Rumsfeld: Iraq Improves Despite 'Uneven' Security

Success in War on Terrorism Difficult to Measure, He Says

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaks at a Pentagon town hall meeting, March 12, 2004. Helene C. Stikkel, Department of Defense hide caption

toggle caption Helene C. Stikkel, Department of Defense

Despite "uneven" security in Iraq, conditions there are improving a year after the U.S.-led war to topple Saddam Hussein began, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says. In an NPR interview, Rumsfeld also says it's difficult to measure success in the war on terrorism.

Rumsfeld tells NPR's Eric Westervelt and NPR's Juan Williams that al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups are "doing things differently than they were" three years ago. While "clearly it's more difficult for terrorists today than it was," nations can't defend against them everywhere, Rumsfeld says. "We can moderate it over time, but the idea that you can absolutely stop it, I think is a bit of a reach."

"It's not something that's going to come easily and it's not something that's going to be over in a year or two," he says. "It's a very serious, fundamental problem that a group of people — radicals — are trying to hijack a religion and persuade people that it is in their interests to go out and kill innocent men, women and children. And it is not in their interest, or the world's interest."

Asked about a recent poll showing Iraqis continue to be worried about security in the wake of the war, Rumsfeld concedes that security is "uneven" from region to region in Iraq and from month to month.

Iraqis "ought to be concerned," Rumsfeld says. "It's a dangerous place and it's a violent place, and it has been for some time. Many major cities are violent. A lot of cities in the United States and Europe have one homicide a day on the average. That's a lot." But, he adds, "The situation [in Iraq] is getting better every week without question," in terms of basic services, such as schools, medical care, utilities and oil production.



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