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Background Briefing on the upcoming NATO Informal Ministerial

Presenter: Senior Defense Official
October 03, 2003 3:00 PM EDT
Announcer:  All right.  Well, thank you all for attending this afternoon.  As you know -- I think most of you know by now Secretary Rumsfeld is hosting the NATO informal ministerial in Colorado Springs next week, and today we thought it might be useful to provide a background briefing to discuss what some of the goals and objectives are of the conference.  Today our senior Defense -- or our background briefer can be attributed in your stories as "a senior Defense official."  And his bona fides are --

 

            Q:  If I remember correctly, this briefing was scheduled to be on the record.

 

            Announcer:  At one point in time it was.  It is a background briefing.

 

            Q:  Why the change?

 

            Announcer:  We decided to change it to a background briefing to discuss it.  We'll talk about the merits of that offline, but let's not waste our background briefer's time here.  Okay?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Thank you.  All right.  Thank you.  I know that some of you probably will be traveling out to Colorado Springs, and some of you may not.  I'll try to touch on some things that may be of interest to both groups.

 

            As Whit said, Secretary Rumsfeld will be hosting this 2003 NATO informal defense ministers' meeting, Colorado Springs, on 7 to 9 October.

 

            It's important to understand that the informals meet once a year, usually in another venue outside of Brussels, whereas up till now the defense formals, which occur twice a year, usually in June and December, occur in Brussels.  A main difference is, the informal is designed to have a more informal setting, a more informal set of discussions; there are not formal communiqués issued and that sort of thing.  And it also is an opportunity to do some different kinds of things, and I'll talk about what we have planned for this defense informal.

 

            Before the ministerial begins, the secretary will be visiting troops at Fort Carson.  And I think we'll be holding a town hall meeting there.  And then following the ministerial, he's going on to California.

 

            Ministers of defense and chiefs of defense from 19 NATO allies and the seven NATO invitees will attend this Colorado Springs ministerial.  Russian Defense Minister Ivanov will also travel to Colorado Springs for a NATO-Russia meeting.

 

            The last time, I think, the U.S. held an informal was in Williamsburg, here in the United States, in October of 1995.  Those of you who traveled with us last year to Poland remember the ministerial, the informal there.  And the next informal, next year, in 2004, will be held in Romania.

 

            NATO, of course, remains a central pillar of the U.S. foreign and defense policy in the Transatlantic region.  And NATO is very much in the middle of a historic transformation process.  And this is a very important meeting in that sense, and it will help to determine the course of those alliance transformation initiatives into the next several years.

 

            NATO is transforming by producing a NATO Response Force that will provide a more expeditionary NATO, and better able to respond to security challenges in the future.  We've cut the command structure down by nearly 50 percent.  We're standing up two new strategic commands; one Allied Command Operations, and Allied Command Transformation here in the United States.  We've formed a new Chemical, Biological, Radiological Defense Battalion, and we're also in the process of integrating seven new members into the alliance, as well as maintaining our program of partnerships with a variety of countries.

 

            So, transformation will be very much a key topic at this informal:  How can we -- you know, what are the issues that are going to face ministers of defense with the stand-up of the NATO Response Force, with the drawdown of the command structure, and the like.  Very much a focus on developing deployable, sustainable capabilities.  And I know that's an issue that -- or what Secretary -- Lord Robertson has called usable forces, usability.

 

            Another major theme of this will be to discuss ongoing operations.  We've got continuing peacekeeping operations in the Balkans, particularly in Kosovo and in Bosnia.  Obviously, NATO now has the lead mission for ISAF in Afghanistan, and there will be, I'm sure, discussions about that.  NATO is also providing support to the Polish-led multinational division in Iraq for stability operations. That will certainly be on the agenda.

 

            And, basically, the last two of these demonstrate that NATO is now operating out of area.  And so the consequences of that for the alliance are very much linked back to the first issue -- transformation and deployability, sustainability, and the like.  So the two are related topics.

 

            As I said, NATO is very important to us.  It's all the more important now in that it is very much on the frontline of the global war on terrorism, and the focus of the alliance is not just on its traditional geographic domain, which was Europe and North America.

 

            So, those are some of the issues that will dominate I think a very heavy agenda for the NATO ministerial.  Indeed, one could say that transformation and operations are the key -- two key words for this ministerial.

