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Clinton and Rumsfeld Face Off

Senate Armed Services Committee

(The following is an exchange between Senator Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Iraq & Afghanistan)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Under your leadership, there have been numerous errors in judgment that have led us to where we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have a full-fledged insurgency and full- blown sectarian conflict in Iraq. Now, whether you label it a civil war or not, it certainly has created a situation of extreme violence and the continuing loss of life among our troops and of the Iraqis.

You did not go into Iraq with enough troops to establish law and order. You disbanded the entire Iraqi army, now we're trying to re-create it. You did not do enough planning for what is called "phase four" and rejected al the planning that had been done previously to maintain stability after the regime was overthrown. You underestimated the nature and strength of the insurgency, the sectarian violence, and the spread of Iranian influence.

In Afghanistan, your administration's credibility is also suspect. In December of 2002, you said the Taliban are gone. In September of 2004, President Bush said the Taliban no longer is in existence. However, this February, DIA director, Lieutenant General Maples, said that in 2005 attacks by the Taliban and other anti-coalition forces were up 20 percent from 2004 levels, and these insurgents were a greater threat to the Afghan government's efforts to expand its authority that at any time since 2001.

So, Mr. Secretary, when our constituents ask for evidence that your policy in Iraq and Afghanistan will be successful, you don't leave us with much to talk about. Yes, we hear a lot of happy talk and rosy scenarios, but because of the administration's strategic blunders and frankly, the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy. Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: My goodness. First, I've tried to make notes and to follow the prepared statement you've presented. First of all, it's true, there is sectarian conflict in Iraq and there is a loss of life, and it's a unfortunate and tragic thing that that's taking place.

Second, you said the number of troops were wrong. I guess history will make a judgment on that. The idea that the army was disband, I think is one that's kind of flying around. My impression is that to a great extent the army disband itself.

Third, the assertion that the government rejected all the planning that had been done before is just simply false. That's not the case. Afghanistan, I don't know who said what about whether the Taliban are gone, but in fact the Taliban that were running Afghanistan and ruling Afghanistan were replaced and they were replaced by an election that took place in that country, and in terms of a government or a governing entity, they were gone. And that's a fact. Are there still Taliban around? You bet. Are they occupying safe havens in Afghanistan and other places -- or correction, in Pakistan and other places? Certainly, they are. Does the violence -- is the violence up? Yes.

Does the violence tend to be up during the summer and spring, summer and fall months? Yes, it does and tends to decline during the winter period. Is it a -- does that represent failed policy? I don't know. I would say not. Are there setbacks? Yes. Are there things people can't anticipate? Yes. Does the enemy have a brain and continue to make adjustments on the ground requiring our forces to continue to make adjustments? You bet. Is that going to continue to be the case? I think so. Is this problem going to get solved in the near term about this long struggle against violent extremism? No, I don't think it is. I think it's going to take some time so I would disagree strongly with your statement.

CLINTON: Well, Mr. Secretary, I know you would and I know you feel strongly about it, but there's a track record here. This is not 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 when you appeared before this committee and made many comments and presented, you know, many assurances that have frankly proven to be unfulfilled and.

RUMSFELD: Senator, I don't think that's true. I have never painted a rosy picture. I've been very measured in my words and you have a dickens of a time trying to find instances where I've been excessively optimistic. I understand this is tough stuff.

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