Thursday, September 30, 2004

Rumsfeld acknowledges insurgents have gained in Iraq

Rumsfeld acknowledges insurgents have gained in Iraq

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Insurgents are succeeding through bombings and assassinations in convincing some Iraqis that the US-led effort to establish democracy in Iraq (news - web sites) "is not going to work," US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said.

In a radio interview Wednesday, Rumsfeld said he believed Iraqis and the US-led coalition still had a "very good crack" at creating a democratic system but acknowledged that the growing violence has taken a toll on public confidence, and gained insurgents a following.

"But there's no doubt but that they (the insurgents) are being successful in some instances in making people believe that its not going to work in Iraq, that they're not going ready for freedom, that they're not ready," he told WCHS-AM radio in Charleston, West Virginia.

"And some of those people undoubtedly are joining the opposition -- the former regime elements that are fighting it," he said.

"They may also be attracting some people in from other countries because of the hope they have of preventing a democracy there," he said.

Rumsfeld's comments followed other recent admissions by top administration and military officials that the insurgency in Iraq was growing worse, despite President George W. Bush (news - web sites)'s upbeat portrayal of the situation during a visit last week by Iraqi interim prime minister Iyad Allawi.

As he has before, Rumsfeld noted that Iraqis were still volunteering to serve in the security forces and reporting to work in government ministries despite car bombings and assassinations that have claimed the lives of many Iraqis.

US military leaders have said about 700 members of the Iraqi security services have been killed this year. There is no count of the civilian toll from the violence, but estimates run into the thousands.

"I mean, it depends on your definition of a success," Rumsfeld said when asked whether the insurgents were having success.

"If you successfully kill a regional governor or a chief of police, if you successfully do that, why I suppose you can say that was a success from a murderer and a terrorist standpoint," he said.

"If they can disrupt things, they feel they've been successful," he said.

On the other hand, he said, other information suggested Iraqis were turning away from Islamist extremists led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian blamed for many of the most grisly beheadings and car bombings.

"A lot of information is suggesting that the Iraqi people some of the tribes, even in the Sunni areas are getting fed up with Zarqawi and his terrorist crowd killing their friends and neighbors and relatives," he said.

"And how it will tip is something that we have to keep our eye on," he said. "But I am personally convinced that we've got a very good crack -- the Iraqis have a very good crack -- at being successful in this important and noble effort."