 

            Let me talk a little bit about some of the key elements of it. The first major meeting is going to be a study -- seminar study at the Joint National Integration Center, which is at Schriever Air Force Base.  This is going to be, in some ways -- I don't want to say unique, because somebody may be able to find -- go back in history and find something that's similar -- (chuckles) -- but it's certainly, in my memory, a fairly unique thing to do in a ministerial.  Very often, we have exercise-type-like activities being done at the military level.  Very often, we have it in NATO being done even at the permanent representative level in Brussels.  But I think this is the first time, as I said, at least in my memory, where we're going to have this kind of an activity going on with defense ministers.

 

            And so, I think it -- and it will be a very interesting study seminar that's designed not to, you know, make decisions.  Again, this is an informal -- there won't be any decisions made here on specific things.  But to illuminate some of the issues that will arise from the creation of the NATO response force and really flowing from the fact that in the modern world, crises can emerge quickly, they can be very dynamic, the initial problem can change rather rapidly.  And so, this is an opportunity for ministers to kind of think through some of the implications of that security environment for the way NATO does its business.

 

            Q:  And this happens during the meeting?  Is it part of the meeting, or is this something later?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  No, it's a study seminar that will be done at the JNIC -- Joint National Integration Center.  There will be an exercise-type activity.  I can't go into the details of it.  The exercise is classified.

 

            Q:  No, I mean part of the -- (inaudible) -- time frame --

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  When it will be?  On Tuesday.  First thing.

 

            Q:  Okay.

 

            Q:  Will the ministers -- will people be observing it, or will they be taking part in it?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  They will be taking part in it.  Yeah.

 

            Q:  Okay.

 

            Q:  (Inaudible) -- you can't go into details, this will involve some emergency-type of scenario, to which it will be discussed how you would respond.  But --

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  There will be -- and I would call it an illustrative scenario.  It's not a real-world scenario; it's not designed to focus on, you know, a particular problem that's -- you know, may be current today.  It's an illustrative scenario.  And again, the purpose of it is not to sort of go through -- get decisions on that particular thing, because it's a false, if you will -- or illustrative scenario.  But the purpose is to sort of use that as a way to think through some of the decision-making processes in the alliance; what are the implications for how NATO military authorities react.  The CHODs will also -- the Chiefs of Defense will also be part of the study seminar, and so they'll be interacting.

 

            Q:  In person?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Pardon me?  In person, yes.

 

            Q:  Including General Myers?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Including General Myers.

 

            Q:  What will be the format?  I mean, how will it actually work?  I mean, will there -- you know, will there be a moderator, will there be -- how does it work?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  It's basically -- as Charlie said, it's basically an illustrative scenario, followed by discussion.

 

            (Cross talk.)

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Charlie's not involved in the activity, true.  (Laughter.)

 

            Q:  But it's an emergency -- (inaudible) -- to confront some kind of emergency, one would assume, that arises.

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Again, I don't want to characterize the scenario because I think that it's going to be -- ministers are going to play through this, and I think it would be inappropriate for me to do that at this point.

 

            But I think what I would say is that the key meat of this is after sort of being, you know, in a certain sense, part of this scenario, that there will be a discussion that will follow this on, you know, what are the implications for the alliance of this kind of -- type of security environment that we're in?  And what are the -- you know, as we look at that over and against our decision-making processes, both at the military level and at the political level, you know, what lessons can we draw from that?  So that's really the focus of it.

 

            Q:  Sort of like a war game?  Or are they linked -- communication with other --

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Again, I would not use the term "war game."  I don't think it's a war game at all, because in a war game, you're very much focused on looking at a very specific scenario, looking at something that might be very real-world oriented, in which you're very much interested in the specific decisions you make in that game.  That's not what we're talking about here.  It's a study seminar.  And it uses a scenario, an illustrative scenario, as a vehicle for stimulating discussion on those issues.

 

            Q:  Will there be a military presentation, or something like that, that will sort of set out a scenario, and then they'll discuss, the ministers will discuss?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Yeah, there will be a presentation that tries to -- that lays out the scenario and tries to involve the ministers in the topic.

 

            Q:  And possible political and military applications of whatever --

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  No, that's what the ministers will talk about.

