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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability with Minister Hill

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 19, 2003 2:55 PM EDT

(Also participating Australian Minister of Defense Robert Hill)

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  Well, good afternoon.

 

            Q:  Good afternoon.

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  The minister of Defense of Australia and I have been visiting, not for the first time by a long sight, but we've had another good visit.  He's here in the United States; was in Iraq very recently.  As you all know, Australia has been a very close, cooperative partner with the United States in the global war on terror since the outset, and has been enormously helpful in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.  We have a long relationship of working together in a great many ways, including most recently in the Counter-proliferation Initiative.

 

            And I am delighted to welcome the minister here to the United States and to the Pentagon.

 

            Sir?

 

            Min. Hill:  Thank you.

 

            Well, I'm pleased to be back also.  I remember -- I bet you can't remember the question the Australian journalist asked last time.  It was about the Arunta, a ship.  And people said, "What is this all about?" -- the Americans said.

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  (Chuckles.)

 

            Min. Hill:  Anyway, it's good -- it's good to be back and to be able to thank you for America's leadership in the war against terror, and also in the -- in our joint efforts to defeat threats associated with weapons of mass destruction.  Australia has participated in both of the operations, and continues to do so because we believe it's in Australia's national interest.

 

            We recognize how difficult these tasks are, and it is going to take time, and it takes pain.  And we particularly think of the losses that you've suffered in Iraq.  Australians, so far, have been lucky in that regard in Iraq.  But we do share with you that pain and the grief of families.

 

            We are still as confident as ever that success will be achieved and the world will be a safer place.  And we, therefore, understand why these sacrifices are being made.

 

            So, it's good to continue a long-standing partnership between our governments and between our armed forces.  And it is a partnership that's been built on a history of mutual confidence, respect and shared values.  And I have every confidence that that will continue basically forever.

 

            Thank you.

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  Thank you, sir.

 

            Charlie?

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you briefly about the attacks around Tikrit, the heavy attacks that are going on, the AC-130 gunship, 500-pound bombs and tanks.  I wonder if you could discuss that very briefly and tell us why, and whether it's -- and to perhaps quantify the success so far.  Are you trying to perhaps break the political hold of the Ba'athists around Tikrit?

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  Well, I talked to General Abizaid and General Sanchez this morning.  We had a conference with the commanders from his area of responsibility, and during the course of discussion, that subject did come up.  And there is -- basically, what the commanders are doing is they are continuing to do what they've always done, and that is to adjust their tactics and their techniques and their procedures and their approaches as the circumstance on the ground changes.  And clearly, as intelligence information evolves and improves, they're finding targets that are appropriate, and they're, needless to say, anxious to attack any targets of opposition that exist in the country.

 

            Q:  Do the heavier attacks indicate that perhaps the resistance was getting better coordinated?  And is that a result of the stronger attacks in that area?

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  That particular phraseology wasn't used.

 

            Q:  Well, how would you describe it, sir?

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  The way I did.

 

            Q:  (Laughs.)

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  (Laughs.)  How's that, Charlie?

 

            Q:  Well, if it requires 500-pound bombs, AC-130 gunships --

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  That means you've got a target that you think merits it.  And that means, as I say, that intelligence comes along that enables you to use capabilities that you can't use, for example, if you're driving down the street and an improvised explosive device goes off.

 

            Q:  And the success so far?

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  I think I'll leave it to the folks in the field to describe the battle damage and after-the-battle effects.  A lot of that happened just very recently.

 

            Q    Sir, following up on that, there have been a lot of attacks that, even according to commanders on the ground, involved taking out abandoned buildings and empty houses and walls along roads.  Can you talk about the strategy here?  What's the bottom line?

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  The buildings that I've been advised they've taken out have been in some instances locations where things such as improvised explosive devices have been put together and fashioned, and they may very well be taking walls out if in fact they've got heavily used areas that -- where the walls create a security difficulty for them.  But I'm not familiar with what walls you're talking about.

 

            Q:  Mr. Minister, since you're recently back from Iraq, could I get your perception of what you think the situation is like on the ground, and your overview of what you saw?

 

            Min. Hill:  I think that there's a lot more being achieved than is generally recognized.  I was last there in April.  You see more families out on the street, a lot more small business springing up. Ministries are operating.  The issue is the security issue, which is overwhelming the successes.  That's got to be tackled, but at the same time we've got to maintain progress on every other front, whether it's the economic development, whether it's the transfer of governance. And I'm pleased with the accelerated process.  I think it's very important to build and maintain a momentum to ensure that the Iraqis maintain their confidence that the benefits that they're seeking can, in fact, be achieved.

 

            So I think it's been a very difficult patch recently for the coalition forces, but I think if they can get through that patch and maintain the momentum that I think has been achieved in recent months, it will, in my opinion, certainly, be heading in the right direction.

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  Yes?

