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U.S., Italian Leaders Discuss Afghanistan, NATO Affairs

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2002 – U.S. and coalition forces continue to unearth weapons and ammunition during patrols in Eastern Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.

Rumsfeld and his Italian counterpart Antonio Martino talked with reporters at the Pentagon May 10, after they'd met to discuss U.S.-Italian cooperation in Operation Enduring Freedom, Iraq and NATO affairs.

Rumsfeld said he's not surprised large arms caches are turning up in Eastern Afghanistan. "We've been finding them periodically over the months," he told reporters. Coalition troops have found "many, many truckloads" of artillery, mortars, rockets, small arms and small arms ammunition.

"It's a useful thing to conduct these sweeps," Rumsfeld noted. "I think these sweeps will likely continue, and I suspect we'll continue to find these types of caches."

U.S. policy and goals in Afghanistan have not changed, the secretary said. American and coalition troops will continue to seek out al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists and kill them or capture them. The coalition will help set up a security environment where the interim government "can begin to find its legs and contribute to a civil society," he said.

U.S. special operations forces will continue to work with regional political leaders and their forces. These personnel help create an environment that encourages Afghan refugees to return to their homes, that encourages schools to reopen and helps in the distribution of humanitarian aid, he said.

Rumsfeld also answered questions about Iraq saying the United States is in conversations within the United Nations on the so-call "smart sanctions" being contemplated against Saddam Hussein's regime.

Iraq has porous borders, Rumsfeld said, and a lot of contraband moves across these borders. "It's common knowledge in the world that Iraq has an enormous appetite for weapons of mass destruction and military capabilities," he said.

"There's no question that if you have a determined dictator as we do with Saddam Hussein that he's going to continue to improve his military capability as he has been in recent months," the secretary said.

Iraq has taken civilian goods and converted them to military uses, he said. Iraq will continue to try to purchase these dual-use technologies, sanctions or not, he added.

"Whether or not it's likely those borders will be sealed and prevent things that will enhance Iraq's military capability (from entering the country) I think the answer is it will not," he said.

DoD officials said the NATO discussions between Rumsfeld and Martino concerned command structure issues. Among them was what to do with the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic. Currently, the SACLANT is Army Gen. William Kernan, who is also the commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command.

Under the changes to the Unified Command Plan, the commander of Joint Forces Command looses the SACLANT "hat." Defense officials said how that command would be structured is being discussed at NATO countries.

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Related Sites:
DoD News Transcript: Rumsfeld Media Availability with Italian Minister of Defense, May 10, 2002

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