the security duties, the internal security duties that we're currently doing to them, and we'll adopt a more aggressive posture on external duties, such as borders or other sorts of things. So the number of troops, boots per square inch, is not the issue. Also, the real issue, by the way Martha, is intelligence. You have to have good, solid intelligence in a conflict such as this so you can get at the terrorists. That's the number one thing we've got to have. And we're working hard at it.
DONALD RUMSFELD: I would add this, that the forces there are, as General Abizaid has indicated, they are comprised of Americans, coalition forces, and Iraqis. And the numbers of each change from time to time. The overall number is going up, and the reason it's going up is because the Iraqis have gone from zero up to 50,000 or 60,000 people with arms in participating in this process of providing security in the country.
The president has said, and General Abizaid knows this, that as far as the U.S. element, that we're... we intend to see this through to success, and the president has indicated that whatever level of U.S. Forces is appropriate, that the general will have that level. And he knows that. And so it is important that we continue to bring in other countries, and Secretary Powell and General Abizaid and others have been working very hard on including other countries and trying to get them to send troops, and more are coming in continuously, and there's a very aggressive on to increase Iraqi forces, so...
REPORTER: So it wouldn't necessarily bring down the number of U.S. forces?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, I think I answered it rather well. The level of U.S. forces will be totally a function of the general's recommendations to the president and to me.
REPORTER: Mr. Secretary...
DONALD RUMSFELD: ...And the movement of the Iraqis or the coalition forces, it depends on what they're capable of doing, how they're organized and arranged, what's happening on the ground in the country, and trying to look ahead and anticipate and predict all of that is very difficult. Yeah?
REPORTER: General, you've said you've got enough troops. Outside military analysts said you might need more to deal with the kinds of attacks you're facing now. Is there a downside? Is there no benefit to adding more troops? Would that not be a more conservative approach?
GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: Sure, there's... if I may, Mr. Secretary. There is a downside to having too many troops there. I mean clearly there's a downside where you increase your lines of communication, you increase your number of logistics troops, you increase the energy that you have to expend just to guard yourself. I have never been one in favor of huge, ponderous forces, but light, agile mobile forces that not only can deal with the problem in Iraq, but throughout the theater.
REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, for the average American, the continued U.S. casualties and the U.N. bombing and what the general says about more foreign terrorists coming into Iraq probably suggests that things are going badly, that they're getting worse instead of better. Is that a wrong perception?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, I don't know that you or anyone else can speak for the average American. I don't think people would say that the Washington press corps is a typical of the average American now really, do you?
REPORTER: I'm just asking you a-- I'm just asking you a question.
DONALD RUMSFELD: It's the preface that got me. I guess time will tell. My impression is that the American people have a very good center of gravity and that they can kind of sort through and sift all they hear and all they see and all they read and they were, as the world was jolted on September 11. And the reality is that terrorists can attack in any country at any time in any place using a whole host of different techniques.
And we know that it is not possible to defend in every country on the face of the earth against every type of technique at any time of the day or night. You can't do that. Therefore, the advantage is with the attacker. And therefore, the president has worked up a coalition now of some I believe 90 countries in the global war on terror that are exchanging intelligence information, that are cooperating in closing bank accounts, that are sharing information and police records, that are inhibiting people from moving across borders, that are trying to find ways to restrict funds from moving because they're deeply concerned about the problem of terrorism. That's the task, and it is something that takes patience, it's going to take time. There will be continued attacks, as that process goes forward. But in the last analysis, either we do it and we do it successfully, or free people are not going to be able to live as tree people. And we are going to be successful. Thank you very much.