- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — In an interview billed as his first since leaving the top Pentagon post, Donald H. Rumsfeld calls Afghanistan “a big success,” but says U.S. efforts in Iraq are hampered by the failure of Iraq’s government to establish a foundation for democracy.

“In Afghanistan, 28 million people are free. They have their own president, they have their own parliament. Improved a lot on the streets,” Mr. Rumsfeld said in the October issue of GQ magazine.

While “that’s been a big success,” he said, the Baghdad regime “has not been able to … create an environment hospitable to whatever one wants to call their evolving way of life, a democracy or a representative system, or a freer system. And it’s going to take some time and some effort.”

Mr. Rumsfeld stepped down as defense secretary in November, a day after congressional elections cost Republicans control of Congress. Dissatisfaction with his handling of the Iraq war was cited by many as a major element of voter dissatisfaction.

Mr. Rumsfeld said the Defense Department and U.S. military are not responsible for failures there or in Afghanistan.

“In a very real sense, the American military cannot lose a battle, they cannot lose a war,” he told the magazine. “On the other hand, they can’t win the struggle themselves. It requires diplomacy, it requires economic assistance, it requires a range of things that are well beyond the purview of the Department of Defense.”

In the interview, conducted at his ranch near Taos, N.M., Mr. Rumsfeld, 75, spoke at length about his career and offered guarded comments on former colleagues, policy decisions in Iraq and his own forced resignation.

When asked whether he has any regrets about the past six years, he replied, “Well, sure. I mean you’d always wish things were perfect, but they never are.”

Mr. Rumsfeld said the refusal of Turkey, a NATO ally, to allow U.S. troops to cross its border into Iraq at the outset of the war gave would-be insurgents “free play for a good period of time. I mean, there’s a dozen things like that.”

As to what he might have done differently, Mr. Rumsfeld said, “If you do anything, someone’s not going to like it, someone’s going to be critical of it. So if you’re in the business I was in, that goes with the territory.”

Mr. Rumsfeld, the nation’s youngest U.S. defense secretary in the Ford administration and the oldest under President Bush, also served four terms in Congress, and as ambassador to NATO and in numerous other posts.

He said he thinks Mr. Bush “is a lot more intelligent and curious than people give him credit for.”

Mr. Rumsfeld said he couldn’t recall the last time he and the president spoke.

Do you miss him? “Um, no,” he said.

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