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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Media Availability at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
May 17, 2003

Wolfowitz:  I just wanted to have the chance to say that the purpose of my visit here, and yesterday to Bosnia, is to thank our troops for the outstanding job they do.  This continues to be a very important mission to the United States and to NATO and I think to the whole world, not to mention to the people of Bosnia and Kosovo.  There’s a lot that has been accomplished and there’s a lot more that still needs to be done.  And, while in many ways this is a humanitarian mission, originally the purpose was stopping genocide and that remains an important purpose.  I think it’s also, as General Keefe has noted, the last thing that anyone wants to see in light of September 11, to have a failed stay here in the heart of Europe.  (Inaudible.) the whole country, our country, has really come to appreciate in the last year and a half the courage of our men and women, their professionalism and their humanity.  You see them all around the world, and I’ve had the chance to see them here and yesterday in Bosnia, today here in Kosovo, (Inaudible.).

 

Q:  (Inaudible.)

 

Wolfowitz:  Yes, Sir.

 

Nebi Qzuna, Agence France Presse:  Sir, Agence France Presse.  You say there is a need for a sort of fixed presence of U.S. troops in Kosovo.  Are you looking for a smaller presence or a flexible presence?

 

Wolfowitz:  Well, we’ve managed since we first came in 1995.  We, with NATO countries and other coalition members that work here, are managing to steadily reduce our forces here, and we are making progress in encouraging the Kosovars to take responsibility of their own affairs and I think that has to be a model that we will stay in the region until the job is finished.

 

Visar Kryeziy, Associated Press:  Do you think that this model of Camp Bondsteel could be used as a model for possible bases elsewhere in eastern Europe, including Romania, Bulgaria in the near future or mid-future?

 

Wolfowitz:  I’m not sure.  This is a unique circumstance and it was created in urgency, obviously, in 1999.  I think we are taking a fundamental look worldwide at how we deploy our forces and we’ve made already significant changes, most importantly when Secretary Rumsfeld was in Saudi Arabia a couple of weeks ago.  He and the defense minister of Saudi Arabia agreed that once the threat is gone from Iraq that we could remove most of our military presence from Saudi Arabia.  That’s an example of the changes that are taking place in the world.  We’ve clearly got to develop some relationships with new candidate member countries of NATO, including the nation of Romania, which I’ll be visiting on Sunday and Monday.  We are looking at how to best deploy our troops around the world and also how to ease the strain on them.  So, we’re exercising…all of these young men and women are months away from returning to their homes, jobs, families (Inaudible.).  We try to keep them here at Camp Bondsteel as connected as possible with the folks back home, but it is a huge sacrifice for them and I hope that the world appreciates it.  I know our country appreciates what they are doing for us.

 

Q:  Eastern Europe -- is eastern Europe a good place with U.S. soldiers, do you believe, will feel safe in eastern Europe here where they are based and in central Europe? 

 

Wolfowitz:  I think we feel very welcomed all around Europe.  In fact, I would almost say that at bases, including here, we sometimes feel that we are almost too welcomed and people don’t want us to leave.  Not that we don’t want to stay if we’re needed, but we need to keep pushing people to take responsibility.  You used that word “basing.”  We are increasingly trying to look at how we can deploy troops in ways that are more flexible than the old traditional large bases--which have advantages, but also disadvantages.  So, we’re doing a lot of (Inaudible.) opportunities -- to look at how we manage what we call our footprint, worldwide, and to look at newer, possibly more (Inaudible.) for doing it.

 

Thanks very much.

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