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NATO Forces in Iraq, Afghanistan Will Free up American Troops

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2004 – Sending NATO forces to Afghanistan and Iraq for specific areas of assistance will free American troops to focus on rebuilding those countries and defeating enemies of freedom, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said.

During a wide-ranging July 1 interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service, the secretary gave his views on sending NATO troops to Afghanistan for added security around scheduled fall elections and to Iraq to train and equip Iraqi security forces.

Rumsfeld explained that sending more NATO troops to Afghanistan will free American forces to focus on work being done throughout the country by provincial reconstruction teams and on what he called "the heavy lifting" defeating Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, particularly along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.

During recent NATO meetings in Istanbul, Turkey, Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked for NATO security assistance during his country's upcoming elections. Rumsfeld explained there is particular resistance to free elections in Afghanistan because women will be allowed to vote for the first time. Thirty- seven percent of Afghans who have registered to vote are women, Rumsfeld said.

All NATO nations except France voted to support Karzai's request by deploying NATO's new response force. Rumsfeld explained that NATO's supreme allied commander, U.S. Marine Gen. James Jones, is working to develop options for such a deployment.

"There are several options," Rumsfeld said, "but ultimately, the NATO countries will in fact provide assistance for the elections in Afghanistan."

He said he envisioned such assistance as a short-term surge in forces. "It is specifically designed to create a more secure environment during a period when the parliamentary and presidential elections would be taking place," he said.

NATO forces will be deployed to Iraq with a different mandate: to train and equip the various Iraqi security forces. Security forces in Iraq include police, border patrol, army, national guard and site-protection forces.

NATO countries unanimously agreed to "organize a central capability to assist the Iraqis in training and equipping their security forces," Rumsfeld said.

"That was good progress," he noted. "We'll have NATO assisting, and it will not be left just to us or just to the Iraqis or just to the other coalition countries that are already assisting."

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld

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