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Background Briefing from Munich, Germany

Presenter: Senior U.S. Official
February 06, 2004
Background Briefing from Munich, Germany

     Senior U.S. Official:  I've got about 20 minutes before we go to the lunch so I'll just go through what I think the major issues are very quickly, and then leave a lot of time for questions.


     I think the environment for this meeting is fundamentally different from last year's meeting.  You all remember last year's meeting and the time that we met.  We now have a NATO alliance that I think is trying very hard to overcome the divisions from the Iraq war, number one.  You've seen that by the decision of NATO to go into Afghanistan.  Every nation supported it.  You see it by, I think, the willingness of every nation to consider a greater role in Iraq.  And you see it in the commentary and the body language and the optics of most of the senior officials of the European governments.


     I don't want to assert that all problems have disappeared in the trans-Atlantic relationship because that's not the case.  But it is the case where I think U.S. relations with the great majority of the European countries have always been good and continue to be good, and certainly relations with Germany are improving, and we're finding ways that we can work with the French.  As you know, Secretary Powell is meeting this morning with the French Foreign Minister in the U.N.  So I think the environment is different.


     What's the NATO agenda? The reason for today's meeting, as distinct from the Wehrkunde, is we have a new Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the former Foreign Minister of the Netherlands.  He is very familiar with all the Foreign Ministers because he was a Foreign Minister.  He didn't know many of the Defense Ministers.  And we also have a major summit coming up, a Heads of Government summit in Istanbul on the 28th and 29th of June, and NATO's got a lot of big issues we have to decide.  So that's the reason Secretary Rumsfeld actually suggested this meeting back in December, that we hold it on the eve of Wehrkunde to get together with the new Secretary General and talk about these issues. 


     Here's our agenda.  These are the issues that the Secretary reviewed with the new Canadian Defense Minister, David Pratt this morning, and with Peter Struck, the German Foreign Minister.  He had two bilaterals this morning.  And the issues will be -- I think this is the agenda he'll take up in the lunch that's coming up.


     The first issue, and the priority issue, is Afghanistan, for NATO.  NATO has taken over the U.N.-mandated International Security Assistance Force known as ISAF.  NATO has nearly 8,000 troops and they're all in Kabul because when the U.N. decided that it wanted a peacekeeping mission 2 and a half years ago.  It said you'll be in Kabul and Kabul only.  We're providing stability for the government there.


     The big move now is for NATO to push out of Kabul and to set up military teams, we call them Provincial Reconstruction Teams, in all the provincial capitals.  Kofi Annan wants it to happen and Karzai wants it to happen.  In December in Brussels, Secretary Rumsfeld said we want NATO to do this. 


     What he will say today, and I think everyone will agree with this, is that we ought to set up five of these new NATO teams, PRTs, between now and the Istanbul Summit.  We believe that there are five NATO countries that want to lead them and that will be able to get the men and women and materiel to do this over the next five or six months.


     Beyond that, Secretary Rumsfeld has been telling his fellow Ministers, once that is accomplished, once they have NATO pushed out into the provinces, NATO should at least look at the question of whether NATO wants to take over all of the PRTs in the country -- because in addition to these five NATO PRTs, Germany has a PRT under NATO in Kunduz, and the U.S. has one, along with New Zealand which has one, and the UK which has one in Mazar-e-Sharif.  The U.S. is building to eight PRTs on its own in Operation Enduring Freedom.  So the issue would be for the second half of 2004 into 2005, should NATO take over all the PRTs in the country? And the ultimate objective would be, and Secretary Rumsfeld floated it this morning, should ultimately NATO take over all military operations in Afghanistan under a single NATO command? Meaning you take OEF and ISAF and put them together and merge them.  That is clearly not going to happen in 2004, just because NATO's going to have to proceed step-by-step and stage-by-stage.  But it's an issue, it's an objective that Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary Powell have put on the table, and that the allies are now reacting to.


     I think what we're going to hear today is positive feelings about all three of these stages, but a definite commitment to go on this first stage in the next four or five months.  So that's Afghanistan.


     Let me just move -- I'll move quickly through the agenda and then we'll go to questions.


     The second issue on the agenda today is Iraq.  Eighteen of the 26 allies in NATO -- we have seven new countries coming in, that makes 26 in the current total -- have troops on the ground in Iraq.  The Polish-Spanish division is essentially a NATO division and NATO is providing collective military support to it.


