- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2004

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday said it would be better to hold elections in a majority of Iraq than not to have them at all because of security problems.

His remarks came before the Senate Armed Services Committee, just hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and President Bush said elections will go forward in January, regardless of the violence.

Responding to questions from Sen. Edward Mr. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, about how Iraqis will be able to vote amid the growing insurgency, Mr. Rumsfeld said:

“Let’s pretend, hypothetically, that you get to election time in January, and let’s pretend that it’s roughly like it is or a little worse … let’s say you tried to have an election, and you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country, but some places, you couldn’t, because the violence was too great.”

“Well, that’s — so be it,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “Nothing’s perfect in life. So you have an election that’s not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet.”

While exchanges on Iraq were hottest, Mr. Rumsfeld’s discourse with senators yesterday focused mainly on plans for vastly reshaping the global posture of U.S. troops over the coming decade.

The current arraignment of U.S. military forces around the world is “seriously obsolete,” Mr. Rumsfeld told the Armed Services Committee. “We’re still situated in large part as if little has changed for the last 50 years, as, for example, Germany is still bracing for a Soviet tank invasion.

“In South Korea, our troops were virtually frozen in place from where they were when the Korean War ended in 1953.”

Over the next decade, as many as 70,000 U.S. troops will be withdrawn from bases in Germany and South Korea, a restructuring also to involve shifting some 100,000 family members and civilian employees.

Heavy forces designed for a land war in Europe will return to the United States to be replaced by more flexible and rapidly deployable components and airborne units, the presence of which also will be ramped up in new strategic locations worldwide.

“In this century, we’re shifting away from a tendency to equate sheer numbers of things — tanks, troops, bombs, etc. — with capability,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

“We’ve developed plans for a more flexible and effective force posture,” he said. “Main operating bases in places like Germany, Italy, the UK, Japan and Korea will be consolidated, but retained.”

Published reports indicate that by December 2005, the overall U.S. force of 37,000 troops in South Korea is expected to be reduced by about 12,500.

Mr. Rumsfeld said that because troops “may be called to a variety of locations to engage extremists on short notice, we need to be able to deploy them to trouble spots quickly.”

A factor in the coming changes rests on new relationships being built with “countries that are central to the fight against extremists, in places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan [and] Uzbekistan,” he said. “We also have strong partnerships with the newly liberated nations of Eastern Europe.”

Mr. Rumsfeld offered a broad outline of U.S. plans over the next 10 years, which include seeking a new network of military positions in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

• Europe: Seek lighter and more deployable ground capability and strengthen special-operations forces, positioning both to deploy more rapidly to other regions.

• Greater Middle East: Maintain “warm” facilities for rotational forces and build on cooperation and access provided by host nations during Iraq and Afghanistan operations.

• Africa and Western Hemisphere: Create a diverse array of smaller cooperative security locations for contingency access.

• Asia: Build upon current ground, air and naval access to overcome vast distances while bringing additional naval and air capabilities.

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