United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Transcript


Senior Defense Official on France NATO Ministerial

Presenter: Senior Defense Official
February 07, 2005

            A:            I think I've met most of you, traveled with most of you with a couple of exceptions.

 

            Q:            Josh White with the Washington Post.

 

            Q:            Tony Capra with NIC.

 

            A:            What I thought I would do is kind of run through some of my notes that I've put together in preparation for this in terms of events and the kind of key subjects that we'd be looking at.

 

            As you're aware, the Secretary is going to depart tomorrow evening to attend the NATO informal defense ministers' meeting in Nice which is taking place on the 9th and 10th.  This is the first time France has hosted a NATO defense ministerial meeting.  It's an informal meeting, but it's still a defense ministers' meeting.

 

            In addition to ministers of defense, chiefs of defense will also, from the 26 nations, will also attend the Nice ministerial, and Russian Minister of Defense Ivanov will be in Nice to attend a NATO/Russia Council meeting.

 

            Just a few remarks before I go into the details.  I think that this meeting combined, this trip by the Secretary combined with the Secretary of State's trip to Europe and the President's trip to Europe is all very consistent with the major emphasis that this administration has put on the importance of NATO.  Not just using NATO, but making it more useable.  We've seen it in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We're developing great partnerships with a number of countries -- the Caucasus in Central Asia, Ukraine.  So I just would have you kind of keep that in mind as we look at some of these initiatives that we'll be talking about.

 

            We have established this is on background, right?

 

            Q:            Yes ma'am.

 

            A:            On Afghanistan, of course you know that both Afghanistan and Iraq have had their successful historic democratic elections, and in Afghanistan the alliance played a key role in helping to provide security for the October presidential elections.  NATO is hoping to provide assistance for parliamentary elections in the spring as well.

 

            NATO continues to make progress, expanding the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).  There are approximately 8300 troops from 36 countries including all 26 NATO allies participating in ISAF.

 

            While I can't make any announcements today because it's up to countries to announce this, but we expect that there will be confirmation of some significant offers from several countries to lead Provincial Reconstruction Teams in western Afghanistan which is known as stage two in terms of our expansion efforts there.

 

            Turkey next week takes command of ISAF for six months, should that be of interest to you.

 

            In terms of stage three which involves southern Afghanistan, a number of nations are also expressing interest in leading PRTs.

 

            Q:            How many PRT’s are there now?

 

            A:            I knew I should have pulled that up.  There are 13 U.S. -- We'll look that up by the time we're done with this.  I've got it on a chart.  I think we're at 19 but I just want to double check that, and we will be at, if things happen the way we expect, I think we'll be at 21 or 22.  I think we're at 19, but Scott will check that.

 

            The NATO training mission in Iraq.  In short, just to kind of recap the basically three ways that allies can contribute to NATO's effort in Iraq.  One is through troops in the NATO training mission; two is through equipment or funds; three is to participate in training outside of Iraq.

 

            Given that these elections were successful and were kind of in a new phase, we think there's going to be an even greater interest in participating in this effort.  It's a very important effort. 

 

            NATO is currently, as you may all know, providing support to the Polish multi-led division, also performing stability operations in center/south.

 

            NATO, if I can go into the training mission for a minute.  There are currently 84 NATO officers training members of the Ministries of Defense and Interior and the Iraqi Joint Headquarters staff in Baghdad.  NATO still plans to set up a training center in Arisamaya [ph], but the immediate focus now is to increase the number of trainers within the green zone.  NATO's in the process of securing more offers to do so.

 

            Members of the Iraqi security forces are also attending courses at NATO schools in Europe.

 

            One of the other things the alliance has done is set up a clearinghouse effort, basically a training and equipment coordination group in Brussels.  The group has received equipment donations from a number of allies -- Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia.  The Hungarian contribution is particularly large, 77 T-72 tanks and ammo.  We can get you details on the others as well.  Also Iceland and Luxembourg have provided significant contributions to trust funds for this effort.  These donations are making a difference and are very  much appreciated.

 

            That's going to be another subject.