 

            Q:  But I mean that's what this is for, right?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  It's to stimulate thinking and to stimulate a discussion on the implications of the current security environment and how quickly crisis can emerge and how quickly they can change.

 

            Q:  It sounds as though --

 

            Q:  Will they be asked to make a decision, you know, in this fictive situation?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  No.

 

            Q:  It sounds as though you're creating, like, a hypothetical military emergency, a hypothetical emergency.  Would it be something that would ordinarily affect NATO, or it would be an out of area, or --

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  As I said, I'm not going to characterize the scenario, but I do appreciate you trying once again.  (Laughs.)

 

            Q:  (Off mike.)

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Absolutely.  No, I really can't go into the scenario, and the reason is that, you know, this is something that, obviously, is being done at the classified level, number one; number two, that, you know, it's also going to be, I think, more helpful for all the participants if they are -- if they are able to approach this fresh.

 

            Q:  But when you're talking about transformation and operations, are we talking about out-of-area ramifications here, for lack of a better term, in the new world?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Well, certainly when we talk about transformation, we're talking about the need for being able to deploy forces and sustain those forces over distance, okay?  Because the traditional threats that NATO faced during the Cold War are not there anymore; the major threats to the security interests of the NATO members are largely external to the North Atlantic area.  And so NATO's forces need to be transformed.  They need to have those qualities, you know.  And to a certain degree, I mean, this is also true of U.S. forces.  And you've heard the secretary and others in this department talk about the need to do that.  To a certain degree because the U.S. always had to move its forces places, we've kind of built our forces with that, if you will, ethos or that concept in mind, whereas traditionally, NATO forces have been focused much more on static defense.  So both North Americans and Europeans need to do a better job of developing not only more deployable forces but forces that can deploy more quickly, more agile and the like.  And so that's going to be a central theme of our discussion.

 

            Q:  One more, if I could, on the study seminar.  Are there other participants in the sense that other remote facilities or communications links to governments or to NATO headquarters or to some other military --

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  It's all internal to Colorado Springs, yeah.  I mean, obviously, there's --

 

            Q:  (Off mike.)

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Yeah, that's all --

 

            Q:  Will we see any of this?  Will you allow a camera in to spray it?  Will a reporter be in to watch any of it?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  I am not in charge of that aspect of it. I'd like to maybe defer that to the press folks out at Colorado Springs.  I do know that there's going to be a post-seminar briefing that both Secretary-General Robertson and Secretary Rumsfeld will be giving.

 

            Q:  Is this in the evening?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  No, in the afternoon.

 

            Q:  This is Tuesday -- this happens Tuesday morning, or when does this --

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Yeah, Tuesday morning, into the early afternoon.  And then, shortly after that, there will be a press event.

 

            Q:  I thought he was going to be at Fort Carson on Tuesday.

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  I don't think so.  Isn't that Monday?

 

            Q:  Or am I thinking Wednesday?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Yeah, I don't have the --

 

            Yeah?

 

            Q:  Can you tell us -- (off mike).

 

            Q:  While we're pausing, can I try this just one more time, Mr. Senior Official?  (Laughter.)  Is the scenario -- can you describe whether the scenario involves a state actor, non-state actors, or a combination?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  No, I cannot.  I'm going to hold to the fact that I'm not going to talk about the scenario, and I -- everybody in NATO -- I mean, NATO's been involved, by the way, in developing this.  This is not a U.S. product.  So, NATO's been involved in this. Everybody is holding to not talking about the scenario, so I'm not going to be the one that breaks ranks on this.

 

            Staff:  (Consulting with senior official off mike.)

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Oh, that's on Wednesday.

 

            Staff:  And the town hall is on Tuesday.  So, your seminar is --

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Okay, I'm sorry.  I'm a day off.  It's Wednesday.  So, Wednesday afternoon, then, there will be a press event.

 

            Q:  And the press -- (inaudible) -- the meeting will be Tuesday, or Wednesday?

 

            Staff:  Just the seminar?

 

            Q:  The seminar -- what you're talking about.  Will that be Tuesday, sir?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  No.  The seminar is Wednesday.

 

            Q:  Both things on Wednesday.

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Both things are Wednesday.

 

            Q:  And the press --

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Let's put it this way.  When the seminar is over, the first thing that will happen will be this press conference.

