Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a surprise trip to Iraq today, where he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafariri and the top U.S. commander there, Gen. George W. Casey Jr.
After flying in from Tajikstan aboard a C-17 cargo plane, Rumsfeld donned the proverbial wrestling singlet, determined to put pressure on Iraqi leaders to move the political process forward and prepare for a partial withdrawal of U.S. troops early next year.
Rumsfeld urged members of the Iraqi government to put their differences aside and stick to the Aug. 15 timetable for drafting a constitution. The secretary also told the Iraqis they need to take more responsibility for the 15,000 prisoners U.S. forces are currently holding, send the message to Iran and Syria that support for insurgents in Iraq will not be tolerated, and speed the development of the country's military battalions.
This matter-of-fact confab was not without its moments of wishful thinking. Gen. Casey suggested that the Iraqi insurgency is running in place. "Insurgencies need progress to survive, and this insurgency is not progressing," Casey said. "What you're seeing is a change in tactics to more violent, more visible attacks against civilians, and that's a no-win strategy."
Despite the fact that the Iraqi military is still in the early stages of development, Casey predicted that, if things go well, "we'll still be able to take some fairly substantial reductions after these elections in the spring and summer." The Iraqi prime minister confirmed that "the great desire of the Iraqi people is to see the coalition forces be on their way out as they take more responsibility."
Both The Washington Post and The New York Times noted Rumsfeld's blunt and forceful tone, but in a lighter moment the secretary, always a stickler for procedure, did his best imitation of a mother reminding her children to write their thank-you notes. "Mr. Rumsfeld also said Iraq should 'find opportunities' to thank allied countries for their contributions over the past several months," the Times reported, since many of the countries will be withdrawing some or all of their troops in the near future.