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you whether there has been a review of the intelligence-sharing arrangements between the allied military, the U.S, British and allied and Australian military since the war over its functioning during the war in Iraq?  Were problems discovered or uncovered about the sharing arrangements, and are there solutions underway to do something about it?

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  I don't know.  I know that there has been a review by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.  If you're talking about intelligence that is shared at the military level, military-to- military, that's a different thing.  And I have heard that, as I recall, during the war there were issues that were raised, and that those issues were addressed sequentially during the war.  And then after the war, I heard discussions about ways that information could be better exchanged, and in some cases it required some administrative actions, and that, in some instances, those administrative actions have been taken.

 

            Q:  I understand that Mr. Cambone said recently that they maybe hadn't quite been taken yet.

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  I think the -- that may be; he would certainly know.  That's his area of responsibility.  I have a feeling there may be some that require statutory changes as well, and they certainly have not been taken yet.  But I was not aware personally that there were administrative changes that could be taken that haven't been taken.  But you may very well be correct.

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary --

 

            Q:  Mr. Hill, could you comment on that?

 

            Min. Hill:  Well, I don't -- I'm not sure what you're talking about.  I don't know of any dissatisfaction in the communication of intelligence between our agencies.   We believe it's a very good relationship.  Hasn't been a problem in that regard.

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  I think you're -- that is a different subject. And you're right; it is a very good -- a superb relationship.

 

            I think what's being referred to is some instances where, with one or two of our very close allies, inputs were made by them into a process that, for administrative reasons, they then were not allowed to see the product of, after they had inputted.  Is that roughly right?

 

            STAFF (?):  (Off mike.)  Yeah.

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  Yes.

 

            And I know there were some complications on that and that they're systematically working through that, because it is important that we have that ease in our relationships, because we are such close friends and allies.

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, Secretary Powell has flagged the possibility of making security in Iraq a NATO operation.

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  Say that again.

 

            Q:  I said Secretary Powell has flagged the possibility of making security arrangements in Iraq a NATO operation --

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  Ah.

 

            Min. Hill:  It's Australian accent.

 

            Q:  -- the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  And I was going to ask you whether you believe there were any advantages in that prospect and whether you discussed it today.

 

            And secondly, on the question of internationalization of Iraq, would you agree that there would be any advantages for the U.S. and Iraq in a further United Nations Security Council resolution?

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  I just returned from Asia, and I'm a little tired.  So I'm taking time to write down your three questions and see -- number one, NATO is already involved in Iraq, by participating in support for the Polish and Spanish-led division.

 

            Number two, almost all of the NATO nations currently have forces in Iraq.  There are some that do not, but a very large fraction of them do.  And also the so-called invitee nations that will take NATO up from 19 to 26 very soon.  And that's a good thing.

 

            And I will say that I would be delighted to see a larger NATO role in Iraq.  The -- NATO has for the first time in its history undertaken an activity outside of the NATO treaty area by assuming responsibility for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan very recently, which was a big step.  They are now talking about expanding the International Security -- NATO-led International Security Assistance Force out of Kabul into other parts of the country, which is a second big step.  Down the road it's conceivable, and needless to say, we would be pleased to see NATO play a larger role in each of the countries.

 

            As to the U.N. Security Council Resolution, that's a matter for the Department of State and I leave it to them.

 

            Q    Mr. Secretary --

 

            Q:  Follow-up on Afghanistan?

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  Sure.

 

            Q:  Some of those members of the International Security Force are also concerned -- one of the reasons they want to increase their participation is because they think the security situation in Afghanistan may be reaching a dangerous tipping point.  What is your response to critics who say that the United States, while fighting the war in Iraq, really did turn attention away from Afghanistan, and the government of the U.S. and the Pentagon just hasn't been paying enough attention, putting enough resources to Afghanistan?

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  That people can think what they think, say what they say.  We obviously believe -- I believe correctly -- that our force levels are roughly what they were.  Our attention is roughly what it's been.  We are deeply involved.  I've visited Afghanistan as many times as I've visited Iraq, and so has General Abizaid.

 

            I can't imagine what anyone's talking about, other than just theorizing.  We have, as a matter of fact, sought additional funds from the international community, as well as from our Congress, for Afghanistan.  We have developed a concept of a provincial reconstruction team, initiated it, launched it, gone around the world asking other countries to assist in taking the leadership or participation in provincial reconstruction teams.  We've gone from none to three to six, and I have lost the number that is currently on the drawing board, but I heard it this morning, and I don't want to say it wrong or I'll catch the dickens from someone here.

 

            But the work that's being done there is important.  It is still a dangerous place.  There are still pressures and porous borders.  And the -- I have no question but that the Taliban and the al Qaeda would like to take that country back and turn it back into a terrorist training camp, and they're not going to do it; they're not going to be successful.  And our folks and the coalition countries that are engaged there are doing a darn good job.

