| WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2006 -- The U.S. military continues to adapt to changing circumstances on the ground as it works with coalition partners and the Iraqis to confront terrorists, help build up the Iraqi government and pave the way for Iraqs security forces to become self-reliant, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters today.
Rumsfeld, speaking at a Pentagon news conference, dismissed arguments that military leaders are sticking blindly to their tactics. The idea that U.S. military leaders are rigidly refusing to make adjustments in their approaches is flat wrong, he said.
The secretary pointed to examples of this flexibility and adaptation. For example, when it became clear that training for the Iraqi army had to be changed to focus more on internal security and fighting terrorists, the military changed its strategy -- and with positive results, he said.
The result today is a security force of more than 310,000 trained and equipped Iraqis bearing the brunt of the battle for their country and increasingly taking over chunks of their territory, he said.
Similarly, Rumsfeld noted that when it became clear that the transfer to Iraqi sovereignty could be speeded up ahead of initial plans, it was. The timetable for the transfer of sovereignty was accelerated, he said, and the elections and drafting of a new constitution went forward.
The result was a series of successful, unprecedented elections that transformed the struggle in Iraq from a battle against a foreign occupation to an unpopular assault on the democratically elected government of Iraq, the secretary said.
In yet another example of flexibility, Rumsfeld noted that when commanders in Iraq decided that more troops were needed to respond to the increasing sectarian violence, they got them. Several thousand troops were brought to Baghdad within days, he said.
In short, he summarized, the military is continuing to adapt and adjust as required.
Rumsfeld emphasized that defeating terrorists and helping build stable allies in countries with little or no history of representative governments and few governmental institutions is a difficult, complex and enormously challenging process.
Changing decades of tradition and distrust takes time, to be sure, he said, but the alternative is unacceptable.
U.S. troops understand whats at stake in Iraq and are working through the difficulties to ensure they succeed, the secretary said.
Yes, there are difficulties and problems, Rumsfeld acknowledged. But the goal of a secure Iraq with a representative government that is at peace with its neighbors is a challenge. It will require work, and it will mean giving our troops and the Iraqi people the time to get the job done.
Rumsfeld pointed to recent talks between Iraqi and coalition leaders about appropriate areas for the Iraqi government to assume greater responsibility for their territory, security and governance.
These benchmarks, although not cast in stone, represent agreed-upon targets in Iraq that drive priorities and budgets, he said.
As the United States and coalition work with the Iraqi government to refine these benchmarks and continue progress already made, the United States remains committed to the Iraqis, Rumsfeld said.
He quoted President Bushs comments, issued yesterday: Coalition forces will stand with the Iraqi people as they take on a greater role in combating the terrorists and militants in their country.