United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


Press Conference with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at the NATO Informal Meeting of Defense Ministers at the St. Bernardin Hotel, Portoroz, Slovenia

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
September 28, 2006
            SEC. RUMSFELD: First, I want to thank my colleague, the minister of Defense of Slovenia, for his hospitality and for the wonderful hospitality of the people here. This country has certainly made impressive strides in political and economic as well as military since achieving independence now more than a decade ago. We in NATO appreciate the contributions that Slovenia is making to NATO and to Euro-Atlantic security, including contributing to operations in Afghanistan and in Iraq as well as Kosovo. 
            These gatherings of NATO members offer a good opportunity to reflect on the historical changes that have taken place in the alliance in recent times, certainly changes that have -- would have been completely unthinkable when I was ambassador to NATO back in 1973 and 1974. Consider that an alliance that was originally conceived and organized to deter a Soviet invasion of Western Europe in the past five years has done the following things.
            It has expanded membership to include a number of former Warsaw Pact nations in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. It has sent a NATO AWACS aircraft to the United States to help protect North America in the wake of a September 11th attack. It deployed thousands of troops now to Central Asia over the course of several rotations to assist the people of Afghanistan secure their very new democracy, and it has established a training mission in the heart of the Middle East to assist the military of a now-free Iraq. That is not only impressive; it is historic for this alliance.
            During our meeting, we discussed a number of important initiatives that will require some additional work on the part of NATO members in the weeks coming up between now and the summit meeting in Riga in November. The two most pressing items are ensuring that the International Security Assistance Force has the necessary resources and, I should add, as few caveats as possible, as it takes responsibility for Phase IV, Stage IV, in the eastern part of Afghanistan, which is a bold step forward for this alliance that will bring more than 12,000 additional U.S. troops under NATO command. And the second item that is pressing is the importance of fulfilling member commitments to the NATO Response Force so that the NRF will have sufficient troops, equipment and other capabilities to not only reach its initial operating capability, full operating capability this year, but also to sustain operations over the future rotations.
            I must say I was there when Minister [inaudible] came to -- I should add this, but -- he came to the NATO Council in Brussels -- I forget when it was; it was several months ago -- and urged the NATO nations to assist the Afghan security forces with training and equipping. And I was very encouraged today to learn of a number of new offers of troops and equipment that member nations have volunteered to assist the Afghans in equipping their forces.
            Tomorrow we will also discuss some additional initiatives in areas such as strategic airlift, which is going to be an impressive accomplishment for NATO; special operations forces; and a Middle East training initiative.
            In the aftermath of World War II and the opening phases of the Cold War, former Secretary of State of the United States Dean Acheson knew that many of the institutions that were put together in that period, that juncture between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, the institutions being put together by the allied nations -- not just NATO and the United Nations, but the World Bank and so many others -- would endure for a long time, and they have. And he would later entitle his memoirs "Present at the Creation."
            I believe the past few years have represented a similar juncture in history, where we're at the end of the Cold War and in the initial phases of the 21st century, the long -- what will prove to be a long struggle against violent extremists and a range of very complex, irregular and asymmetrical challenges. Such is the opportunity we have today to modernize and transform our institutions, including NATO.
            Arguably NATO is the most successful military alliance in history. I have no doubt that if NATO's members muster the political will and make the necessary adjustments and investments that we will be able to successfully deal with the challenges of this new era with the same success over time that the adversaries we dealt with in the past were faced down.
            I'd be happy to respond to a few questions. Yes, sir.
            Q     Mr. Rumsfeld, were there any more agreements that -- like of 2,000 or 2,500 --
            SEC. RUMSFELD: I'm sorry; could you speak a little louder?
            Q     Sure. (Name inaudible) -- from German television.
            SEC. RUMSFELD: You're what?
            Q     (Name inaudible) -- that's my name, from German television -- (inaudible).
            SEC. RUMSFELD: Greetings.
            Q     Okay. Mr. Rumsfeld, were there any nations that said they would send some more soldiers into the south of Afghanistan? And -- because, if my memory serves me right, there is a lack of up to 2,500 soldiers that are missing and --
            SEC. RUMSFELD: Where is the ambassador to NATO from the United States? There you are. The answer's yes, is it not?
            STAFF: (Off mike.)
            SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah, I do not want to say which ones they were or how many troops, because that's for them to say. But the short answer to your question is yes. I know that's unsatisfactory. (Laughter.)
            Q     Okay. Let me just ask one more question, please.