     I don't believe that any Minister today, and certainly not Secretary Rumsfeld, will formally propose that NATO take over in Iraq.  Not at this stage.  But I do believe that there is a, I would say, an emerging consensus, certainly not totally, but an emerging consensus among most countries that by the spring of this year or the early summer, before the Istanbul Summit in late June, I would think that some of the European countries would come forward and they would formally propose that NATO go into Iraq and take over the Polish Division some time in the second half of 2004. 


     Most of the European countries would want to see, I think, an Iraqi sovereign government after June 30, make that request.  Some of them say it would be nice to have a new U.N. Security Council resolution.  There are a variety of views, but ultimately that's where NATO's going to end up by, say, the end of June.


     But that will not be a proposal for today because it's too early to do that and because we're focusing on Afghanistan.  And you've got to focus the organization on one issue, one big operation, not two.  But it's in the background.  It's what you're going to hear if you talk to some of the European countries.


     I think in the meeting today, Secretary Rumsfeld, the Polish Minister and the Spanish Minister will provide a sense of how things are going in the current operation in Iraq.  And that will be it.


     Third issue.  NATO's been in Bosnia for 8 and a half years.  We stopped the war there in September, in October of '95.  We have kept the peace since the end of November '95, after the Dayton Accords were concluded.  We have about 12,000 soldiers there -- NATO -- of which a little over 1,000 are American soldiers.


     There will be an active discussion today about whether we have essentially completed that mission, so that perhaps by Istanbul, President Bush and his colleagues would make a formal decision that NATO ought to conclude the Bosnian peacekeeping mission by the end of this year -- because Bosnia is peaceful.  There hasn't been a single combat death of any of the peacekeepers in 8.5 years.  We've done a very good job.


     The European Union would like to, after NATO leaves, if it does at the end of this year, would like to come in with a different kind of force, a mix of police and military.  We think that would be a very good thing for the EU to do.  So there will be a lot of conversation about this but no decisions today.  It's a big issue.


     The fourth issue for today is the issue of capabilities, military capabilities.  Secretary Rumsfeld's been a leader, I would say, in the NATO alliance over the last 2 and a half years in pushing for the fact that we've transformed the NATO Alliance militarily.  We've made more changes, a greater change substantively in the Alliance -- in the way we're structured, in what we're capable of doing -- in the last 12 months than in any 10-year period in the 55-year history of the Alliance.  We've created a new NATO Response Force, which is going to be revolutionary for the Alliance; a new command structure; a new transformation command in Norfolk where we plug the European allies into the changes that we're making in doctrine and technology; and we've got a new chemical and biological and radiological protection team.  All of these came out of the Pentagon.  All of them came out of Secretary Rumsfeld's leadership.  I'm saying this somewhat objectively as a NATO Ambassador, but they all came out of there and they're all done.  There will be a conversation today about that, about moving it forward.  And obviously we would like to see the European allies spend more and spend more wisely on national defense, and have a greater percentage of their troops available for these peacekeeping and combat missions. 


     You saw the op-ed the Secretary wrote a couple of days ago about the transformation in DOD.  I think he'll talk about that today.  He'll talk about the U.S. experience and hope that the Europeans are going to try to replicate that, because the sad fact is that of the 2.4 million Europeans in uniform -- active and reserve -- in the Alliance, three to four percent are truly deployable for Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.  Meaning most of them are not trained for these types of missions.  The Europeans recognize they've got to increase that total.  In fact the German Defense Minister this morning said he's got a new transformation plan himself designed in part to raise the number of German troops that could be available for these missions --because we've got to assume that in the future, these are long-term peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.


     So those are the four issues that will be on the agenda today.  There will be lots of other issues, but I'll stop here and take questions.


     Q:  You said that (Inaudible.) Istanbul Summit, taking over the Polish, possibly taking over the Polish division.


     Senior U.S. Official:  Right.


     Q:  By extent, have they offered to do it? Do you have concrete -- I mean have the countries indicated that they --


     Senior U.S. Official:  When Secretary Powell was in Brussels in December for the NATO Foreign Ministers he said essentially what Secretary Rumsfeld said a couple of days before that.  The United States would support NATO playing a bigger role in Iraq and the United States would (Inaudible.) one of the ideas that the Polish division could become a NATO division.


     When he said that 12 Foreign Ministers said we're on board.  And since then I can tell you in the corridors and behind the scenes at NATO, I think nearly everybody believes this is the way to go and it's the right thing.


     Now is not the time because we're focusing on Afghanistan.  We need to get closer to June 30, and closer probably to a definition of what more the U.N. wants to do, so that politically these 26 very diverse countries could come together on a consensus and agree to that.


     So it won't happen today.  There will not be a proposal today.  But certainly the Secretary is going to say we'd like NATO to play a bigger role, and he'll be preceded in saying that by a number of the Europeans there that want to, in fact (Inaudible.) NATO (Inaudible.).


