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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Donald Rumsfeld Speaks to Reporters on Capitol Hill

Aired February 12, 2004 - 12:11   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now we're going to go live to Capitol Hill, where the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, is coming to the microphones after testifying before the House Appropriations Committee on the defense budget.
Let's hear what he has to say.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: There is a lot of confusion in people's minds and in the questions I hear about the timetable. The timetable does not involve security forces. The timetable involves governance and the transfer of sovereignty. And that is all that it involves.

The question of the security in the country is this: the coalition forces are there, 34 countries. We have now plus or minus 115,000. The Iraqis now have 200,000 security forces of various types: police, border patrol, Iraqi civil defense groups, site protection. And they are increasingly taking over more and more of the responsibility.

In the first instance, they tend to do it jointly with the U.S. and coalition forces. In some instances, they step forward and our forces are back. But there is no timetable for the passing over of security responsibility. It will vary in different parts of the country, and always the coalition forces will be prepared to move forward again if, for whatever reason that's appropriate.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) troops are stretched so thin, is that why you're trying to calm the situation in North Korea (UNINTELLIGIBLE) so that you'll peacefully resolve this and don't have to get involved?

RUMSFELD: Well, no, the troops are not stretched so thin. We have all the troops that the combatant commander and the local commanders have asked for. And they're doing fine.

It is a dangerous situation because you have a low intensity conflict, you have terrorists coming in through neighboring borders. And there are people who are determined to try to defeat the coalition forces. There isn't any chance in the world they can defeat the coalition forces militarily.

So the reason we do different things in different parts of the country and the world is obvious. It's because different situations call for different things.

Libya has opened up its country and has invited in the world to see that they're willing to disgorge their weapons of mass destruction programs and their ballistic missile delivery systems. That's a good thing. That was done through a variety of methods that seem to be working thus far. The situation in North Korea is on a diplomatic track with Japan South Korea and Russia and China and other countries, the United States, participating.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: There is -- any time there is a charge -- and believe me, this department takes that matter of that type very seriously -- any time there is a charge, you have two tasks, really. One task is to -- you have several tasks. One task is to deal with the individual who may be the victim. And that has to be done well and properly, and it's important.

A second thing you have to do is look at the law enforcement aspects of it. Did somebody do something they ought not to have done? And if so, that individual needs to be punished and dealt with.

A third thing one has to do is to look at the problem generically in the institution and say, how can that be avoided and what are the kinds of things that can be done to reduce the incident of that? Now, do you ever eliminate people's acts against other people? We seem not to be able to do that in - as human beings. But we do have a responsibility to try to reduce the number of instances of that type. And so we walk at it in several directions.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: Linked to what?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: I have no idea what initiated that attack today on that convoy. There are a variety of thoughts about that subject as to what the balance is among the various elements. There is no question but that there are extremists in there coming in from -- foreigners coming in from our countries. And there is also no question but that there are former regime elements that would like to think they could take the country back, and they're not going to.

Just a minute. And there is also a fact that there are criminals and unemployed people who are paid money to go do things. So it's a mixture.

And we've got -- I kind of rely on the intelligence community to come to conclusions like that. And General Abizaid, he makes those calibrations working with all sorts of intelligence and then adjusts the techniques and tactics to fit it.

We'll take one last question. I'll decide who it is.

It's you.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about the attack on General Abizaid's convoy?

RUMSFELD: Nothing. I've been in a hearing for three hours. No, no, no. You had your question.

QUESTION: I have another question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, thank you.

LIN: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill after testifying on the defense budget. But all the questions really centered on the violence in Iraq, the attack against the U.S. commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East.

As what might be behind it he said could be anything, he doesn't really know. Lots of common criminals and unemployed people out there is what he said. Also, no confirmed date as to when the United States will be handing over security responsibilities to the Iraqis.

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