Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters today to “just back off” and “relax” instead of looking for differences between U.S. and Iraqi officials on benchmarks for progress in Iraq toward political and security goals, and he rejected the idea of penalizing any failure to hit the targets.
In a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld sparred repeatedly with questioners over reported discord between U.S. officials and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on a timeline for Iraqi security forces to assume more responsibilities from U.S. troops. Rumsfeld disputed a characterization of Iraqi forces as chronically failing to meet benchmarks, saying this assertion was “flat wrong” and that the Iraqis have “done a darn good job.”
In response, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, “Today a secretary of defense, who should have been fired a long time ago, lost even greater touch with reality.”