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Joint News Briefing with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and British Secretary of State for Defense Reid

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and British Secretary of State for Defense John Reid
November 07, 2005 1:15 PM EDT
Joint News Briefing with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and British Secretary of State for Defense Reid

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Greetings.  I am very pleased to welcome John Reid, the secretary of State for Defense of the United Kingdom, to the Pentagon.  Welcome, sir. 

 

            We've had some good discussions focusing on operations in the global war on terror.  The coalition can point to some notable advances, but we also know that terrorists continue to plan further attacks against free people, such as those we saw earlier this year in London.

 

            As the people of Great Britain stood with us on September 11th, so the people of the United States have stood with them.  And together, along with our coalition partners, we're standing firm with some 50 million Afghans and Iraqis as they deal with extremists in their countries.

 

            A word about force rotations.  Soon we'll be announcing a number of U.S. units currently scheduled to deploy to Iraq as part of the next rotation.  This rotation will maintain the coalition's commitment to helping the Iraqi people and will also give commanders flexibility as conditions on the ground continue to evolve.

 

            This rotation is just that -- units identified to replace those whose tours in Iraq will be coming to an end.

 

            We're aware of the interest in the press in the mid- to longer- term levels of U.S. forces and coalition forces in Iraq, but I would caution that it would be a mistake to draw conclusions about such matters when reviewing the force rotation announcements that will be made later today.

 

            We continue to transition and transfer additional responsibilities to the Iraqi security forces, and the people of Iraq continue to meet the political milestones that have -- they have established.  As these and other conditions are met, General Casey will continue to assess the capabilities that he believes he will need and make recommendations as to the levels he believes will be needed in the period over the coming months.

 

            The leaders of our two democracies have taken the measure of an enemy with global designs, an enemy whose explicit threats in writings -- in President Bush's words, an open warning to the free world.  If they are not defeated in Iraq, these enemies will become more powerful, more ambitious and launch more attacks on free people everywhere.  We are firm in the conviction that leaving before the job is done in either Afghanistan or Iraq, as the terrorists hope, would lead to even greater danger later.

 

            Throughout much of modern history, the special relationship between the United States and Great Britain has dealt repeated blows to totalitarianism of various stripes.  The world is safer and our countries are safer because of the uncommon steel of the British people.  We're grateful for our partnership and for your friendship, Mr. Secretary.

 

            SEC. REID:  Thank you very much indeed, Secretary Rumsfeld.

 

            I'm delighted to be here, and I hope the fact that we are standing together on so many issues -- which we've discussed today, from Iraq through Afghanistan and the many other theatres where we are working together; more importantly, our service men and women continue to work together -- is a symbol of our enduring relationship.

 

            I think the thing which lies at the heart of that is shared values, and the struggle which is going on on the global sphere at present is indeed a battle of our values.  It is at heart an ideological struggle between those of us who adhere to 21st century values and those who are trying to impose seventh century values in large sections of the world.  Though it is ideological at heart, it manifests itself in the worst forms of terrorism -- innocent civilians targeted indiscriminately by people who have no constraints of morality, conventions or legality.  It therefore makes it a very, very difficult battle for the young service men and women who serve both our countries with such distinction, courage and fortitude.

 

            And the first thing I would like to do today is to pay tribute to them, to our soldiers and troops and to those of the United States of America who have fought with such courage and in some cases died with such fortitude.  And my heart goes out to every single one of them.

 

            Today, in our discussions, I think we have covered a pretty wide range, and on this -- my first official visit as secretary of state here, I think we were able to look forward, not with any complacency, but with a belief that sacrifices and efforts that have been made are beginning to bear fruit in places like Iraq where at the beginning of the year 8.5 million people, despite the threats from the terrorists of murder, massacre, of bombs and bullets, came out to vote; where, despite the decades of enmity, the three entities in Iraq came together some months later to form a constitution balancing the devolved and central powers, balancing the powers between the three entities and three ethnic groups in Iraq itself.

 

            I've had some people say that the failure to achieve absolute unanimity within 18 months was indeed a failure.  Well, coming from a country, the United Kingdom, which is a similar continual discussion about the nationalities within a nation-state, and now in the 837th year of trying to resolve the Irish settlement in Northern Ireland and the 300 years just having settled the Scottish one, I think the Iraqis have done damn well to get where they have in 18 months quite frankly, Secretary Rumsfeld.  And to see 64 percent of the Iraqi population coming out in the elections, a greater turnout, despite the threats to themselves, than there was in our general election and probably your presidential election, is a sign of encouragement.

 

            So I am not in the least complacent.  We know that despite the fact we now have 205,000 trained Iraqi security forces that there is a deficiency, yet; they need more training, more support and leadership, and so on. 

 

            But I do think that we have grounds for believing that the resolution and determination that has been shown by our prime minister and your president will bear fruit.  And the litmus test of leadership is not when things are easy or fashionable, but when times are difficult and we have to come through them towards the objective at the end.

