Rumsfeld suggests U.S. troop cuts in Iraq |

Rumsfeld suggests U.S. troop cuts in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, on an unannounced holiday season visit, hinted on Thursday that the U.S. military soon will begin a modest, additional reduction in troop levels by canceling the scheduled deployment of two Army brigades.The decision would be the first Pentagon move to drop the American troop presence below the 138,000 level that had been considered a baseline prior to the temporary addition of about 20,000 troops to provide extra security during the Oct. 15 referendum and the Dec. 15 election. Rumsfeld had previously said those 20,000 would be leaving soon.But in an interview with reporters traveling with him on an Air Force cargo plane to Baghdad, Rumsfeld hinted that a preliminary decision had been made to go below the 138,000 baseline by not deploying a brigade of the 1st Infantry Division from Fort Riley, Kan., and a 1st Armored Division brigade now in Kuwait. Other officials have said small parts of each brigade were likely to go anyway.Asked whether he’d made the decision to hold back those two brigades, Rumsfeld made a distinction between his decisions as defense secretary and final announcements by the U.S. government.”Until it’s announced, the government’s decision hasn’t been announced. Therefore it’s not final,” he said.Rumsfeld also said he hoped that the Iraqis who will be putting together a full-term national government in coming weeks will take into account the risk of losing international support if they stumble.”It’s a big, big, enormous thing for them to try to accomplish in a relatively short period of time,” he said, referring to the job of selecting a president, a prime minister and cabinet ministries.”We also can’t ignore the fact that the world – the rest of the world – has a vote,” he said, referring figuratively to other countries’ choices about the extent of their future support for Iraq. “The degree of support will be, to some extent, a function of the critically important decisions they (the Iraqis) make during this period.”Rumsfeld said he hopes the government leaders who emerge are “people who are going to pull that country together toward the center and not pull it apart – people who are competent and capable of leading a government, a wartime government.”Vail, Colorado

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