Pentagon Ceremony Marks Kuwait as Major Non-NATO Ally
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 1, 2004 The United States and Kuwait pledged today to stand by each other, marking the pledge with a Pentagon ceremony in honor of Kuwait being designated a major non-NATO ally of America.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the Kuwaiti defense minister and foreign minister that they "honor us by joining us in alliance with our country, and by your commitment to our mutual security."
A full honor ceremony was scheduled for the Pentagon's parade ground, but torrential rain moved activities inside. Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheik Muhammad Sabah al-Hamad al Sabah said that in his country rain is regarded as a good omen.
Rumsfeld told Defense Minister Sheik Jabir Mubarak al-Hamad al Sabah and the foreign minister that Americans are grateful for Kuwait's friendship. "We thank both of you and your country for all you have done and are doing to defend freedom in this dangerous new century," he said.
While U.S.-Kuwait friendship goes back to the founding of the Persian Gulf nation in 1961, it took on new meaning in 1990 when Saddam Hussein's troops invaded the oil-rich nation. In 1991, the United States led a coalition that expelled Iraqi troops.
"On Sept. 11, 2001, it was the United States that suffered a brutal act of aggression, and in America's hours of need, Kuwait was there, a steadfast friend and ally, and a critical member of the coalition in the global war on terror," Rumsfeld said.
Kuwait also supported Operation Iraqi Freedom and allowed troops of the coalition to stage out of northern Kuwait into Iraq last year. "Kuwait has been at the forefront of the coalition efforts to help the Iraqi people take hold of their country and begin their recovery from decades of repression," Rumsfeld said.
Kuwait joins Japan, Jordan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Bahrain, Egypt, Argentina and Israel as designated major non-NATO allies of the United States. Pakistan will become a major non-NATO ally April 22.
"Joining together in this fashion as formal allies conveys not only the deepest respect, but also durable responsibilities, and that's entirely appropriate," said Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage at the ceremony. "Indeed, today we are not truly embarking on a new relationship; we are recognizing a long- standing and strong partnership, one founded on mutual strategic interests and long-term security, and forged in the hot fires of war as well as liberation."
The Kuwaiti defense minister thanked Rumsfeld and Armitage for their comments and the United States for the honor. He said the designation "reflects the warm and close relationships between our two countries."
Sheik Jabir said it is the shared beliefs and value systems that have allowed the United States and Kuwait to stand together in the Middle East. "This alliance between us will continue and will become stronger as we proceed in our war against all forms of extremism and terrorism," he said.
Sheik Muhammad said the United States can count on Kuwait as it continues operations in Iraq and against terrorist groups around the world. "You can count on us to continue to stand beside you and to fight for the birth of a new Iraq, an Iraq that would stand as the enlightenment and stability in our region," he said. "You can also be certain and count on us that we will be standing beside you in the war against terrorism, and against those who would like to hijack and kidnap our religion and tarnish it, and to use it for evil intentions.
"Together we will fight those people and we will defeat them, and we will defeat the terrorists."