     Q:  There are reports today that (Inaudible.).  What effect will that have on (Inaudible.)?


     Senior U.S. Official:  I think it's very difficult to say what effect that will have because there's a lot of -- there's a very strong feeling among the European allies that this is what we should do.  Most of the European allies right now.  And it's really going to be up to most of them to decide how soon this can happen.  So I think we'll be patient and just have to see how events unfold.  I don't know about these reports.  I haven't seen them and I'm not aware of any change in our government.  I'm absolutely positive there's been no change in the U.S. government position on this.


     Q:  Which are the countries lined up to take over?


     Senior U.S. Official:  I don't want to commit anybody in public.


     Q:  You're on background.


     Senior U.S. Official:  I'm on background.  Let's just say that I think -- we know that the Nordic countries, or Sweden and Norway -- Sweden is not a member but is a very strong partner of NATO -- are considering one.  We know that Italy is considering one.  We know the United Kingdom is considering one.  We know that Turkey is considering one and the Dutch are considering one.  Right now the Germans are leading a PRT in NATO.  The German --


     Q:  So it would be five plus the one in Kunduz?


     Senior U.S. Official:  Right.  That makes six NATO PRTs.  Then on the other side of the ledger under OEF, we are building to 12 PRTs by April/May.


     Q:  Is that including the one led by New Zealand?


     Senior U.S. Official:  Right.  Now those 12 PRTs, one is led by the UK, it's currently operating in Mazar-e-Sharif.  One is led by New Zealand which is currently operating in the central part of Afghanistan; and the others are American, either already on the ground or going to be constructed.


     Q:  (Inaudible.)


     Senior U.S. Official:  That will be 18 altogether.


     Q:  Did you say the Secretary is actually going to specifically recommend that today? Or has he previously --


     Senior U.S. Official:  Recommend?


     Q:  The five.


     Senior U.S. Official:  The Secretary is going to support Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, and he's been saying let's have NATO go out and create these five new ones.  The Secretary will support that.


     Q:  That was discussed in December, but --


     Senior U.S. Official:  It was discussed in December as an idea, but now we're actually going to make a decision that we're going to do this.


     Q:  They're going to make a decision.


     Senior U.S. Official:  Yes.  The Ambassadors have already, in effect, said, "Let's do this."  But now, our Ministers are together.  And let's do it on a timeline, and let's get the necessary military resources there to do it.


     The Secretary certainly is going to support that.  The Secretary has already suggested publicly, and you saw him in December, and he'll do it again privately today, let's have NATO beyond Kabul.  The second half of 2004, into 2005, think about maybe having NATO take over all the PRTs, or even beyond that when NATO is ready and can digest all of this, at some point seeing if we should merge the two missions.


     Q:  Has or will --


     Q:  -- taking it all over, ISAF and OEF, is that including hunting Osama bin Laden and the Taliban (Inaudible.)?


     Senior U.S. Official:  The ultimate goal? I think --


     Q:  NATO traditionally I guess doesn't deal with that.  All security (Inaudible.).


     Senior U.S. Official:  NATO fought a war in Kosovo, which was a hot war.  We used military force against Milosevic and the Serb armed forces not too long ago, five years ago.


     We've had a number of the NATO allies with us in Operation Enduring Freedom in the mountains fighting the Taliban.  The Norwegians have been in there, the Canadians have been in there, the French are there, the Germans have been there in another iteration early in the war, in 2002.  So we've had a lot of countries already doing that. 


     But you're asking a really good question.  The ultimate objective of unifying the two, we'll have to answer a lot of questions.  Will it be one NATO mission doing all these different tasks? Will it be one mission with two task forces? We haven't figured that out yet.


     This is an aspiration that the U.S. has put on the table that most countries are very interested in pursuing, but there is really no definition on it.  I think you could safely say it won't happen in 2004, because we need to go through the first stage, creating the five PRTs.  The second stage, does NATO want to take over more and more of the PRTs.  I think what you'll see is that we'll probably move in a counter-clockwise direction.  You'll see NATO establish and take over PRTs in the north and western part of Afghanistan.  That will probably happen over the next 12 months. 


     Then if we get to this third stage, if we do, then we have to face the question:  there's the south and the east, which is the dangerous part of Afghanistan where the Taliban has been present.  Does NATO move in and take over those operations?  Or do we have two different elements of one whole? We'll just have to see when we get there.  It won't be decided today and it hasn't been fully explored yet


     Q:  Has the SACEUR or will the SACEUR make clear (Inaudible.)? In other words these five PRTs, have the troops been offered for that, or just the idea or the plan? Will the SACEUR or has he made clear that I'm not going through with this unless I get the troops?


