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US troops to rely on Iraq if civil war starts: Rumsfeld

Dealing with a civil war in Iraq would be the responsibility of Iraq's own security forces, the Defence Secretary told Congress.

india Updated: Mar 10, 2006 12:26 IST
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Dealing with a civil war in Iraq would be the responsibility of Iraq's own security forces, at least initially, Defence Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld told Congress.

Testifying alongside senior military leaders and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Rumsfeld said he did not believe Iraq would descend into all-out civil war, though he acknowledged that sectarian strife had worsened.

John Abizaid, the top US commander in the Middle East, said the situation in Iraq had evolved to the point where Sunni-Shiite violence was more of a threat to US success there than the insurgency, which continues taking a deadly toll on Iraqi and American troops, and to impede efforts to stabilise the country.

Rumsfeld previously had been reluctant to say what the US military would do in the event of civil war, but in an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee, he was pressed on the matter by Democratic Robert Byrd.

"The plan is to prevent a civil war, and to the extent one were to occur, to have the- from a security standpoint- have the Iraqi security forces deal with it, to the extent they are able to," Rumsfeld told the committee.

He did not elaborate on the implication of his remark: that at some point the Iraqi security forces might be overwhelmed by a civil conflict and ask the Americans to get involved militarily.