Rumsfeld says U.S. not seeking permanent military bases in Iraq
Iraq-USA, Politics, 4/22/2003
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed as "inaccurate and unfortunate" any suggestion that the United States seeks a permanent military presence in Iraq, noting that there has been "zero discussion" on that among senior Bush administration officials.
"I have never heard the subject of a permanent base in Iraq discussed," the secretary said, in response to a question from a reporter at an April 21 Pentagon press briefing. The question was prompted by an April 20 New York Times article quoting unnamed senior Bush administration officials suggesting that the U.S. would like to have access to as many as four key Iraq bases throughout the country.
The bases that are currently being used by U.S. forces in Baghdad and elsewhere are facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid and providing stability in a time of transition, according to Rumsfeld.
The likelihood of Iraq granting the United States permanent rights to its bases "seems to me to be so low," the secretary said, "it doesn't surprise me that it wasn't discussed in my presence." He pointed out that there are already many opportunities to locate U.S. forces in and around the region, making any new basing arrangement unnecessary. "We have plenty of friends and ...ability to work with them and have locations for things that help to contribute to stability in the region," he said.
The New York Times article indicated that the U.S. military will minimize the size of its presence in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq and would probably not announce the stationing of troops there permanently. The Times also quoted unidentified U.S. officials as saying permanent access rather than permanent basing is all that the U.S. military requires.
Asked how long he expects the U.S. military to be in Iraq, Rumsfeld said no one really knows. He said, however, that it depends on how rapidly an interim Iraqi government evolves and how successful external influences might be in destabilizing the country. He emphasized that "we have no desire to be there for long periods, we simply don't."
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