     Senior U.S. Official:  Here's what will happen.  After today's meeting, and we expect to have a lot of momentum among the Europeans on the PRTs.  The SACEUR -- Jim Jones, is the NATO Supreme Allied Commander -- will go back to his headquarters and he will present us in two or three weeks with a very detailed military plan that will say here's how we're going to set up these PRTs.  Here's where they're going to be, here's the necessary force requirement, here are the following number of men and women we need in each one, here's the military support that we need from the Alliance in terms of airlift and intelligence and combat service support, all the things we have to do.  And NATO will look at that and agree to the plan I hope sometime in March.  A detailed plan.  Then we'll start actually setting these PRTs up.


     Q:  (Inaudible.)


     Senior U.S. Official:  These PRTs -- now I said there are nearly 8,000 troops in Kabul, NATO troops.  The U.S.-led coalition has about 13,000 in OEF.  That's the total force --


     Q:  5,500 I think it is.


     Senior U.S. Official:  Yeah, the number was 5,500 but we've added.  The Germans have added.


     Q:  So 8,000?


     Senior U.S. Official:  Yes.  So to answer your question, all these PRTs are different.  They're small.


     The size of the force depends on where you are in the country, what the threat environment is, and what the mission is.  So some of the American PRTs are 110 people.  The German PRT in Kunduz is building to 450.  And some of this also is the culture.  How much support do you take with you, and different countries have different military cultures.  So it's hard to say.  But we're talking about hundreds of soldiers in each, not thousands or tens of thousands.  Small numbers of soldiers.


     Q:  So why in the north when really the security problems are in the south and the southwest? Some (Inaudible.).  We have problems still (Inaudible.).


     Senior U.S. Official:  -- border with Pakistan, the last time I checked. 


     Q:  (Inaudible.)


     Senior U.S. Official:  Because there are multifaceted, there are multi-layered objectives in establishing these teams.


     The first objective is to provide security, overall security, in each big provincial city.  Right now, there are no military forces beyond the warlords any place but Kabul and the places where the U.S. military is, where the UK, New Zealand, and Turkey are right now.  So you want to provide security, because there are problems of crime, law and order, drugs, and terrorism.  That's Objective Number One.  That's needed as much in the north and the west as it is in the south and the east. 


     Objective Number Two.  We're trying -- the U.N. is trying -- and the U.S. is trying to help, to extend President Karzai's central government authority outside the capitol into the provinces, and these teams help him to do that.  Because with these NATO or U.S.-led teams comes the Afghan Army.  The Afghan Army is co-located in most of these places.  And it's our attempt to help him slowly exert control over the whole country.  Kofi Annan has been the biggest champion of NATO doing this.  He's been imploring us for eight months now to do what we're going to decide to do today, to extend the authority of the government.


     And of course a third very important objective is to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda.  That's happening mostly in the south and the east, which is where the U.S. has located the majority of its soldiers.


     So there are a variety of reasons why you do this and all of them are important.


     Q:  Is this linked to the timing of the election? Are you trying to get this done before the summer elections?


     Senior U.S. Official:  We put our forces in, to answer your question, we put our NATO forces in August 11th because we wanted to have them provide security in Kabul for the Loya Jurga.  Now we're looking for, yes, very definitely, one of the things that the NATO forces will do is provide security for the elections.


     Another reason why you want to have Provincial Reconstruction Teams provide international security presence in provinces, because the elections have to be held in the provinces as well as Kabul.


     There are some other things that NATO and the U.S. coalition have to do.  Train the Afghan Army.  The U.S. is doing that mainly with France right now.  Demobilization of some of the warlord armies and taking weapons away from some of those armies.  That is ongoing.  It's a U.N. objective and NATO could certainly help in that.


     So this is going to be a long-term mission.


     Q:  You didn't mention in your rundown of issues the whole debate with the United States about WMD and intelligence and so on.  Does Rumsfeld not expect that to come up or is he not going to say anything about it in his meeting?


     Senior U.S. Official:  I didn't mention it for a specific reason.  We have an agenda, we have a three-hour meeting coming up starting in 26 minutes.  We have a formal agenda from the NATO Secretary General of four issues.  That's what's going to be discussed in this meeting. 


     The Secretary is then going to stay and participate in the Wehrkunde Conference.  He just had a meeting with the European press -- Charlie was there -- where some of the journalists asked him about WMD.  Is it going to be on the agenda? It's not on the NATO formal agenda, no.  Will it come up when the press meets Americans? I'm sure it will.  But I can tell you, it hasn't been -- I've been at NATO all week, it hasn't been -- it's not on the formal NATO agenda.  It's not pertinent to NATO in that respect.


