WASHINGTON – The United States will increase its support for the Iraqi security forces, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday, saying it continues to be "enormously challenging" to quell the violence there.
Rumsfeld said he has done a new assessment of the progress of the Iraqi forces, and he was not satisfied.
"We intend to increase their budgets," he said, as well as their capabilities, and officials will work to help make the improvements more quickly. He did not cite any figures, however.
Rumsfeld also said people ought to "just back off" and stop demanding specific benchmarks or timelines for progress in Iraq, saying it is just too difficult to predict when the Iraqis can take control of their country.
Rumsfeld is coming under increasing fire for his stewardship of the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq, which has claimed the lives of more than 2,800 U.S. troops and has become the top election issue -- one that could wrest control of Congress from the Republicans.
Several Republican candidates, facing tough election races against Democrats who oppose the war, have joined in criticism of the war policy.