 

            The final point I would make is this.  In all of these -- work -- all of this work which we are doing together, it's easy to forget that whatever the differences were initially, that this is now sanctioned by, inspired by, protected by the United Nations.  It is the world community which is now on the side of the Iraqi democrats which is supporting their quest for self-determination under Resolution 1546.  And that is why with the world community on one side -- the United Nations, along with the U.K., the U.S., and the other nations, and the Iraqi democrats -- and on the other side the terrorists, that the question really is quite simple; either we will see democracy in Iraq destroyed by the terrorists or we will see it built by the Iraqis themselves.  We will be there no longer than is necessary, but we will be there as long as is necessary.  We will see the job through.  And the consequences of acts of terrorism which may be aimed at getting us to leave earlier, will in fact be the opposite.  It will only mean that we will stay there until such times as that is defeated by the efforts of the Iraqis, with our support.

 

            So I'm delighted to be here today. 

 

            You may have questions on other issues, but I thought it was worth pointing to the future in Iraq because that is what our fellow countrymen who have served their country have been so strong and courageous in doing.

 

            Thank you, Secretary.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Thank you.

 

            Charlie Aldinger with Reuters.

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, a question on money and weapons.  Secretary England last month sent a memo to the services calling on them to prepare for about $32 billion in cuts over the next five years, including $7.5 billion next year.  Given the fact that defense spending is pretty much -- two-thirds of it is pretty much cemented in personnel costs, isn't this going to mean painful cuts in arms programs in the coming years?

 

            And, Mr. Minister, are you worried about the JSF, given your country's stake in that?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Charlie, the Defense Department will end up with a budget from the president that will appropriate, and in my view we'll find that the Congress of the United States will approve a budget that will be appropriate.  It will be somewhere between 400 and 400-plus billions of dollars.  And certainly we will be able, as we should, to arrange things in a way that will be the most appropriate for the country.

 

            Q     Are you worried about big arms programs like the JSF, the F-22, the DX --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  The -- the letter that he sent out was fairly -- it's an annual event.  A letter always goes out.   There are things that fluctuate.  Inflation fluctuates, fuel prices fluctuate, various other things.  Amendments from the Congress that weren't requested can cause fluctuation.  So there are lots of moving parts.  We'll -- we've got a lot going on.  We have the '06 budget that's before the Congress -- authorization.  We've got the appropriation.  We've got a supplemental bridge that's up there.  And now we've got the budget that's being prepared for '07.  So what we have to do is rationalize all of that, plus the Quadrennial Defense Review.  So there are a lot of moving pieces, and we'll be fine.

 

            Q     Mr. Minister, are you worried about the -- concerned at all about the JSF, given your country's stake in that?

 

            SEC. REID:  No, but you're trying to worry me, Charlie -- (laughter) -- I can see by the way you keep raising this question. 

 

            No, no, we're pretty confident that the United States, in their own interests, not just in ours, will make the sensible decisions on the Joint Strike Fighter.  It is true, it is a huge part of our future planning.  We don't have forces, or for that matter the budget the size of the United States.  But we do, I believe, have forces that are equipped, capable and active in terms of meeting the modern threats.  And part of that is the ability to reach out, to have sustainable reach.  And that is why we've ordered a final perusal of our plans to build two carriers which are three times the size of anything that we've got at present.  And if we have such carriers to sustain a presence a long distance from the United Kingdom over a long period, we need a good airplane to operate off them.  And the airplane we want to get is the Joint Strike Fighter, and I see no reason at the moment to be worried about that.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  As a courtesy to your colleagues, I would suggest we ask one question of one person.  Then others will have an opportunity to ask a question or two.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     Mr. Minister, you were down at Lockheed recently, from what I understand, visiting the Joint Strike Fighter plant.  I mean, what's your assessment of the health of the program in terms of cost schedule in meeting your STOVL requirement goals for the Royal Navy?

 

            SEC. REID:  Well, we are working on the basis that it's going to meet those requirements, by definition, since we've chosen it, and that is what we want to see developed.  We will want to make sure that the -- that if we go ahead and we have a final decision at length, I hope, in the first half of next year regarding the two carriers – if we go ahead with that -- I want to make sure that we've got the most effective airplanes on the most effective platform.  And our view -- and I see no reason to change it -- is that the Joint Strike Fighter -- the short takeoff and vertical landing variant of that – would be the best answer to our requirements.  And I see no reason to believe, at this stage anyway -- unless you're telling me differently -- I see no reason to change those plans.

 

            Q     Secretary Rumsfeld --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yes?

 

            Q     Secretary, Operation Steel Curtain is being seen as a test for the Iraqi security forces.  Can you address how they are doing and what that means for the transfer of authority to them?  And also, has Syria allowed American troops to cross the border there?  And are you seeing any changes in the Syrian government with respect to cooperation?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think the operation is under way, but it's not completed.  I don't think the Iraqi security forces need a test, as you characterize it.  I think they have been tested in the last election.  They've been tested in a number of operations, and they've been doing exceedingly well.