            Do you expect Germany to go into the south --
            SEC. RUMSFELD: I have no expectations about any nation. I've always believed that each nation should do that which they feel comfortable doing. Each nation has a different history, a different background, different parliaments, and they make those decisions themselves and it's not for another country to tell them what to do or even suggest it publicly. And I shan't.
            Yes, Kristen.
            Q     I know that you don't want to name countries specifically, Mr. Secretary, but can you give us an idea of the progress that's been made in fulfilling the shortfalls in both troops and equipment in the south of Afghanistan and on reducing caveats?
            SEC. RUMSFELD: I have been -- I can recall one instance today where a country told me that they had not accomplished it yet, but they believe they have the ability to eliminate caveats. And I have heard secondhand of another country that believes they can.
            There's a good deal of pressure on it. It is very difficult for a commander managing the forces from, what, 35 or 40 different countries -- NATO nations as well as non-NATO nations -- when he is not able to move forces around and to have them go where they're needed, when they're needed to do the things that needed to be done. And it is perfectly understandable, if one thinks about it, for a country, a parliament, a government, a ministry, a president, prime minister just to feel, ‘Well, I'd prefer our people didn't do this that or the other thing.’
            But the aggregation of that is a situation that's really not acceptable, and as a result, the commanders have been very strong and they're urging to have the caveats and restrictions lifted. A good deal of progress has been made. I believe a little more progress was made today, and we'll just have to keep working the problem.
            On equipment -- you asked about, too -- there were -- I'm going to round it out, but in terms equipment -- for example, the Afghan security forces -- there were in rough numbers thousands of weapons offered up, and I believe a couple of -- probably millions of rounds of ammunition to go with the weapons. And I was really quite encouraged by the -- how many nations were forthcoming in -- with respect to equipment. And others mentioned training as well.
            I think it's best to leave to General -- the Supreme Allied Commander, General Jones, to comment on how he's doing with respect to the bill of particulars that he outlined as appropriate. There's no issue with respect to stage four, in either forces or equipment, because they're there in place. It would be just filling out the remainder of three, I think.
            Yes? Here comes the mike.
            Q    Mr. Secretary of Defense, can NATO afford to walk out of this meeting without having concrete numbers of concrete countries offering troops for the south of Afghanistan?
            SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't even understand the basis for the question. NATO has made a decision to assume responsibility for security -- aspects of security in Afghanistan. They have sequentially taken over the north and the west and the south. And they have -- I believe it's correct to say, I think Jaap said it -- they've agreed today to take over the eastern portion, the fourth stage. And they're obviously going to keep on working to round out the things they believe they need. But there isn't any problem. There's no challenge or threat, if that's the implication of your question, something horrible's going to happen. It isn't.
            Q     General Jones pointed out that there were about at least 2,000 troops needed to reinforce the --
            SEC. RUMSFELD: And that was discussed in there today. And my -- I think it's reasonable to assume that the additional troops will come over time and they'll be fine.
            Q     Mr. Secretary, Jim Mannion from Agence France-Presse. Once the transfer of U.S. troops occurs, will those troops or will U.S. troops need to be used to backfill those gaps that remain in the south?
            SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, what will happen is the commander will have at his disposal something like 32,000 troops in the country. A relatively small number have restrictions as to where they can be, and a relatively small -- geographic restriction, and a relatively small number have restrictions with respect to what they can do. And I'm not the commander, but I think it's reasonable to say that what the commander will do is he will make judgments as to how he wants those forces arrayed. And to the extent the facts on the ground call for x, y or z, a good commander would see that he adjusted his tactics and his techniques and his procedures and the allocation of forces in a way that's appropriate. 
            The enemy's got a brain. The enemy obviously decided that once NATO went in, NATO would be a soft touch. And so they went after NATO. And they were surprised. And NATO was not soft, NATO was hard. And NATO pushed him back, and he didn't like it. And they've learned something.   We know that because of what happened on the ground, and we also know that from other means, that it's going to be a difficult thing for them if they think that they can avoid the United States forces or the British forces that are involved beyond what NATO is doing in ISAF and think of the NATO forces -- ISAF forces as an easy target, because they're just not. They're going to do a good job.
            But the commander's going to make judgments about it. What the judgments will be will depend on what the enemy decides to do, what the facts on the ground are, as has always been the case. No change.
            Q     Mr. Rumsfeld, what influence will today's decision have -- about expansion of NATO mission on the eastern part of Afghanistan -- have on American forces and the United States?
