U.S. Troops Doing A 'Terrific Job,' Says Rumsfeld
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
ANKARA, Turkey, Jun. 4, 2001 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld praised U.S. service members on peacekeeping duty in the Balkans and those flying missions out of Turkey in support of Operation Northern Watch.
"They've done a terrific job, and it is not an easy job. It is a dangerous job," Rumsfeld told reporters June 3 on the 10-hour trans-Atlantic flight here. The secretary is on a European trip to attend ministerial meetings, visit U.S. troops and confer with foreign defense officials.
Rumsfeld is scheduled to meet U.S. personnel engaged in Northern Watch on June 4. The coalition operation enforces the northern no-fly zone over Iraq. The troops are stationed at Incirlik Air Base, in southcentral Turkey.
His visit, the secretary said, "gives me the chance to thank the men and women there who are serving our country and doing such a terrific job. It also gives me a chance to focus on the subject, to talk to people who are there on the ground, involved with the flights, to get a sense from them how things are."
Later in the week, Rumsfeld is scheduled to meet U.S. peacekeeping troops deployed in Bosnia and the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.
"It is not precisely what they were trained to do," he said of the NATO mission. "They have been asked to do it by the president, the Congress and the American people. They've picked up, gone and done it with a great deal of courage, judgment, and skill."
Rumsfeld spoke of efforts of NATO, U.S. and local forces to ease violence along a NATO-established buffer zone between Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The demilitarization of the border zone "was done professionally by the Serbs, it was done professionally by the NATO forces, and it was done professionally by the forces that were in (the border zone)," he said.
"It is a notable victory in handling a difficult job, and our folks deserve credit, just as do the other NATO forces, as well as the Serbs," he said.
Other stops on the trip include Ukraine, where Rumsfeld will participate in a joint protocol signing ceremony, and ministerial meetings in Thessaloniki, Greece; Brussels, Belgium; and Turku, Finland. The secretary is expected to return to Washington June 9.