RAY SUAREZ: As fighting intensified across Iraq in the last several weeks, and as casualties mounted, American officials began to talk about the need for more U.S. troops. This marked a change in approach. From the first days of the war, top Pentagon military and civilian officials strongly asserted there were enough troops to do the job, and brushed aside calls for more.
Until last month, there were about 115,000 and soldiers and Marines in Iraq. But with current major troop rotation going on, the number is about 137,000. The first to voice the need for more troops was the regional commander Gen. John Abizaid.
GEN. JOHN ABIZAID: In terms of capability, what I've asked for is essentially to have a strong mobile combat arms capability. That's about, probably, two brigades' worth of combat power, if not more.
RAY SUAREZ: President Bush, at his news conference Tuesday, said Abizaid would get whatever he asked for.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: He's clearly indicating that he may want more troops. It's coming up through the chain of command, and if that's what he wants, that's what he gets.
RAY SUAREZ: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, gave the first Pentagon follow-up at a briefing in Baghdad today.
GEN. RICHARD MYERS: General Abizaid and General Sanchez have asked for more capability, given the current security situation here in Iraq. And that capability will, as in the past, be provided to our commanders in the field.
RAY SUAREZ: At a Pentagon news conference in Washington today, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld made the announcement official.
DONALD RUMSFELD: The coalition forces have had a tough period of days in Iraq, but the forces are performing with courage and with determination, and certainly the American people can be very proud of them. What they're doing is important, it's noble work, and in the end, it will be successful.
General Pace and I talked to General Abizaid this morning. He reports that the challenge in Fallujah is being contained, and that the situation in the South, at this time, is largely stabilized, while there are still various attacks and incidents taking place. General Abizaid has requested additional combat capability for the period ahead, above the current level that has been the pattern, which has been plus or minus 115,000 troops in Iraq.
The current level, because of the deployment/redeployment transfers, is about 137,000. I've approved General Abizaid's request. Essentially, we've approved the extension of roughly 20,000 forces, people who are currently in the theater, of which roughly a quarter, as I recall, are likely to be guard and reserve personnel. The period will be for up to an additional 90 days in Iraq, and up to 120 days total deployment. Needless to say, we regret having to extend those individuals. They had anticipated being in country, or in the AOR, something like up to 365 days. This will extend their time in Iraq somewhat. But the country is at war, and we need to do what is necessary to succeed.
As I've said, we're engaged in a test of will. We'll meet that test. A small band of terrorists are not going to be permitted to determine the fate of the 25 million Iraqi people.
CHARLES ALDINGER: And you're fairly confident that after 90 days, you'll be able to start drawing down to, say, 115,000, or you just don't know?
DONALD RUMSFELD: You know me, I'm not going to set -- it depends on the facts on the ground. We've said all along, from the very beginning, we'd use the level of forces that are necessary to prevail. That was true during the major combat operations; it's been true during stabilization operations subsequently. And you can't predict the future, you just simply cannot do that, so why bother? Why try?
PAM HESS, UPI: General Pace, would you please explain to us what's going on in Najaf and Fallujah in as much detail as you can?
GEN. PETER PACE: What you have is the United States Marines applying very precise application of combat power. They began, as you would expect, in a very aggressive way, and were in fact killing many of the enemy. But they were getting deeper and deeper into the city. And as will happen with combat, you're going to have destruction of things in the city which, in the humane fight that we're trying to conduct, we are trying to avoid. So the military commanders have paused offensive operations in Fallujah to give the Iraqi governing council and those interested in peace in Iraq to work through the details of settling that situation without having to continue the offensive operations on the ground. That is what is happening there.
In Najaf, we have again coalition forces that have been moved into the area, again giving the Iraqi Governing Council, and others interested in peace, the opportunity to work through the details with Sadr.
JAMIE McINTYRE: Mr. Secretary, the other night at his press conference President Bush was asked as he looked back before Sept. 11 could he identify any mistakes that were made and what he might have learned from them, and he couldn't come up with any. I'm wondering how you would answer that question.
DONALD RUMSFELD: I don't know that we've got time here to run through all of the things that one would have wished were different. But, obviously, we did a great deal of planning for things that did not go wrong. They may not have gone wrong because of the planning and because of the work that was done in anticipation. Conversely, if someone had said, "Would you, a year ago, have expected you would be where you are at the present time?" Obviously one would not have said that -- one would not have described where we are. And is it possible to have described it? I don't know. Maybe someone could have.
SPOKESMAN: I want to make sure I understand what you're saying. Are you conceding that you didn't anticipate that the level of violence that's going on in Iraq now, the level of the insurgency, the fact that you're taking more casualties now than you were a year ago when you were still in major combat, are you conceding that you didn't anticipate that?
DONALD RUMSFELD: I am saying that if you had said to me a year ago, "describe the situation you'll be in today one year later," I don't know many people who would have described it. I would not have described it the way it happens to be today.
RAY SUAREZ: General Pace said the troop deployments to Iraq would not affect the military's ability to carry out its missions elsewhere in the world.