 

            I should have maybe started with this.  When you look at the way this meeting's going to go in Nice, we're going to have the operational side which is what I've gone into, but also we're going to look at some of the transformational issues that still are very important to what we're doing within the alliance.

 

            We've got several initiatives underway at NATO to improve deployability of forces including development of metrics to assess the usability of allied forces, the development of comprehensive political guidance that would provide direction to NATO planning disciplines such as communications, logistics, armaments cooperation and force planning.

 

            One of the other issues that is very important is the question of national caveats.  We expect that this Secretary will continue to press with some of his other allies, colleagues, to eliminate national caveats, restrictions nations place on their forces participating in NATO missions which hinder essentially the ability of NATO commanders to conduct these missions.

 

            On the NATO reform front, we of course went through a military command structure reform effort.  We continue to support the idea of transforming headquarters staff at NATO as well.  We believe the alliance can have greater efficiency and achieve resources savings in at least three areas:  NATO committees, some of which we believe are quite outdated, some back from the early '60s, late '50s for example; staffs; and agencies.  Also NATO has four budget committees and they use four different accounting systems.  That's a very concrete example of something we think should be fixed.

 

            There are some NATO committees that don't support core functions.  There's a science committee, an economics committee that when we looked into it it was originally set up to study Warsaw Pact economies which speaks for itself.  There's a committee on the challenges of modern society.  I still haven't figured out what they really do, but that was set up I think in 1959? 

 

            Voice:  1972. 

 

            A:            1972.  Anyway, we think we need to have a complete review of all these issues and a number of our allied colleagues agree, and so now that we've tackled the military command structure we hope we can tackle this as well.

 

            In terms of the actual schedule, there's a ministers only working dinner on Wednesday evening; a North Atlantic Council Meeting on Thursday; a working lunch on Thursday; and then the last big item is the NATO/Russia Council Meeting with Minister of Defense Ivanov.

 

            The Secretary will also have a number of bilateral meetings with allied ministers of defense.  They're not all confirmed.  We can get you more when we get there, except for of course this meeting with the NATO Secretary General which is usually one of the first things he does when he gets there.

 

            Those are the big ticket items, operational and transformational.  So if you have any questions, I'll be happy to do the best I can.

 

            Q:            This is the first time this has been held in France.  How does that work?  I mean how do the countries decide where this meeting -- Is it significant that France is holding it at this point now?  Or is it just luck of the draw?

 

            A:            First, countries have to volunteer to host them.  I believe even though this schedule was set up probably about a year ago, so that offer was made about a year ago.  But generally it's not proposed by the 26.  A country steps up and says I want to do this.

 

            Q:            Is there some significance -- Do you all see some significance in France wanting to host this at this time?

 

            A:            Well this was a year ago so I'd have to go back to see if there was something going on in the last year or -- I can't answer that, I'm sorry.

 

            Q:            How many NATO trainers are now out there both in Iraq and outside of the country?  I know there's been some concern expressed recently that they haven't done enough.

 

            A:            Right.

 

            Q:            Is that something that Rumsfeld with the --

 

            A:            I'll get you the exact numbers because I don't have the combined numbers.  I can do that following this meeting, we can get you that figure.

 

            Yeah, we'd like countries to do more.  The Secretary General is pressing for them to do more.  The expectation is with the elections having gone well that there will be a willingness to do more.  But again, in three areas because not everyone can do the same thing or do it as well, so the idea that you'd have training in Iraq, training outside of Iraq, or equipment and funds.

 

            Q:            The Director of Civil Military Affairs in Afghanistan today said, if I read it right, that they're looking at bringing down some of the PRTs because their work is complete and they're not needed anymore.  Is that true?  If so, does the apparent success of these bode well for efforts to get NATO to participate in more?

 

            A:            I haven't seen that report so I can't comment on that.  I do think that the approach that NATO took was to over time go to kind of fill out in the more kind of challenging areas of Afghanistan, so stage two being the west and then stage three being in the south.

 

            I don't want to speculate on the report, but this may have been a report from an area where there have been U.S. PRTs from the beginning or whatever, but we can look into that and I can ask my colleague Bill Luti who follows this more closely to get back to you on it.

