Rumsfeld: U.S. Met With Iraq Insurgents
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld confirmed the Sunday Times report that U.S. officials have met with insurgent leaders, but issued some important clarifications. He also stated that the U.S. might be in Iraq “for years” — even “a decade.”
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld acknowledged Sunday that U.S. officials have met with insurgents in Iraq, after a British newspaper reported that two such meetings took place recently at a villa north of Baghdad. Insurgent commanders “apparently came face to face” with four American officials during meetings on June 3 and June 13 at a villa near Balad, about 25 miles north of Baghdad, The Sunday Times reported.
When asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about the report of the two meetings, Rumsfeld said, “Oh, I would doubt it. I think there have probably been many more than that.” But he insisted the talks did not involve negotiations with Iraq’s most-wanted terrorist, Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but were rather facilitating efforts by the Shiite-led government to reach out to minority Sunni Arabs, who are believed to be the driving force behind the insurgency.
“We see the government of Iraq is sovereign. They’re the ones that are reaching out to the people who are not supporting the government,” Rumsfeld said on “Meet the Press.” “They’re not going to try to bring in the people with blood on their hands, for sure, but they’re certainly reaching out continuously, and we help to facilitate those from time to time.”
U.S. and Iraqi officials said on Sunday they were talking to tribal leaders, clerics and some groups linked to the Sunni Arab insurgency as part of attempts to draw more parties into Iraq’s political process. The officials said the talks, which have been going on for months, were part of broader efforts to build contacts with all quarters of Iraqi society, and described them as nothing new.
“Meetings take place all the time,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in Washington. Rumsfeld compared it to contacts in Afghanistan between the U.S.-backed government there and elements in the Taliban to invite them into government to stop bloodshed.
Well, that’s a little more encouraging.