Rumsfeld Thanks Portugal for Help on War on Terror
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
FORT SAO JULIAO, Portugal, Jun. 10, 2003 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld met with Portuguese Defense Minister Paulo Portas here today in advance of the NATO Defense Ministerial June 12.
Rumsfeld's arrival at the defense minister's official residence included the regular guard of honor. However, in addition, the Portuguese frigate Alvarez Cabral steamed past the 16th century fort with all its crew manning the rail. Portuguese officials said it was a way of highlighting the country's maritime heritage on its national holiday, Portugal Day.
Rumsfeld thanked the Portuguese for their help in the global war on terrorism. He said Portugal has provided aid for both Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
During a press conference following their meeting, Rumsfeld said that discussions are taking place with 41 countries to provide forces or other aid to the coalition effort in Iraq. More forces will be arriving in the area in the fall, but that does not mean that nothing is being done in Iraq until then, he said.
"When I said the bulk of them were not likely to arrive until early September, I was correct," he said. "To say that nothing is happening until then is not."
The secretary said Iraq is the size of California. Saddam Hussein emptied the prisons of thousands of prisoners before coalition forces arrived in Baghdad. "The remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime are still there," he said.
"They are the ones periodically attacking coalition forces. Do I think that will disappear in the next month or two? No. Will it disappear when some two or three divisions of coalition forces arrive in the country? No.
"It will take time to root out the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime, and we intend to do it," Rumsfeld pointed out."
The United States has a substantial number of forces in the country more than 146,000 in Iraq alone. Coalition allies currently have somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000 in Iraq. "The United States is adding forces. We are altering the mix of forces so their increased presence will be seen and felt in the country," he said.
In addition, coalition forces are working with thousands of Iraqis who are taking part in joint patrols. "The idea that there will be no help until the fall is absolutely false, because the security situation in Iraq is improving each day," he said.
Rumsfeld said that during the NATO meetings in Brussels, Belgium, the ministers will discuss the changes being contemplated with the alliance. "The NATO ministers and senior level review group has spent many months refashioning the headquarters and the command structure of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization," he said.
"The United States has been going through that process as well. It's clearly necessary to make those kinds of adjustments as we move into the 21st century and face a series of threats that are notably different. We are hopeful that at this NATO meeting we will be able to come to closure on a whole set of adjustments and changes that have been proposed and will be considered by the ministers."
Rumsfeld also confronted his "Old Europe" statement from February. "Truth has a certain virtue," he said. "I was ambassador to NATO a long time ago when I was there, there were 15 countries. Today there are 19 nations and we've invited additional nations and we're going to be going to 26.
"When you go from 15, to 19, to 26, in an alliance like this, it alters its makeup," he continued. "It is shifting its weight from the central to eastern Europe.
He said the alliance also shifts in other ways. New members, many recently freed from repressive dictatorships, bring in a fresh respect for freedom.
He said when he responded to the question in February, he was answering a question that basically said Europe doesn't agree with President Bush on Iraq. "As I recall, only one or two (European countries) weren't agreeing and eight and later 10 (European nations) were signing letters agreeing," he noted.
"I was really referring to the old NATO and the new NATO and the change that had taken place. One or two countries' views are interesting and important, but they don't represent the views of all of continental Europe. And I was right."