 

            Q:  So -- I'm sorry; again, is the seminar going to begin on Tuesday or Wednesday?  It's Wednesday, correct?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  It is Wednesday.

 

            Q:  Wednesday.

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Right.

 

            Q:  (Off mike.)

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  I believe the press event is sometime around 3:30 on Wednesday.

 

            Q:  Will the scenario be divulged after the seminar?  Or will it be kept quiet?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  I'm going to leave that up to Secretary Rumsfeld and the secretary-general to decide how that's going to work.

 

            Q:  One other detail.  Is it going to be -- is it all 26 members -- I mean, members and the invitees a part of the scenario? Are they all --

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Yes.

 

            Q:  Including the Russians?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Yes -- no --

 

            Q:  Not the Russians.

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  The Russians are not involved in that.

 

            Q:  And they're all there under the same status?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Right.

 

            Q:  Yeah.  Okay.

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  It's a NATO meeting.  The next day there is NATO-Russia meeting.  So let me just --

 

            Q:  One more question about this.  Is the idea to get them to think about the political decision-making processes that they have to go through in situations where they have to deploy forces, to use force?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  It's not just -- I think I wouldn't limit it to that.  I mean, I think that -- you know, the decision-making process in NATO at the political level is certainly part of this, but even more is also what are some of the implications for the kinds of forces that are needed, the readiness levels of those forces, those sorts of -- and the decision-making at the military level as well.  So -- and that's why the MODs [Ministers of Defense] are involved and also the chiefs of defense are involved.  So it's really looking at it from a broader perspective.

 

            Q:  You've suggested this would happen but haven't said it. One assumes this scenario in which the potential for using NATO forces is involved here, and therefore the discussion would involve what are the political, military, financial, whatever implications to that. This is a scenario in which NATO forces might be used.  That's what this is all about, isn't it?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  It certainly -- let's put it this way.  It certainly is a scenario in which we're looking at how the NATO Response Force might be applicable to a situation.

 

            Q:  When is that supposed to be ready, by the way -- the response force?  Has that been decided?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Yeah.  The first stand-up of the force is in June of 2004, with full operational capability in 2006.

 

            Q:  And how many people?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  It's roughly a brigade-size equivalent. Remember, of course, to keep that sustained on the kind of readiness level we're talking about -- five to 30 days' response time -- you need a number of those to sustain that kind of readiness level.  So it's a brigade-size ground-force equivalent, plus complementary air and naval capability.

 

            Q:  How many people?  About a thousand or -- well, actually, it's 15(,000), right, when you talk about the support and the communication --

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Yeah.  People have talked about 15(,000) to 20,000.  But I really don't -- you know, I think the numbers are less important than capability.

 

            Okay.  So we talked about the study seminar.  There will also, then, following that, be a session where they will discuss transformation issues more specifically, get updates on how we're doing in terms of the NATO Response Force development, the Prague capabilities commitments, the command structure changes.  There's a lot -- you know, as we know, last June we made this decision to scale back the command structure by nearly 50 percent and to focus it on deployability and at a higher sort of readiness.  There are a lot of implementing things that have to be reviewed in that in terms of personnel and that sort of thing.  So they'll be reviewing those issues in the afternoon.  And then that evening, there will be a ministers of defense working dinner.

 

            The following day, there's a second session of the North Atlantic Council meeting, and this will focus mostly on operational issues, including the ongoing operations in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and support in Iraq.  The afternoon has a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, in which Minister of Defense Ivanov will be present.

 

            And then, Thursday evening, there's a closing reception and -- at the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, which I just found out that -- which will be, I think, rather informal.  And I actually think they're going to have a little rodeo to go along with that.

 

            During the ministerial, as I said, ministers and chiefs of defense are going to participate in the study seminar.

 

            This is Secretary-General Robertson's last informal defense ministerial meeting.  He's, of course, done an excellent job in guiding and leading the alliance in time of great change.  He'll be departing his position in December.  There is one more formal defense ministerial in December.  And, of course, we also -- we greatly welcome the appointment of the Dutch foreign minister, [Jaap] de Hoop Scheffer, as the next secretary-general.  And I think he'll be a great promoter of transatlantic relations, and he certainly enjoys the trust of everyone in the U.S. government.

