Rumsfeld Urges Troops to Win ‘Test of Wills’

Times Staff Writer

In a surprise visit to Iraq on Sunday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld urged U.S. troops to stiffen their resolve as car bombers struck again in the capital, killing at least 10 Iraqis and one U.S. soldier.

Separately, a Marine died Saturday in western Iraq, military officials said Sunday. The circumstances of the attack were not released.

Insurgents “are hoping they can win the test of wills,” Rumsfeld told about 1,500 Marines at the Al Asad air base in western Iraq. “It’s a battle of morale.”


During the unannounced appearance -- his sixth trip to Iraq since the war began in March 2003 -- Rumsfeld met with military leaders, U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte and interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have been coordinating closely to crush insurgents in their strongholds, including Samarra and Fallouja.

Rumsfeld warned that violence would probably continue in the coming months as insurgents attempted to destabilize Iraq before January’s scheduled parliamentary election. He doesn’t expect the U.S. to decrease troop levels before then.

“I don’t see that we would have a reduction in U.S. and coalition forces between now and January,” Rumsfeld told Marines who asked when they might return home.

Two car bombs exploded in Baghdad on Sunday morning shortly before the Defense secretary arrived, underscoring the continuing instability.

One appeared to target a U.S. military convoy as it passed an east Baghdad market. The attack at 7:15 a.m. fatally injured one soldier, who was taken to a military hospital and later died, the military said.


Another, deadlier blast occurred at about the same time near Oil Ministry offices and a police recruiting center, where job seekers were lining up. It was the latest attack in a relentless campaign targeting Iraq’s would-be security forces.

Most of the fatalities were police recruits and pedestrians, witnesses said. A female police officer was also killed.

The engine of the vehicle that contained the bomb was blown into a nearby Iraqi air force compound, and the blast left an all-too-familiar scene of devastation. A deep crater was carved out of the street, and body parts littered the area. U.S. soldiers treated some of the injured while others were taken to a nearby hospital.

“Many of the bodies were cut and burned black,” said Ahmed Jawad, a guard at Al Kindi Hospital. Officials said 10 people died in the blast.

In a briefing in Baghdad on Sunday afternoon, Iraq’s national security director, Kasim Daoud, said the government was continuing efforts to negotiate with insurgents in Fallouja and Sadr City -- a restive Shiite Muslim district of Baghdad -- even as it cracked down militarily south of the capital, where joint U.S.-Iraqi raids continued in Latifiya and Mahmoudiya.

“The purpose of all these operations is to prepare our country and make it secure for the upcoming general elections,” he said.


Over the weekend, the Iraqi government reached a peace deal with followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr to turn in their heavy weapons in exchange for cash.

The government also promised to spend more than $500 million on reconstruction projects in Sadr City, a downtrodden neighborhood that was long neglected under Saddam Hussein’s regime and is now a bastion of the radical cleric’s forces.

The weapons-exchange program was expected to begin today.


Special correspondent Caesar Ahmed contributed to this report.