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Ben Wedeman: Rumsfeld insists no more U.S. troops needed

CNN's Ben Wedeman
CNN's Ben Wedeman

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Ben Wedeman
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived Thursday in Iraq for what he said was a "first-hand sense of how things are going" in the turbulent country.

Correspondent Ben Wedeman discussed the defense chief's visit and the latest efforts to restore services in Iraq with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Rumsfeld's visit came as somewhat of a surprise, didn't it?

WEDEMAN: There were indications he was coming. But we have no details about when he arrived, what his schedule will be or how long he's going to be here.

He will be meeting with the troops, with military and civilian leaders.

Now, as the British are debating whether to increase their troop strength in Iraq, Secretary Rumsfeld is standing firm, insisting that the U.S. doesn't need more troops. What Iraq needs here, is more Iraqi forces. He thinks that the Iraqis should play an ever-greater role in maintaining the security guarding the borders and guarding key infrastructure.

There's a force of about 50,000 doing exactly that. And slowly, that force is growing. In fact, today, a group of 250 policemen graduated from a course that was organized by the coalition in cooperation with Iraqi forces.

In that course, among other things they were given human rights awareness training, something that probably was not on the curriculum back when the Iraqi police were being trained under Saddam Hussein.

In fact, we spoke to one of those cadets who said when they were trained under Saddam Hussein, it was a very rough, a very hard process. And when the people, when the police finally graduated, they came out with a very bad attitude.

BLITZER: Update our viewers about the electrical situation in the Iraqi capital. ... Have electricity, water, normal services basically been restored, or are there still huge gaps?

WEDEMAN: There are still huge gaps. Electricity in much of the city is still sporadic. There is no schedule by which can you plan when the electricity is going to be on and off. Water service is a bit better; you may recall a major pipe blew up in one of the Baghdad suburbs, causing a severe water shortage -- that seems to be overcome.

In Baghdad itself, it seems that the electricity is a bit better than, say, in June when we were going sometimes 18 to 20 hours without electricity. Now it's about 12 hours with electricity and 12 without.


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