 

            Just as a closer, the SECDEF -- the secretary invited allies to this U.S.-hosted ministerial last June in Brussels.  And in fact, I think it was a year ago June in Brussels, June 2002.  There's been an enormous amount of work that has gone into this.  I think you will see that when you go to the defense ministerial.  I mean there are literally hundreds of people involved in working out not only on the study seminar part, but also in the logistics for this event.  It's being held at a very nice place in Colorado Springs, the Broadmoor, which I think you'll also see when you're there.  We're very grateful also to the citizens of Colorado for -- and the citizens of Colorado Springs, in particular, for the support that they have shown for this event.

 

            And I think that our interest in having this is another example of the interest of the administration in making sure that as allies and the United States transform their forces, that we do so in conjunction with NATO so that we have an alliance that remains on the cutting edge.

 

            So, questions?  Charlie.

 

            Q:  Bilaterals.  And will the secretary in any way, informally or otherwise, use this meeting to ask NATO allies to kick in money to help with Iraq, individual countries?  And will he perhaps ask NATO, either under the umbrella of NATO or its individual countries, to help provide a third division, third multinational division?  In other words, will he press for help on Iraq, monetarily and troop-wise?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  There will be bilateral meetings with a number of ministers.  We have not formalized that list yet.  It's still a little bit in flux.  I'm pretty sure he's meeting with his British counterpart.  I think he also has a meeting with Sergei Ivanov, and there will be others.

 

            Q:  (Off mike.)

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  I think he is -- I think he does have a meeting with his German colleague.  But as I said, they're in flux at this point, so those could change, and so I don't want to lock down on those.

 

            And the second part of your question.  You know, Iraq is certainly going to be a topic when they talk about operations.  I'm quite certain there is also going to be a discussion about the various views of the situation on the ground and the progress that's being made there.  You know, obviously the specific questions you ask, Charlie, are things that I think will be something that I'll let Secretary Rumsfeld characterize when he talks about his bilaterals afterwards.  You know, there will -- but I would expect that particularly in the meeting with Minister Hoon and as well with the ministers who are directly involved in Iraq -- and as you know, there are a number of NATO allies who are down there, the Spanish, the Poles and others -- that this subject will be discussed.  But I don't really want to characterize the specific tenor of those discussions.

 

            Q:  (Off mike) -- the possibility/probability of NATO itself putting a third multinational division, or is that pretty much off the board as a formal NATO thing?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Charlie, I think the situation is evolving.  And I think, you know, it's a -- NATO has already provided tremendous support to the Polish multinational division.  I wouldn't want to say things are on the board, off the board.  I think it's premature at this point to make a determination on that.  I think things are -- things will continue to evolve, and I think there will be -- continue to be great NATO interest in the success of the -- of our endeavors in Iraq.  And so, at this point, you know, I wouldn't want to characterize how NATO -- what might lay in the future, but I think that all options remain open.

 

            Q:  The head of NATO's Military Committee said recently that it's not in anyone's interest -- any of the member nations' interest -- to have the biggest, most powerful country in NATO bogged down. Does it weaken the alliance if the countries don't -- if the other NATO members don't help the U.S. in Iraq?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Well, first of all, I must start by saying that I realize that it was your characterization of what General Kujat said.  I didn't see the quote.

 

            Q:  I got that off the -- (word inaudible) -- website, I think.

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Yeah, but certainly, I would not characterize what's going on in Iraq now as "bogged down," so just let me just begin by saying that.

 

            But I think -- I think it is certainly an important thing that -- or, an important objective that a lot of members of the alliance share that we have a success in Iraq.  And I think you can see that in the statements not only of the countries that have supported the military operations there, but even in the statements of countries that maybe didn't support that operation.  Now that those operations are over, and we are in the -- you know, trying to work through the stabilization issues in Iraq, reconstruction issues, that a lot of those -- all the NATO allies certainly see an important -- an important objective in having a success there.  And it's not just for NATO.  It's also, obviously, for a lasting stability in the Middle East, and the like.  So, I think we've gotten very good support from our NATO allies in Iraq.  As I said, a very large number of NATO allies are involved in Iraq.  More we expect to be involved, certainly, in the reconstruction effort.  I think that's well underway.

 

            Q:  You mentioned the NATO support for the Polish-led -- what are they doing?  I wasn't aware that NATO was involved.