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, a question for either or both of you.  In your discussions today, did you discuss the increasing deployment of U.S. troops, or the prepositioning of equipment in Australia?  And is Australia considering buying Abrams tanks, and is that something that came up in your discussions today?

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  We did not discuss, nor do I -- we did not discuss preposition capabilities in the country.  We did not discuss bases in the country.  We had a discussion about our footprint generally around the world.

 

            (To Minister Hill)  But you may want to talk about tanks.

 

            Min. Hill:  We are going to acquire some new tanks, and Abrams is one of the types that we're looking at, together with Leopards and Challengers.

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary --

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  Let's have some people from Australia here.

 

            Q:  On the question --

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  I assume you're from Australia.

 

            Q:  Indeed I am, Mr. Secretary.

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  Good.

 

            Q:  On the question of interoperability -- this is a question to both of you.  I understand it was discussed between the two of you today. I wonder, Mr. Rumsfeld, what your expectations are from this increased cooperation, interoperability aspect of the military relationship.  And I wonder if you can just put it in your words.  And perhaps Senator Hill would also like to make an observation about it.

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  Well, the 21st century is a time where the threats have evolved and it's a new security environment.  And if anything is clear, it is that speed and agility and connectivity is critically important.  That means that here in this Department of Defense, we have to continue to try to -- strive to do a better job with respect to our own services so that we can assure that we are not simply going out and deconflicting between the Navy, the Army, the Air Force and the Marines but, in fact, totally connected into a unified, joint, truly joint fighting capability.

 

            It is equally true that with those numbers of countries that you have a pattern of working very, very closely with -- which is the case of Australia and several others -- it is equally important that you be able not simply to be truly joint, but also combined in those relationships.  And that means you have to plan together, you have to exercise together, you have to see that you've taken the time to connect yourselves in ways that that is relatively easy, rather than something that -- for example, in the last century, if you were going to be engaged in a process over a period of two or three or four years, you could take the first half-year to try to figure it out and get together.  In the world today, things last a relatively short period of time, and therefore you better be ready at the outset.

 

            Sir?

 

            Min. Hill:  Well, that expresses it pretty well.  That's -- war against terror is a shared threat.  It requires a multilateral response.  And as parties are going to work together in coalitions, obviously they want to work together effectively.  That requires the capability to interrelate.

 

            We've had a lot of experience of that in recent years.  I go back to the sanctions on Iraq and where ships worked together in the Persian Gulf.  We had to learn to be interoperable, and that required acquisition of new communications equipment and the like, as well as shared operational doctrine.  But we got to do it very well, so much so that the tactical command was quite often in the hands of an Australian, who might be working off an American ship or an Australian ship.  And since then we've carried it on into responses in other conflicts.  I think it's very important, in our mutual self-interest, to be able to work cooperatively and effectively together.

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary?

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  Make this the last question.

 

            Q:  You say often that you find weakness as something that's provocative, when you speak philosophically about defense.  And I wonder if you think when organizations like the United Nations, or allies, or NGOs pull out in the wake of a terrorist attack, if they're merely provoking the terrorists to do it again; that they're in some way playing into the hands of anybody who is attacking us, be it Iraqis, terrorists.

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  Oh, I think that -- needless to say, I mean, one would wish that there wouldn't be anything that would be encouraging to those that we're contending with there and elsewhere, whether it's terrorists in any situation.

 

            On the other hand, the world is what it is, and I think that they have to take a look at the totality of the situation.  And I think it's very clear to them that the United States is very firm in its commitment to Iraq in this case, or Afghanistan.  I think it's very clear that our coalition partners are; that they have been and that they remain so, and any number of them have demonstrated that since the recent attacks.

 

            So, we're going to -- we're going to -- we're going to adjourn. We've got --

 

            Q:  Could you just tell us how many troops, how many Australian troops are in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Do you plan on adding any more, just very briefly, sir?

 

            Min. Hill:  In the area of operation, we have about 850 -- it's usually between about 850 and 900 at the moment.

 

            Q:  In Iraq?

 

            Min. Hill:  No, not necessarily all in Iraq at any one time, because it includes the C-130s that are flying in and out.

 

            Q:  In Afghanistan, sir?

 

            Min. Hill:  There's very few Australians in Afghanistan at the moment.

 

            Q:  And --

 

            Min. Hill:  And the force size, our current intention would be to maintain at about the same size, but the force structure might change as the tasks change.

 

            Q:  Are you considering any more, sir, in response to request for additional troops, international troops?

 

            Min. Hill:  No.  I think -- well, A, we haven't had a request; but B, we think that our force contribution is commensurate with our size and responsibility.  We're pleased that there's over 30 countries now that have forces in Iraq.  We'd like to see even more.  But I think we're doing our bit.

 

            Sec. Rumsfeld:  Thank you.

 

            Q:  Thank you.

 

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