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Press Availability with Secretary Rumsfeld and Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader from the Pentagon

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
October 17, 2006
             SEC. RUMSFELD: Prime Minister, would you step up here? The prime minister and I just had a good visit. We're always delighted to have him here in the United States and to have a chance to work on interests and activities and issues and common interests, and I hope that you'll come back often.
 
            PRIME MIN. SANADER: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. We had a very fruitful discussion. I informed Secretary Rumsfeld on our preparation to join NATO and EU in a couple of years' time. And I informed him also of my talks with President Bush earlier this day, and I'm very grateful to Secretary Rumsfeld, who has always been a very strong supporter of Croatia joining NATO. And we discussed also the situation in the region and the role of Croatia and U.S. in this part of the world. So it was a very fruitful meeting.
 
            I invited Secretary Rumsfeld to visit Croatia. He's already been once, and I'm looking forward to greet him again in Croatia.
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you very much.
 
            If you're comfortable taking a couple of questions, why --
 
            Q    Mr. Secretary, what did you say to Prime Minister Sanader in regard, are you satisfied with the reforms that are going on and answering to the challenges toward Euro-Atlantic integration, how Croatia is addressing that?
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: I'm very positive. I personally believe that NATO has benefited greatly by having the enlargement that we've undertaken, and I am a person who is very positive on bringing in additional countries as they prepare themselves for entry into NATO. And I've been impressed with the reforms that have been undertaken in Croatia and the progress that's been made. And we offered to be of any assistance we can in assisting them to get on a path so that they will be -- have the best possible opportunity. And I'm hopeful that there will be a signal out of the Riga conference that the alliance is interested in some additional enlargement.
 
            Q    Prime Minister, did you have a chance to talk about the regional -- the situation in the region with Secretary Rumsfeld?
 
            PRIME MIN. SANADER: Yes, of course. Secretary Rumsfeld and I, we discussed the situation in the region. We know there's still some unfinished businesses in our part of the world. There is still the final status of Kosovo, possible changes of the constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina. What we want is to find the stabilization, political stabilization of the region that's in our best interests, that's in the best interests of Europe and the United States of America.
 
            Q    Have you discussed enlargements -- missions to Afghanistan or -- have you discussed enlargement of our missions to Afghanistan or anywhere else?
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: We talked about the fact that Croatia has been active in providing security and various types of assistance in a number of instances in the world, and certainly in Afghanistan. And we've been pleased with the contributions they've made. And anything beyond that would be up to the prime minister to discuss.
 
            Q    Sir, have you been able to make any commitments to enlarge your participation in the global war on terrorism?
 
            PRIME MIN. SANADER: Yes, Croatia is a part of the international alliance, anti-terrorist alliance, and we've been through very difficult times in the '90s. We know what does it mean, international terrorism. What Milosevic did in former Yugoslavia, first against the -- (audio break) -- terrorism. So we are part of the anti-terrorist coalition.
 
            Q    Mr. Secretary -- (audio break) -- has the ability to end sectarian violence in Iraq?
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: I can come back after if you want to ask questions on other subjects. But --
 
            Q    Have you discussed Article 98 with the prime minister?
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: It didn't come up, but obviously it is something that the United States is interested in. We believe that the International Criminal Court agreement provides for Article 98 arrangements, and we just did not happen to bring it up in this meeting.
 
            Q    Mr. Prime Minister, have you met with the --
 
            Q    Mr. Secretary, did you talk about other frameworks --
 
            Q    -- why in particular did you want to meet with Secretary Rumsfeld? What, if any, sort of assistance are you seeking from the Defense Department?
 
            PRIME MIN. SANADER: Yes, you know that our two main goals in the foreign policy is NATO membership and EU membership. And we are in the -- (inaudible) -- process with our minister of defense, so it's a very logical and very useful meeting with Secretary Rumsfeld. We already met two years ago in Zagreb. We met also on some other occasions. And I didn't want to miss this opportunity, and I'm very grateful to Secretary Rumsfeld that he found the time to meet with me.
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: And you know that he's a military -- (inaudible) -- (laughter).
 
            Q    Mr. Prime Minister, could you give us a statement in your local language, as well, summarize the meeting?
 
            (Cross talk.)
 
            PRIME MIN. SANADER: (Serbo-Croatian not translated.)
 
            (Cross talk.)
 
            Q    Do you think the Iraqi government has the ability to end the sectarian violence?
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it will be the Iraqi people ultimately. And when you think of the -- (inaudible) -- voted for the constitution, referendum and then the elections, they clearly -- the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people want to have a unity government, and they want to live at peace with their neighbors. It doesn't take a lot of people to stimulate sectarian violence, if you think of the attack on the golden dome was clearly calculated to do just that.
 
            And I think the goal of the government obviously is to have the combination of the issue of federalism resolved in a way that's comfortable for all elements in the country for the reconciliation process to go forward in a manner that results in solutions that are comfortable for all elements -- the Kurds and the Shi'a and the Sunni -- and to have the central government continue to interact with the people in a way that people can see some progress. Now, will that over time reduce the sectarian violence? It should.
 
            Q    You're confident that that will?
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: That is clearly what the intention is of the Iraqi government. It's what the coalition forces are about. And what we've seen is, not surprisingly, the enemy has a brain, and they use it. And they constantly adapt and adjust to what we do; and, vice versa, we constantly adapt and adjust to what they do. And it is regrettable, but it is a fact, that the situation in Iraq today – maybe, well, I can't -- 85 or 90 percent of the violence is occurring within 30 miles of Baghdad. And that is where the international community is, that is where the press is, that is where the seat of the government is, that's where the coalition forces and their embassies are. And, as a result, the situation is being graded, if you will, on what's going on within 30 miles of Baghdad. Overwhelmingly in the country that is not what's happening. The violence levels are relatively low in almost every other part of the country. And yet the sectarian violence is taking a toll. That's just a fact. It's easy to kill civilians and women and children. And the enemies are smart on how to manipulate the press, they're smart at how to create conflict. So they select their targets carefully.
 
