(Also participating: Senator John Warner and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace.)
Warner: We have just completed one of our regular meetings, arranged by the Senate leadership, with the secretary. I note that this is the third time that Secretary Rumsfeld has visited the Senate just this week. We had a wide range of questions and exchange of viewpoints. Two themes; we are very concerned, of course, by the losses that we're sustaining of our men and coalition forces. But secondly, there is absolute, I think, strength among the Senate side that this mission is going forward and must be successful.
Rumsfeld: I have no statement at all. I'd be happy to -- Q Mr. Secretary, as the senator just mentioned, American forces are losing someone virtually every day now. Are American forces engaged in what can now be characterized as a guerrilla war?
Rumsfeld: I think it's been accurately portrayed that the major combat has been concluded, and that there are a lot of Ba'athists and Fedayeen Saddam still in the country that are associated closely with Saddam Hussein, and that they are out doing things that are unhelpful to the coalition, and that the coalition is taking every step possible to root them out.
In addition, the Iraqi police force is being developed, the Iraqi army is being re-recruited, and those capabilities will be put to that same task, and it will take some time.
Q: In that interim, though, we've gone from a traditional, if you will, set of circumstances, rules of engagement, to more of a guerrilla war. Isn't that accurate?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that I would use the word. There were something in the neighborhood of a hundred thousand people turned out of their prisons. Those people are out there; they're doing things that are unhelpful to the Iraqi people. It's also no question but that there are leftover remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime that are doing things that are against the coalition.
Q: Mr. Secretary, do you have an update on the two American soldiers who were possibly abducted north of Baghdad?
Pace: Well, we -- all we know right now is we do have two soldiers who are missing from their appointed place of duty. We do not know the specifics of what happened or why. The units on the ground are working very hard to determine, through local contacts, what happened, and they're out searching for the soldiers. But we do not know the specifics.
Q: The Los Angeles Times is reporting that there's discussion of setting up a standing U.S. peacekeeping force. Could you comment on that?
Rumsfeld: Oh, there have been discussions, although it wouldn't be U.S. peacekeeping. There have been discussions about that for, oh, goodness, a couple of years, and I know that there was a story about it recently. But there have been no specific proposals put forward.
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: There have been no specific proposals put forward.
Q: (Off mike) -- issue of the weapons lab and whether or not --
Warner: We discussed the subject. The subject of WMD was discussed. The representatives from the Central Intelligence Agency covered it with us. Anything specific on the weapons labs, I -- we received no new information on that, to the best of my knowledge.
Thank you very much.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
Pace: Thank you.
Q: Thank you very much.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.