Pleading for patience as U.S. troops again came under deadly attack, President Bush said Thursday the United States will "have to remain tough" in Iraq.
Three months after the fall of Baghdad, insurgents killed at least two servicemen and wounded a third in shootings and rocket-propelled grenade attacks, the military said.
A soldier was fatally shot Wednesday evening near the city of Mahmudiyah, 15 miles south of Baghdad, said Spc. Nicci Trent, a spokeswoman for the military. Another soldier was killed and one wounded in a rocket-propelled grenade attack late Wednesday near Tikrit, 120 miles north of Baghdad, Trent said.
In the city of Ramadi, 60 miles west of the capital, three separate mortar attacks targeted U.S. troops, but there were no reports of casualties, the military said.
Responding to concern about the rising casualty toll, the president said, "There's no question we have a security issue in Iraq, and we've just got to deal with it person to person."
"It's going take more than 90 to 100 days for people to recognize the great joys of freedom and the responsibilities that come with freedom," he said. "It's very important for us to stay the course, and we will stay the course."
In other developments:
Rumsfeld told a Senate panel that the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, which played a central role in capturing Baghdad in April, is beginning to withdraw from Iraq, and the entire unit will be back in the United States by September.
Rumsfeld said there are now 148,000 American troops in Iraq. He did not say whether the 3rd Infantry Division would be replaced by another U.S. unit, although he said he expects thousands of international soldiers to begin operating in the country by late summer or early fall.
Democrats pressed Rumsfeld about whether the administration specifically requested forces from NATO. Rumsfeld said his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, made a formal request for postwar assistance in December. It was not clear if another request had been made since the war.
Rumsfeld said 19,000 coalition forces from 19 countries are on the ground. Another 19 countries have committed a total of 11,000 troops, which would bring the total to 30,000. Also, discussions are under way with 11 other countries.
Senators wondered if requests had been made to war opponents like Germany and France. Rumsfeld said the United States "would be happy to have troops from a wide variety of countries, including France."
But France would send soldiers to join a peacekeeping effort in Iraq only under a mandate from the United Nations, Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said in an interview published Thursday.
Asked how long U.S. troops would have to stay in Iraq, Rumsfeld said nobody knows.
"We intend to see it through and it's going to take some patience," he said. "And when it's done it's going to be darn well worth having done."
On the violence against U.S. troops, Rumsfeld rejected the "widely held impression that regime loyalists are operating freely." He said large portions of Iraq are stable.
But U.S. forces have come under increasing attack by insurgents loyal to Saddam Hussein in recent weeks, hampering efforts to return security to the country as a whole.
The total number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq is 212, according to Pentagon figures as of Wednesday. The Pentagon said 1,044 American servicemen and women have been wounded in action or injured since the war began.
Since May first, when major combat was declared over in Iraq, 74 U.S. soldiers were killed and 382 have been wounded or injured.
Insurgents are also targeting Iraqis who work with U.S. troops. In Fallujah, several dozen Iraqi police officers, most dressed in their new U.S.-provided uniforms, marched on the mayor's office to demand that U.S. forces leave the police station, where they have been staying.
The police, who say they will quit their posts if the soldiers don't leave by the weekend, claim the soldiers' presence is putting them in danger because they are frequently targeted by insurgents.
Addressing concerns about prewar intelligence, Rumsfeld told senators that the administration decided to use military force in Iraq because the information about the threat of Saddam's regime was seen with a different perspective after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
"The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass murder," Rumsfeld said. "We acted because we saw the existing evidence in a new light through the prism of our experience on Sept. 11."
Thielmann, formerly of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, said Wednesday that when the war began in March, Iraq posed no threat to the United States or to its neighbors. Its missiles could not reach Israel, Saudi Arabia or Iran.
He said Iraq had no active nuclear weapons program and that while CIA Director George Tenet told Congress Iraq had Scud missiles, the intelligence finding actually was that the missiles could not be accounted for.