            Q    Mr. Secretary, James Baker has gone on the record saying that he is open to the United States reaching out to Iran and to Syria, helping out to ease the violence within Iraq. Is that something that you are in favor of as well?
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: I'm in favor of what the president decides in that regard. Clearly the president and Secretary Rice are the ones that wrestle with those issues and make judgments about them, and it is quite clear that neither Iran nor Syria have been helpful. It obviously would be vastly better from the standpoint of the Iraqi people were there to be -- at least not unhelpful at the start -- but they have been unhelpful.
 
            Q    Is that something that you would recommend or you would support?
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I give my recommendations on things that are outside the Department of Defense's area -- I tend to give personally to the president.
 
            Q    Do you agree with Senator Warner and Ambassador Khalilzad that the Iraqi government probably has two or three months left to make a go of it?
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I'm not in the predictive business like that. I would have no way to say how many months they have. They have a tough job. They've been in office with their ministers appointed for something shorter than a normal baseball season, and -- not long. And the things that Prime Minister Maliki has facing -- they're tough. And if you think about it, he demonstrated a good deal of courage and wisdom, in my view, by resisting the pressure he received to appoint people to the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior who were -- I'll use the word political as opposed to professional -- and he resisted that. And when he got his cabinet appointed, he picked out priorities, and one priority was Baghdad, and another priority was reconciliation. Another priority was to go to Sistani and talk about dealing with the militias. All three are the right priorities, by my standard.
 
            Now, it's easier to talk about them than to do them, admittedly. But I do think that he's very much on the right track. He supports his government. It's the government of the Iraqi people. And we want to see him succeed.
 
            Q    Do you think that any policy or strategy changes are needed to move that process ahead more quickly?
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you know, what's happening is we've got a situation where it's not possible to lose militarily. It is also going to require more than simply military power to prevail and to have the government succeed. They're simply going to have to be successful in big governance issues. They're going to have to have some provincial elections, for example, at some point. They're going to have to get the parliament to act on some of their key legislative things. They have negotiations going on now with various center groups which have promise. And it's going to take all of those things together. It is not a military -- they're not fighting armies, navies or air forces over there. They've got a situation where, as I've said, a relatively small geographic area with a rather large population you have the contest being fought out in the media and among civilians in large measures, which is a difficult set of problems.
 
            Q    Is there anything on the security side that you and General Abizaid and General Casey could do to help push the ball forward more quickly?
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: General Casey and the commanders under him, General Chiarelli and others, are constantly changing their tactics, their techniques and their procedures as the nature of the enemy has evolved and as the enemy has adjusted to what we're doing. And so it's a constant set of changes. You know, when you think about it, we've gone from a situation where we were training Iraqi troops -- from a military standpoint now -- we've constantly been in the process of seeking out the al Qaeda and finding them, and we do it every day, every night, every day. Our people are out there capturing or killing al Qaeda leaders and terrorists leaders and insurgent leaders.
 
            But, in addition, we were training and then equipping the Iraqi security forces. We then -- (audio break) -- and the senior noncommissioned officer ranks and the junior officer ranks with the Iraqi Defense Ministry forces. We were not allowed to do it with the police forces until very recently. Now we're doing it with the police forces as well.
 
            The net effect of that has been absolutely terrific. I mean, there is no question that the competence and the capability of the Iraqi security forces, particularly in their Ministry of Defense, has improved dramatically because of the work of these fine young Americans that are embedded -- they live with them, they eat with them, and they're very proud and confident that what they're doing works.
 
            I was at Bethesda Naval Hospital on Saturday before the Air Force Memorial, and talked to one of the young Marines who was there wounded. And he just looked up at me and said, "If they'll just give us time, we're making it. We're doing it. It's happening." And he just feels so strongly about it.
 
            Q    Could you do something -- (inaudible) -- sir? I mean, General Casey said the other day he has things he needs for the mission he's been given. What if you were given the mission of getting the job done in 18 months or some time frame? That might change the equation. Or is it just something that can't be rushed?
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: We have rushed it. We have taken the -- General Dempsey many, many, many months ago -- I said, "Well, show me a graph with each task you have to get done for the Ministry of Defense forces and the Ministry of Interior forces and show the date it's due that you're going to be able to make it with the current Iraqi budget, our current budget, your current manpower." And he showed it to me and I said, "Oops, not good enough." So send them to the left, come back in a couple of weeks and give me a report. He came back and he moved almost all of them well to the left. So it has been accelerating.
 
            As General Casey has said, the police part of it is well behind, and that's why he said 2006 had to be the year of the police, because we didn't get involved with the police until then -- But -- and the police are going to need, as you've undoubtedly read, General Casey has decided to take each unit off line – re-vet them -- make sure these people are the people you want, and evaluate the leadership, give them new uniforms and stick them back out with embeds -- so you can keep track of what you're doing and provide the kind of assistance that we have.
 
            Thank you, folks.
 
            Q    Can you tell us what that timeline was in General Dempsey's chart?
 
            SEC. RUMSFELD: There were about 15 different lines. And within -- when this would be done and then that would be done, and then the combat support would be finished, and then that thing would be completed and each division -- it was a very long complicated set of lines. And there was a star for when -- where it was going to be. And I looked at it and it was well into '07, and I just said, "Goodness gracious, we need to find a way to accelerate that." So we did. He came back with a proposal, and it's now being implemented, and it's a much shorter time frame.
 
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