Sept. 8, 2004 – In a briefing on Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted not only that rebels hold significant territory in the so-called Sunni Triangle north and west of Baghdad, but that if the security situation in those and some Shiite areas does not change, elections slated for January 2005 may be compromised.
Rumsfeld said the preferred plan is to have US-installed Iraqi officials bring insurgents into the political fold, or else use US-backed security forces to fend off guerillas and terrorists in cities where US forces are hesitant to treat, such as the Sunni areas Fallujah, Baqouba, Samarra and Ramadi, as well as the Shiite-populated Baghdad slum, Sadr City.
The Associated Press reports that Lieutenant General Thomas Metz, the second ranking US military commander in Iraq, said a US assault on these Sunni-held "no-go" areas is likely in coming months. "I don't think today you could hold elections," Metz told the AP. "But I do have about four months where I want to get to local control. And then I've got the rest of January to help the Iraqis to put the mechanisms in place."
Rumsfeld said US forces killed between 1,500 and 2,500 Iraqis in the past month, whom he described as "former regime elements, criminals, terrorists." He did not offer an estimate of civilian deaths, and reporters attending the press conference did not request one.