     Q:  (Inaudible.) -- justified?


     Senior U.S. Official:  Yes.  The idea of going to --


     Q:  But is it possible that you could get a nod from everybody that eventually NATO is going to (Inaudible.)?


     Senior U.S. Official:  No.  I don't think so because we're not there yet.  We're kind of taking it in stages.  And you may not even get each country signing up today to say I'll lead this, I'll lead that.  We're going to make a decision collectively today that we're establishing five PRTs, we're going to make the military effort, we're going to do it in the next six months, and we're going to push hard, all of us.


     Q:  Where are we going to be when Euro-corps takes over?


     Senior U.S. Official:  The Secretary was told this morning by the German Defense Minister that the command of the NATO entity will be, right now it's with Canada.  Canada takes over this week.  Canada goes for six months Canada provides the actual military command in Kabul.  Euro-Corps is going to offer to take over command after Canada leaves, and we're very pleased about that.


     Euro-Corps is Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany and Spain.  It's a command headquarters that was put together in 1992 and it's available for NATO and the EU mission.  So we're very happy that Euro-Corps is willing to do that and we expect that to be followed by another rotation.


     Q:  (Inaudible.)?


     Senior U.S. Official:  Oh, yes.  The Euro-Corps is a command that's comprised of NATO nations and it is available to NATO.  It's based in Strasburg.  So yeah, --


     Q:  (Inaudible.)


     Senior U.S. Official:  That would be roughly September.


     Q:  Where are these five teams going to be?


     Senior U.S. Official:  That hasn't been figured out yet.  The U.S. view is that these should be new PRTs, we should establish (Inaudible.).  So Jim Jones will be approaching these countries to suggest where they might go.  Some of them already have an idea and some don't.


     Q:  (Inaudible.).  Do you think we'll be talking to countries (Inaudible.)?


     Senior U.S. Official:  -- Again, this is not in the agenda for today.  It's something that will happen four, five, six months from now.


     The way NATO works is, to do any mission -- say Afghanistan, Afghanistan is the example -- we make a collective decision together.  We're going to go into Afghanistan.  But not everyone has to send troops.  There are countries that want to send them, it's voluntary.  If you want to send troops, send troops.  We don't insist that they all send troops. 


     So if we go into Iraq collectively sometime this year the countries that want to send troops will send them.  The countries that don't, won't have to, and that will be no problem.


     Right now we've got, as I said, 18 of the 26 already are in Iraq.  Most are in that Polish division and most of those, I think all the countries currently in the Polish division want this to happen.  But that's just coming from them to NATO (Inaudible.).


     Q:  When the issue of Bosnia comes up will there be any more talk on the war criminals issue?


     Senior U.S. Official:  The U.S. is very, very strongly of the view that we have to bring Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic to The Hague -- capture them in Bosnia or wherever they're hiding in the Balkans, and extradite them to The Hague to stand trial for war crimes for what happened in Srebrenica in 1995 and the other places where the Serbs massacred Bosnian civilians.  We are dedicated to that.


     One of the things, I should have mentioned this, and thank you for asking the question, when NATO leaves Bosnia -- SFOR leaves -- and the EU comes in with a separate mission, the U.S. believes, and Secretary Rumsfeld will say this today, that NATO ought to keep a headquarters in Sarajevo. 


     And in that headquarters, which we hope will be headed by an American two-star [general], NATO will continue to do three things in Bosnia:  we'll continue to work on defense reform with the Bosnian government.  That's very important for the future of Bosnia, which wants to come into the PFP and eventually wants to apply for NATO membership.  Second, we'll help the Bosnian government with counter-terrorism.  Remember, they've got a problem with terrorism in Bosnia, foreign forces in Bosnia.


     Third, that NATO will stay in that headquarters to remain dedicated to capturing the remaining war criminals which the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal has designated ought to be surrendered and brought to The Hague.  We've been involved in Bosnia for so long that we feel a responsibility to see that job through.  The Secretary will say that today.


     Q:  Can you (Inaudible.)?


     Senior U.S. Official:  We think our military mission of bringing peace and stability to the country is going to be accomplished this year.  We've done that.  The remaining mission for the EU is going to be a combined police and military mission.  But you're right.  The basic commitment that we've made to apprehend war criminals, that mission has not been completed, and that's one of the reasons why we'll keep a NATO headquarters, a small NATO headquarters.


     Q:  Thank you.

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