Rumsfeld: We gave you so much time to file in Ireland that we're not going to give you any more for the rest of the trip.
Rumsfeld: Where's General Franks? Get up here [inaudible]
We had an excellent meeting with the Crown Prince, with the Minister of Defense and with the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. The United Arab Emirates have been a steadfast friend and ally for the United States for I guess at least several decades. I thank them for their support in the global war on terror. We thank them for their wonderful assistance with respect to the campaign to liberate Iraq.
They have been a leader in delivering humanitarian assistance in a variety of places around the world, but they were the first nation to send a relief ship into Iraq filled with I'm told seven hundred tons of needed food, water and medical supplies. They're providing water to the people of Basra. They've announced plans to donate some 12 ambulances. They're going to fully equip six Iraqi hospitals. They will build a desalination plant that's supposed to provide 250,000 gallons of water a day.
These humanitarian contributions of course are important. They're important for the people of Iraq but they're also important to the future of Iraq and the future of the region. It's enormously important that people there see the progress that
can be made in a liberated Iraq.
We talked about the way ahead in Iraq and Afghanistan. We assured the Minister and the Crown Prince that the United States intends to do what is necessary with our coalition partners to see that there is a secure environment in Iraq, a permissive environment that allows the Iraqi people to begin that important process of developing an Iraqi interim authority and then ultimately a free Iraqi government.
We still have a lot of work to do there but there's no question but that the people of this region are a lot safer today than they were with the regime of Saddam Hussein there.
You might also notice that the gentleman standing next to me is General Tommy Franks. He has done an absolutely superb job for our country, for the people of Iraq and for the region. He put together a leadership team that is about as good as anyone will ever fine. They had wonderful, well-equipped, well-trained and courageous troops, men and women, Army, Navy, Air Force, [Marines] and Coastguardsmen. Under General Franks' leadership they fashioned a plan that would, I suppose the test is in the outcome, but I would say it was even better than the outcome. It was better in that it had built into it the flexibility and a variety of innovative excursions that enabled him to execute his team’s, execute the plan in a way that a host of adverse consequences that could have occurred did not occur. People's lives were saved, Iraqi people's lives were saved, American lives, coalition lives were saved because of the skill and the execution of that plan. My hat is off to General Franks and to his land component commander General McKiernan, his naval commander Admiral Keating and his air component commander General Moseley, and his special operator [Major General] Dale Dailey and his close team including [Lieutenant General] Mike DeLong and General John Abazaid, General [inaudible] and so many others. They've done a truly superb job and I personally am deeply grateful.
General? And then I want all the tough questions for him.
Franks: Mr. Secretary, thank you for the kind remarks. All of us of course celebrate the magnificent work done by all those we call the young people; who have done the great work on the carrier decks and up in Iraq on the ground, and have undertaken special operations missions which have been many and varied and certainly quite successful, and certainly the most powerful air arm I've seen in the course of my career.
I'm honored today to be with the Secretary here to visit with the Crown Prince of the Emirates, a friend, a nation, which has been supportive from beginning to end. So Mr. Secretary, this looks like a very good day for us.
Q: General Franks, I know you all are discussing which leaders in the region the way ahead and perhaps possible redistribution or change of force structure in the region. Did you ask leaders here whether they might be willing, first of all whether they're willing to keep current forces and current cooperation, or whether they might even be willing to expand facilities and accept extra forces if you need it?
Franks: Charlie, actually we didn't ask the question. There is, in each place the Secretary visits in the bylaws that he has as well as the ones that I have, the leaders in the region, there is an understanding that since the regime in Iraq is gone and since there will no longer be a need for Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch and so forth, that in the days and months ahead there will likely be a rearrangement of the footprint in the region, but no, that was not a subject of --
Q: If I might briefly follow up? You suggest by that that the footprint might become smaller. Is that a possibility or --
Franks: Actually, I think the Secretary will speak for himself, but I don't know that I could speculate, Charlie, on whether it will become smaller or not.
We're going to be working in Iraq and we're going to be continuing our work in Afghanistan for some time. So I think the way I would characterize it is we need to study it. We need to see exactly what footprint will have the highest pay off for us in the future.
Q: General Franks, is Iraq secure enough today to be able to officially declare combat over and move into the stabilization phase officially? I know a lot of that's going on already.
Franks: The call will be made by the President receiving advice from my boss, the Secretary. What we know is that the decisive combat, you know, the part where you go after armies and navies and air forces and that is the part that the Secretary alluded to, very successful, done quickly. We're all very pleased about that. But with respect to a declaration that says the war is over and so forth, certainly not at all.
Rumsfeld: Why don’t we take one more question? Let’s take these two questions since they went up simultaneously.
Q: General Franks, can you give us your thoughts about the situation vis-à-vis the movement of Iranians back, Persians, in and out of Iraq. What's your assessment? Are these people posing a challenge to the security situation? Do you believe there's an Iranian effort to try and establish some type of Shiite government in Iraq? What's your assessment on that?
Franks: Barbara let me do it in an [inaudible] way by dividing the question into two pieces. Let me take the first piece which would be the operational military piece and then pass to the Secretary for comments on the second piece.
Certainly we have said from the very beginning of this operation that we would not tolerate military interference in our operations ongoing in Iraq. We mean that. We believe that within our capability we have an obligation to provide for the security of the territorial integrity of the country. Now operationally we're certainly going to do that.
There is an entirely different issue which has to do with seeking influence or wanting to place political influence into the country and that's much more along the lines that my boss works with than along the lines I work with. Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: I agree completely. The United States and the coalition forces are not going to allow neighboring forces to attempt to influence the outcomes in Iraq. The Iraqi people are going to make those judgments. While we're there we intend to see that that's the case.
How it all evolves I guess remains to be seen, but my impression is the Iraqi people will not want to have excessive influence from neighboring countries. They will want to find an Iraqi solution, not an Iranian solution. And certainly we would not want to see a government like Iran has imposed on the people of Iraq.
Q: General Franks, on the broad side of things, today how do you see the security in Iraq, the situation on the ground?
Franks: Pardon me, a little bit of [inaudible] answer to your question. I'd say it's better than it was yesterday and I see it as much better than it was a week ago.
If you look around at the behavior in that country over the last several decades you find there is a great deal of uncertainty, there is a great deal of fear. There are tribal animosities; there are religious animosities between factions. I actually believe that we'll, for the foreseeable future we'll see that.
In terms of the security situation, whether it's in Baghdad or in the south or in the north, I think it's better than it was yesterday and I think it will be better a week from now than you see it today.
Q: And the hunt for top leaders?
Franks: It will continue. It's going very well.
Rumsfeld: Very well.
Franks: Thank you.
Q: Thank you.