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  NATO has been providing, basically, the force generation to help support the Poles.  The Poles, as you know, have a multinational divisional lead.

 

            Q:  Right.

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  But they don't have all -- it's not a fully-Polish division down there.  They are working with the Spanish, they are working with other non-allies, but partners down there.  And a very important part of that process is what's called force generation, which is a kind of a unique capability that NATO has to be able to put together force packages, to assemble them, to figure out what is needed, to marry up various capabilities of partners and allies, and to provide -- now, NATO is also, I think, providing --

 

            Q:  A planning tool, in other words.

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  It's a planning tool.  And it's also, you know -- and it was an important thing for NATO to be able to help a new NATO member like Poland, which has, you know, a very significant military, but that had not undertaken an operation like this on their own.  So it was good support for them.

 

            I believe NATO also in supporting in some other areas with some unique communications capability and things like that.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q:  You said, if I remember correctly, this seminar will be the first one of its kind – at least for the ministers.

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  I said it was the first one that I knew about.

 

            Q:  Yes.

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  But I hesitate, because to say something is unique -- you guys will probably find something that's similar, and then I -- (chuckles) --

 

            Q:  Yeah, but I think you said it's for the first time for the ministers.

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Yes.

 

            Q:  Yeah.  So I just want to ask why.  I mean, why now? Foreign ministers --

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Sure.  The -- you know, one of the things that I know has been an objective of the secretary-general is to try to -- just to reinvigorate the NATO meetings and make them more meaningful, make them more useful to the ministers.

 

            And this was our informal.  It was our opportunity to do something different.  You can do things at informals that are a little different.  And so we basically came up with the idea of a study seminar, I mean.  And so the -- that's -- one of the reasons we did it is we were trying to find a vehicle for -- that was more than just a meeting, if you will, for stimulating discussion on important topics.

 

            Now why this study seminar and why the particular scenario and that sort of thing?  That was really much focused on where the alliance is in terms of its transformation.  You know, in other words, what the -- the substance of it, if you will, is focused on illuminating those problems that need to be dealt with in the new security environment and that surround the sort of broad general area of transformation.

 

            With respect to NATO, that means the applicably of the NATO Response Force, the types of capabilities that are needed, the operational and political decision-making that support those, and the like.

 

            So that's really, you know, the two reasons, if you will, why now.

 

            Yeah?

 

            Q:  Could you say whether you think expansion of NATO ISAF forces outside of Kabul will be on the table, discussed in any substantive way, will get any serious debate at this meeting?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  I think that, again, there's going to be a broad discussion about Afghanistan.  There's going to be a discussion about how the -- how NATO is doing in terms of the stand-up of NATO operations in Kabul.  And I know in addition to that, that there's liable to also be some discussion about, you know, what other kinds of capabilities might be needed in the country.  I know in the past, the United States has discussed these provincial reconstruction teams as a vehicle for providing support and reconstruction in the provinces.  I imagine that will be discussed as well.

 

            So, yes, I think generally that will be a topic.  But again, there are not going to be any specific recommendations or decisions made.  This is an informal.

 

            Announcer:  Maybe one more question, and we can bring it to a close.

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Yes?

 

            Q:  In terms of the operations in the Balkans, will it be part of the U.S. agenda at this meeting for NATO to look, perhaps, at ways of drawing down those commitments in Kosovo and Bosnia as a way of alleviating the commitments that the U.S. has generally worldwide, the stretch?

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  I would put it another way, is I think that ministers are going to assess where we are in both SFOR and KFOR and then look at the implications of that for the kinds of forces we have there.  So, rather than looking at it from the standpoint of, you know, "What can we do to draw it down," more or less:  What is the political situation on the ground?  Clearly, none of the allies want to keep forces there longer than is necessary.  We have all said, "in together, out together."  But we've also all said that we would like to take those steps necessary to hasten the day where we will be able to move our forces out and create a more normal political environment in those places.

 

            So, what I would characterize the discussion as more of an assessment of where we are in Bosnia, where we are in Kosovo -- they're very different; and what are the implications of that for the kinds of forces that we have there, not only of troop levels, but also the character of those forces?  So, yeah, I think that will be very much a topic of discussion.

 

            Q:  Thank you.

 

            Sr. Defense Official:  Thank you very much.

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