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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Rumsfeld Holds Press Conference

Aired November 2, 2003 - 09:36   ET

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

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ... about how you take advantage of the fine, talented Iraqi people to provide for their own security, for example, and simultaneously not engage people who are part of the Saddam Hussein regime at a high level, and who were engaged in the kinds of torture and crimes against humanity that we have seen on television just in recent weeks and months.

So there's a vetting process that takes places to check the people out. We have been using Iraqis for Iraqi security forces from day one. We are now up to 100,000 of them. Many of these people came from the army, they came from just different Iraqi security groups, police. And they're doing a great job. They're out there on the frontline on the war on terrorism, helping to provide security in the country.

And they're getting killed. Eighty-five of the Iraqis have been killed who are in the security forces. The police, the army, the site protection, the border patrol, civil defense people. And they're doing a darn good job. And undoubtedly, more and more will be people who have been at one time or another serving in one of this Iraqi security forces, whether it's the police or the army. And that's a good thing.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) that the remnants of the Saddam regime are responsible for the insurgents. (OFF-MIKE). What's your assessment?

RUMSFELD: Well, the remnants of the Baathist regime are indigenous people. So there is obviously no conflict.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: Well, the people who are causing the troubles in that country are in three categories. One is -- Saddam Hussein let out something like 110,000 criminals on the streets. They are causing troubles. We have not been able to arrest them all and put them back in jail. Second, there are foreign fighters who have come into the country, terrorists from a whole host of countries. We have arrested and captured, killed -- well, we have captured, currently have somewhere between 200 and 300. And we have killed a number of others.

In addition, there are terrorists that have come on. The Ansar al Islam organization came back into the country out of Iran. And last, there are thousands of Baathists who were part of the Saddam Hussein regime. All of them are problems. QUESTION: There is also an article about forces (ph) from Italy and for the U.S. soldiers (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Could you shed some light on that?

RUMSFELD: I'm not knowledgeable about that. Anything else?

Yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: I don't. There have been updates every half hour, and of course first reports are always wrong. And you have to -- anyone else can speculate. I can't. So I keep seeing the changing reports as to the number killed and the number wounded. But it does appear that a U.S. helicopter was probably shot down from the ground, and it crashed, and a large number of Americans, possibly 10, 12, 13, maybe more eventually, have died and been killed, and a number have been wounded. And certainly my -- my heart and prayer go out to the families and the loved ones of those people. They are wonderful young men and women who served their country with great courage and distinction.

QUESTION: And a follow-up to that, due to the recent acts of violence this morning, how do you think about the future? Do you still think that (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

RUMSFELD: Total number of security forces in Iraq have been going up steadily. When one combines the Iraqis, the coalition, and the U.S. forces, the total number has been increasing every week. We are now up, as I say, to over 100,000 Iraqis. And that number will be going to 200,000. What will determine -- the coalition forces have been relatively level, and our forces have kind of trended down from 150,000 to 130,000. What will happen next will depend on the security situation on the ground and how successful we are in continuing with our plans to build up the Iraqi forces.

In the last analysis, the Iraqis are going to defeat the Baathists. It will be the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces that will do it. And we just have to make sure we stay there and contribute to that, help them, and that's what we have been doing.

Thank you, folks.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. That was Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, talking about the downing of an American helicopter near Fallujah in Iraq this morning. Let's pause for a second to see if he has anything more to say.

QUESTION: Are American troops winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis or are they (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

RUMSFELD: I think foreign forces in any country are unnatural. And I would think no country would prefer to have foreign forces in their country for long periods. We don't intend to. The president said we will stay as long as we're needed and not one day longer. But we have got a job to do. We are not going to abandon the Iraqi people. We are going to help build up their forces and their capability, and we're going to win.

Thank you.

COSTELLO: All right. To bring you up to date, once again, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld talking in Washington, D.C. about the downing of an American Chinook helicopter in Fallujah in Iraq. The latest numbers we have, 15 U.S. troops died aboard that helicopter. And witnesses on the scene saw a surface-to-air missile hit the helicopter.

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