The US could begin to withdraw troops before the country is at peace, Rumsfeld suggested after meeting interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi at the Pentagon on Friday. 

"Any implication that that place has to be peaceful and perfect before we can reduce coalition and US forces would obviously be, I think, unwise because it has never been peaceful and perfect, and it isn't likely to be," Rumsfeld said.   

Rumsfeld said the US was training Iraqi security forces to take over security responsibilities.

  

He made the comments a day after saying that more US troops may have to be sent to Iraq to provide security for January elections and that a vote may not be held in all parts of the country if there is too much violence.

 

Disadvantages

  

Rumsfeld on Friday pointed to the disadvantages of having a large foreign military presence in the country.

  

Rumsfeld and Allawi met at the
Pentagon for talks on Iraq

"There is a tension there. No country wants foreign forces in your country any longer than they have to be there," he told reporters meeting with Allawi.

  

"The more of them you have, the more force protection you have to have, the more combat support you have to have. The heavier your footprint is, the more intrusive you are in their lives," he said.

  

"The question is to balance the numbers against the disadvantage that begins to accrue by having an excessively large footprint, against the advantage that tends to accrue by having more people to do more things to help get to the point you want to that they in fact can take over those responsibility."

 

US forces attacked

 

Meanwhile, a US military vehicle was damaged on Friday when a patrol came under attack by unidentified armed men in the Sansal area near al-Muqdadia in the province of Diyala northeast of Baghdad, Aljazeera said.

 

In Saqlawia, northwest of Falluja, a US military vehicle was damaged when two explosive devices, targeting a US convoy, were remotely detonated.

 

US helicopters were seen hovering over the two sites, witnesses told Aljazeera.