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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Donald Rumsfeld Discusses Northern War Front

Aired March 27, 2003 - 15:03   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, is speaking right now.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Special forces in the north and we have friendly Kurdish forces that are armed and capable, and the entry into the north of the 173rd strengthens and beefs up that U.S. presence. That's helpful for a lot of reasons. That gives us a somewhat better ability to make sure that the northern oil fields are not set on fire or destroyed by the Iraqi military. It gives us a better opportunity to work closely with the Kurds.

It clearly ought to give confidence to the Turkish government that we're physically present in a way that will enable us to assure that our commitment to keep one single country intact, rather than allowing it to be broken into pieces. It complicates the problem for Saddam Hussein in terms of what needs to worry him about the Coalition forces. Seems to me those are the essential reasons why it's important to have a capabilities up north.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the reports persist that there are not enough, as one gentleman said today, boots on the ground over there, that we actually need more troops over -- in theater.

Have you rethought this? Is there any change in plan?

No, not at all. The flow of forces was decided many weeks and weeks ago. It has been put in place by General Franks. The plan is a good one. It is in place. It is -- oh, how do you phrase it? It is a plan that has been worked through carefully by the joints chiefs of staff by the combatant commanders around the world, by General Myers, General Pace. It`s a good plan and it was designed in a way that forces would continue to flow over a sustained period.

The plan called for those forces to the extent they`re guard or reserve to have been alerted many, many weeks or months ago to have been mobilized in sufficient time to be trained to be then put -- their equipment sent overseas and ultimately the individuals flowing through. So the only big change in the plan was the fact that the 4th infantry division did not come in by land through Turkey. But the plan is as it is, and every day, the number of coalition forces in Iraq is increasing by one or two or 3,000 people and it`s going to continue to that and we have plenty of forces en route.

QUESTION: Sir, one more question? RUMSFELD: One more question.

QUESTION: Sir, (OFF-MIKE) in the north affected what`s been going on in the south at all? (OFF-MIKE) fighting that`s going on there, forcing Saddam to focus more in that direction?

RUMSFELD: Oh, it`s hard it know. But I suppose had come in from the north and been there by now, it would have complicated the task for the Iraqi regime somewhat in terms of how they may have oh, located their Republican guard units. I don`t know that it would have, but certainly would have put a bit more pressure, although there is pressure now. Thanks, folks.

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