Washington -- US Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was visiting
Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said, a day after an emotional farewell at the
"He's there to express his appreciation to the troops and to thank both the
troops and their families for the sacrifices they are making," said Air Force
Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a Defense Department spokesman, on Saturday.
It was Rumsfeld's 15th trip to Iraq since the war began; he was last there in
Rumsfeld's trip follows an Friday's Pentagon farewell, where the defense
secretary defended his record on Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said Friday that the worst day of his nearly six years as secretary of
defense occurred when he learned of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse.
Rumsfeld's Pentagon appearance Friday and his trip to Iraq, where he was
Saturday, were among the few public appearances he has made since President
George W. Bush announced on November 8 that he was replacing the defense
secretary. His last full day will be December 17.
Rumsfeld's farewell tour follows a grim picture of the Iraq war that was
presented this week by a bipartisan commission headed by former Secretary of
State James Baker and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton.
The Iraq Study Group said its prescription for change is needed quickly to
turn around a "grave and deteriorating" situation.
The commission called for direct engagement with Iran and Syria as part of a
new diplomatic initiative and a pullback of all American combat brigades by
early 2008, barring unexpected developments, to shift the US mission to training
The report took direct aim at Rumsfeld. Saying there has been a long
tradition of partnership between the military and civilian leaders, the group
said the "tradition has frayed" and must be repaired. It urged the new defense
secretary, former CIA director Robert Gates, to "make every effort" to encourage
military officers to offer independent advice.
President Bush's national security team is debating whether additional troops
are needed to secure Baghdad _ a short-term force increase that could be made up
of all Americans, a combination of US and Iraqi forces, or all Iraqis, a senior
administration official said Saturday.
Other options being debated for inclusion in what the president has said will
be his "new way forward" include a revamped approach to procuring the help of
other nations in calming Iraq; scaling back the military mission to focus almost
exclusively on hunting al-Qaida terrorists; and a new strategy of outreach to
all of Iraq's factions, whose disputes are fueling some of the worst bloodshed
since the war began, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity
because the disclosure of internal discussions had not been authorized.