Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
gestures during a media briefing at the Pentagon in this October 26, 2006
file photo. [AP]
WASHINGTON - US President Bush said
Saturday he understands that Americans are upset about continuing bloodshed in
Iraq even as it was disclosed that Donald H. Rumsfeld called for major changes
in tactics two days before he resigned as defense secretary.
"In my view it is time for a major adjustment," Rumsfeld wrote in a Nov. 6
memo to the White House. "Clearly, what US forces are currently doing in Iraq is
not working well enough or fast enough."
Existence of the classified memo was first reported by The New York Times on
its Internet site Saturday evening in a story for the paper's Sunday editions.
Pentagon press secretary Eric Ruff said he was not the source of the leak to
the Times, but confirmed the memo's authenticity to The Associated Press late
"The formulation of these ideas evolved over a period of several weeks," Ruff
said in a telephone interview.
He said the options presented in the paper were Rumsfeld's personal ideas
developed in conversations with a variety of people, not part of a formal
Pentagon review that also is under way.
Ruff also emphasized that Rumsfeld does not endorse any one particular
recommendation, and notes in his memo that "many of these options could and, in
a number of cases, should be done in combination with others."
The president acknowledged the difficulties in Iraq in his Saturday radio
address and said: "I want to hear all advice before I make any decisions about
adjustments to our strategy in Iraq.
"I recognize that the recent violence in Iraq has been unsettling. Many
people in our country are wondering about the way forward The work ahead will
not be easy, yet by helping Prime Minister Maliki strengthen Iraq's democratic
institutions and promote national reconciliation, our military leaders and
diplomats can help put Iraq on a solid path to liberty and democracy."
Bush added: "The decisions we make in Iraq will be felt across the broader
The president is under pressure to decide a new blueprint for US involvement
in Iraq. A bipartisan commission headed by James A. Baker III, a former
Republican secretary of state and Bush family friend from Texas, and former
Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana are to present its recommendations to
Bush in the coming week.
There is no hint in the memo Rumsfeld sent to the White House a day before
the Nov. 7 elections that he intended to resign and the Times said it was
unclear whether he knew he was about to be replaced when it submitted it.
Bush announced Rumsfeld's impending departure the day after Democrats won
control of the House and Senate. The president has designated Robert Gates to
Before listing options for change -- many of which are similar to various
proposals by people in and out of government, including Democratic critics in
Congress -- Rumsfeld noted that the situation in Iraq "has been evolving" and
said US forces have adjusted from "major combat operations, to counterterrorism,
to counterinsurgency, to dealing with death squads and sectarian violence."
Rumsfeld said the administration should "announce that whatever new approach
the US decides on, the US is doing so on a trial basis. This will give us the
ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not
At the end of his list of "above the line" preferred options, he recommended:
"Recast the US military mission and the US goals (how we talk about them) -- go
Specifics on his options checklist:
* "Publicly announce a set of benchmarks agreed to by the Iraqi government
and the US ... to chart a path ahead for the Iraqi government and Iraqi people
(to get them moving) and for the US public (to reassure them that progress can
and is being made)."
* "Significantly increase US trainers and embeds, and transfer more US
equipment to Iraqi security forces."
* "Initiate a reverse embeds program ... by putting one or more Iraqi solders
with every US and possibly coalition squad."
* Aggressively beef up Iraqi ministries by reaching out to US military
retires and Reserve and National Guard volunteers.
* Conduct an accelerated drawdown of US bases, noting they have already been
reduced from 110 to 55. "Plan to get down to 10 to 15 basis by April 2007, and
to 5 bases by July 2007.
* "Retain high-end ... capability ... to target al-Qaida, death squads, and
Iranians in Iraq, while drawing down all other coalition forces, except those
necessary to provide certain key enablers" for Iraqi forces.
* Provide US security forces "only for those provinces or cities that openly
request US help and that actively cooperate."
* Stop rewarding "bad behavior" with reconstruction funds and start rewarding
* "Position substantial US forces near the Iranian and Syrian borders to
reduce infiltration and, importantly, reduce Iranian influence on the Iraqi
* Withdraw US forces from vulnerable positions and move to a quick reaction
force status, operating from within Iraq and Kuwait, to be available when Iraqi
security forces need assistance.
* "Begin modest withdrawals of US and coalition forces (start `taking our
hand off the cycle seat') so Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step
up and take responsibility for their country."
Rumsfeld also listed a handful of "below the line" (less attractive) options
that included continuing on the current path, moving a large fraction of all US
forces in Iraq into Baghdad, increasing US forces substantially, setting a firm
withdrawal date and pushing "an aggressive federalism plan" that would lead to
three separate states -- Sunni, Shia and Kurd.