Monday, June 4, 2001
(Interview by the Armed Forces Network and the base newspaper at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.)
Q: Sir, I know you've only been on the ground for a short time, but what is your impression of Operation Northern Watch and Incirlik Air Base so far?
Rumsfeld: Well, I've been watching Northern Watch from Washington D.C. very carefully everyday and admiring the work you do. And in having a chance to come here and shake some hands and meet some of the individuals who do such a wonderful job for our country, and the coalition partners from the United Kingdom and from Turkey who are closely knitted in this operation. It's just a big thrill for me to be here and to have a chance to thank everyone personally.
Q: There has been a lot of speculation on the future of Operation Northern Watch. How do you see this mission evolving in the future?
Rumsfeld: Well it's a subject that obviously gets reviewed periodically as it should, as all operations should. With lives at risk, it's important that we be attentive to what's taking place and what changes on the ground and what circumstances might evolve in a way that would lead to some changes.
But at the moment we don't have any particular changes to announce. We are reviewing Iraqi policy overall. You've undoubtedly read in the press the fact that the sanctions are attempted to be resolved and worked down in a way that there is no way it could be said they do any damage to the Iraqi people, which they don't. They are aimed totally at weapons and totally at military capabilities, but various aspects of it get reviewed from time to time, but there is great respect and admiration for the men and women in Operation Northern Watch are doing.
Q: To go along with that, would you care to comment on the contributions of our collation partners, the Turkish and English?
Rumsfeld: I would, I would. I've just spent the day here and I've been coming to Turkey since the early 1960's, when I was a young member of Congress and a NATO parliamentarian. And Turkey is a very very close friend and ally of the United States. The kind of cooperation we've received here with Operation Northern Watch is typical. I mentioned earlier in my remarks the relationship dating back to the Korean War, to say nothing of our close relationship in NATO. The cooperation we are seeing and the fine work they are doing with respect to the difficulties in the Middle East and the Caucasus. So this is an important relationship, it's an important country, and there is no question but that everything I've seen, the cooperation and the support they're providing, is just terrific.
I should also mention the British, the United Kingdom. There again, it's a very long relationship and I have great respect for the members of the UK operation here and the work they are doing. I've known a great many of them over the years and think they are outstanding armed services.
Q: More Air Force specific, what do you see as the biggest challenges for the U.S Air Force in the near future?
Rumsfeld: We've been reviewing a variety of things involving all the armed forces. If you begin at the beginning with the armed forces of the United States of America, you have to begin with people. There is no question but that for whatever reason, the way the institution has been functioning, we've allowed our infrastructure to deteriorate, we've have not had the kinds of investments we need in housing and in facilities. We've got to do something about that. That's true of the Air Force, and that's also true of the Army and Navy.
The people part of it is central. If we are not able to attract and retain the very best people into the Air Force to be specific, but also the Army and Navy-our armed services will not be able to perform the important tasks they have to perform if we are going to be able to contribute to peace and stability in the world. So we are focusing on that issue and hope to put in place some programs that will set us on a path that when we look back in five, six or eight years and ask ourselves how we've done, we'll be able to say, not bad.
Q: Thank you, sir.