 

            To my knowledge, I know of no arrangement whereby Syria has suggested that we cross their border.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, should the CIA be exempted from proposed restrictions in the Defense spending bill on Capitol Hill right now that would ban torture and -- I believe the example in there is something like cruel and unusual punishment -- as the vice president has apparently lobbied for?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You know, it's not for the Department of Defense to get into issues that the White House are sorting through with other departments and agencies.  The -- what I know for a fact is that the president has required that the Department of Defense treat detainees in a humane -- with humane treatment.  That has been the instruction that I've issued from the outset of this conflict.  And it is the standard to which the people in the Department of Defense are being held.

 

            Q     What do you think of Senator --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  What -- why don't we just have one question per person.

 

            Yeah?

 

            Q     Sir, I just attended an event in which General Petraeus outlined the training of Iraqi security forces, and things seem to be going well, in his view.  Can you characterize a little bit -- and I know you've mentioned the new announcements about rotations later.  Can you characterize how that success will translate to reduction in U.S. forces?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Sure.  I'll be happy to.  We have done it before, but as everyone has said, from the president through the secretary down to General Abizaid and General Casey and the Iraqi government and our coalition partners, it's condition-based.  And as conditions on the ground there permit and require, obviously the commanders on the ground will recommend that coalition forces and U.S. forces pare down as responsibility is transferred over to Iraqis.

 

            And it's been being transferred over in recent months.  We've seen large portions, for example, of Iraq that are -- correction – of Baghdad that are being managed by Iraqi security forces.  There are other parts of the country that are being managed by Iraqi security forces.  And as that takes place, the -- it will be possible for coalition forces to be reduced.

 

            Yeah?

 

            Q     Secretary Rumsfeld, this operation that's going on in western Iraq is the latest in a series aimed at stopping the infiltration of foreign fighters into Iraq and denying sanctuary to insurgents in that area of the country.  Do you -- can you say whether you believe this operation is going to produce some significant progress in that area?  And will it be, in your view, more successful than the previous operations that have had a similar objective?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, I guess --

 

            Q     In other words, it would mean real progress.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yeah, I don't need to guess.  We'll soon see.  We'll know.  We know that a number of people are being captured and killed.  We know that caches are being found.  We know that there are locals in that portion of Iraq that are cooperating extensively with our people.  We know that the U.S. and coalition and Iraqi security forces are proceeding in a systematic and orderly way.  And I think it would be a reach to suggest that it could be anything other then unhelpful to the insurgency and to the cross-border traffic in that part of the country.

 

            Q     But if --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:   One question, I think.

 

            Q     Well, I don't think you quite got to main --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Jim?  I thought I did well.

 

            Q     -- because -- the question I'm asking is -- that's true.  What you've said is true about all of the previous operations as well.  People are rolled up --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And I said -- I answered your question right off the bat.  I said, we'll see.  I can't guess.  Why should I guess?  I don't need to guess.  We'll know.

 

            Jim?

 

            Q     The force rotations that are going to be announced, do they actually anticipate a reduction in U.S. forces --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Why don't you wait until they're announced?  It's today.

 

            Q     Well, I -- you're the boss here, so I'm sure you know.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No, I'm not.  I just preside over a large difficult institution.  We're going to move towards the closure here in a second.

 

            Bret?

 

            Q     Mr. Minister, the top British general down in Basra last week said that he was concerned and had solid evidence that Iran was moving technology and materials over into Iraq.  Can you elaborate on that and your concerns, especially in southern Iraq, with these explosives coming across the border?

 

            SEC. REID:  Do you mean General Dutton?

 

            Q     Dutton.  Yeah.

 

            SEC. REID:  Yeah.  Yeah, well, for obvious reasons I don't want to go into the technicalities of it, but it is our belief that the nature of the devices being used against British troops and possibly elsewhere in Iraq in recent months bear the hallmark of groups like Hezbollah and may well be connected with elements within Iran.  We don't have the evidence that says this is being backed by the Iranian government, but it is nevertheless worrying, and we've made representations to the Iran, because it would obviously not be right for a country to be publicly supporting democratic self-determination in Iraq at the same time as it was allowing or in any way encouraging the use of terrorism or violence.

 

            So it's as simple as that; we have put that.  And putting it in a wider context, of course, if we have those worries -- along with the duplicity which Iran has been using in the development of its nuclear capability -- is witnessed not by me or Secretary Rumsfeld, but by the International Atomic Energy Authority, and then the sort of statements that we've seen from the Iranian president about wiping off the face of the map another member state of the United Nations, then all of these items come together and they are worrying.

 

            So we will take the necessary steps to protect our troops.  And we hope that anyone on the borders of Iraq -- whether it's Syria, Iran or anyone else -- will desist and make sure that no one is supporting terrorism inside Iraq, or indeed, elsewhere.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Thank you, folks.

 

            SEC. REID:  Thank you.

 

            Q     Mr. Minister, did you talk at all about export controls and technology transfer?  Are you satisfied with the way things are going?

 

            (No audible response as the secretaries leave the podium.)

 

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