            SEC. RUMSFELD: I think the -- it's bad to use numbers, but I think it helps -- because numbers are going to change, depending on the situation. But basically, my recollection is that the United States currently has in Afghanistan somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000 troops. The U.S. will have, after Stage 4, in the International Security Assistance Force, I believe, plus or minus 12,000 forces as part of the NATO International Security Assistance Force. The total ISAF, without the United States, is about 18,000. So that gets you up to plus or minus 20,000, I guess --
            STAFF: 30,000.
            SEC. RUMSFELD: -- 30,000 for NATO ISAF. And I think it's about 31,000, 32,000 total ISAF, once we're in it. And we, then, will have the remainder -- as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, the remainder of U.S. forces separate. 
            And there are some other countries that have separate forces there, just as there are some other countries that are assisting in various Provincial Reconstruction Teams and the like.
            Q     Peter Miller (sp) from European Security and Defense. Mr. Rumsfeld, what is your opinion about the outcome of this conference as a signal for the upcoming Riga summit?
            SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we just had one day. We're going to have a meeting tomorrow. I'm quite encouraged, myself. I think that moving from -- completing the Stage 4 sometime in the days or weeks ahead, depending on the commander's decision, is certainly a plus. It's an important and historic responsibility for the NATO alliance. 
            As I mentioned earlier, I think that the progress that's been made with respect to assuring that NATO will have some airlift, strategic airlift, is a significant thing. It's an enabler that's needed. But in addition, it is an example of NATO addressing a real problem, and people stepping up, providing the funds and the decisions, political decisions, to move forward with it. The NATO Response Force, at that point where it is declared fully operational, will be a capability for this alliance that will be a 21st century capability that will be relevant.
            I think the lead-up towards Riga will be a positive one. I think it will be a good session.
            Q     Mr. Secretary, are you at all concerned about some of the controversy surrounding the NIE report? Is there any validity to the argument that terrorists are being created by the war in Iraq now?
            SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, I'm a little reluctant to talk too much about it. I have been gone since this document was leaked, and I've not studied what was declassified -- which portion of it was declassified. I will say this generally -- it's on a macro-basis about intelligence.
            Every day people [inaudible] policy decisions get staked like this of intelligence reports, and they -- their value is uneven. Fair enough. Information -- often qualified on the one hand this, on the other hand that, because it's a difficult business, and they're out there trying to know more than they otherwise would know. And so they use a variety of sources of information, open sources, classified sources; they share information among allies. I don't know if it's 80 or 90 countries now sharing information in the global war on terror. And frankly, sometimes it's just flat wrong what's in there. It turns out not to be right, and that's fair enough too.
            But in this instance, it seems to me that the -- what the president has said about it and what he has released is what it is, and I would take it at face value. I think that the -- there are -- now, folks, the other part of your question: Are more terrorists being created in the world? We don't know. The world doesn't know. There are not good metrics to determine how many people are being trained in a radical madrassa school in some country that's being funded by an extremist teaching young people to go out and kill people. We just -- there's no metric that you can gather all of that information and pull it together and know what's being produced.
            We do have a pretty good idea on the number being captured and killed. I wrote a memo that also leaked about three years ago saying exactly this and that it's unfortunate you can't know with greater precision. But it -- the point is real; the point is that there are people who are funding and training people to murder, kill, terrorize, all through the behavior of free people.
            Their goal is clear, and they say it. And you can go on the Internet and read it. It isn't ambiguous. Their goal is to ultimately re-establish a caliphate in this world, stretching across Africa and Europe and the Middle East and into Asia. It is to topple any Muslim regime that doesn't agree with their extremist philosophy and ideology and replace them with extremists. And it's to alter the behavior of free people who don't agree with their view of the world.
            Now, over time, how will they do? They will fail. Ultimately, they will fail. On any given day or any given week or any given month, is the pool going up or down? The implication that if you stop killing or capturing people who are trying to kill you, that therefore the world would be a better place is obviously nonsensical.
            On the other hand, it is not possible to know the answer to the question as to any given event. We can't know, for -- they're very good at manipulating the media. They do it every day. They have media committees. They sit down and they then try to measure how successful they've been by a video they put out or by beheading somebody on a television program. They then try to say, "Did that work or not? Are we getting more recruits? Are we raising more money? Are we discouraging the people we're up against, free people who don't want to be ruled by a handful of clerics?" And they're calculating all of that. And there are multiple forces. 
            And anyone who thinks that there is a single answer or a single reason or a silver bullet that's going to solve the problem can't be right. It's too complex. It's going to take time, and it's going to take a lot of work by a lot of people who are patient and who believe in freedom.
            Thank you, folks.

Additional Links

Stay Connected