 

            Q:            Do you expect any more serious discussion about merging the American and NATO forces?

 

            A:            I expect discussion.  I don't expect any major decision on integration.  I think there needs to be a discussion of what would be involved in that.  In principle I think the Secretary's been on the record in the past and other administration officials saying this would be at some point in time a good idea -- ISAF/OEF integration.  I assume there will be more discussion on this but I don't expect any major decision at this informal.

 

            Q:            In Romania I think there was talk that between then and down there would be some kind of maybe an informal blueprint or a study of how NATO may take over the mission.  Do you know if that study is complete and will be presented here?

 

            A:            Shape has been involved in looking at a number of these questions.  Again, I expect there will be some discussion.  There might even be a discussion of various options.  But I don't expect any decision at this point.  There are a number of significant things that NATO countries will have to talk about in terms of a common approach, everything to rules of engagement.  There are all these kinds of issues that need to be discussed in detail.

 

            Q:            What are some examples of these national caveats that you'd like to see eliminated?

 

            A:            I'll give you an example from Kosovo in March and then I'll give you a more recent example with Iraq.

 

            In Kosovo last March commanders were hampered by the fact that some countries didn't do riot control; some countries did not allow their forces to cross sector boundaries because KFOR is divided into sectors.  So they couldn't use some of their troops in the areas where they were, but they couldn't bring in troops from other areas who maybe could do the same thing.

 

            After this experience, NATO did a lessons learned study to see what would have been the consequence if they didn't have it and how did you handle this.  A number of countries have removed their restrictions with respect to that.  So that's on one level, that's kind of operationally.

 

            The other issue that has arisen for the first time as I understand it in really the alliance's experience is that some countries who have headquarters staff, who have their military serving in NATO headquarters staff, have instructed them not to deploy to Iraq.  And what that means is that the commitment has been made by NATO to do something in Istanbul.  This is not about countries' individual forces or units participating, but the actual headquarters staff.  So the general officer who may have some responsibility for training in this area is told you can't go, even though you're part of the headquarters staff, which has been a big problem for General Jones to contend with.  That hasn't happened before.

 

            It didn't happen, for example, during the Kosovo bombing, even though there were a number of countries who were very opposed to that and didn't participate in that sense, in particular Greece I think.  If you go back, and this is before I was in this position, but I think it's a useful anecdote.  The country didn't support the bombing in Kosovo, the public very much opposed to it but didn't pull out or didn't prevent any of their Greek officers in NATO's staff to plan or to participate in NATO headquarters functions.

 

            Q:            These problems, do they seem to be coming from the political civilian leadership, not within the military?

 

            A:            Right, and that's a concern, politicizing the military structure.

 

            Q:            -- countries that opted out or instructed their people, and to what practical extent does that disrupt the training effort?

 

            A:            I need to get back to you.  I have to see whether or not I can list the countries publicly.  We know who they are, but I have to get back to you on that one.

 

            Q:            What about its practical impact?

 

            A:            Practical impact, my understanding, and I don't want to be definitive on this.  I may have to get back to you, but it's somewhere on the order of the headquarters staff positions that are affected is somewhere on the order of I think 20 percent.  It's significant.  But I'll get back to you on the details of that.

 

            Q:            Have they been told not to go to Iraq or not to participate in any activities in planning these things?

 

            A:            Some both.

 

            Q:            Both ways?

 

            A:            Some.  Of course you can't plan for most of these things, and you can't send a survey team to plan something -- I mean most of the time you send people out to review it even if they're doing most of the stuff at Shape.

 

            Q:            Do you expect that to be a pretty contentious issue?

 

            A:            I think that there's a desire to move forward and not to go through this again, so I don't know if we can fix it with respect to where we are on Iraq, but I think for the future in particular this is something that needs to get fixed and you just don't want to be in that position.  You don't know what the issue is next time, but if you've got countries want these billets, they're highly coveted, they lobby for them, they get them, and then you need to be able to expect that they can do their job when they're there.  You may want to see if you can, when you're in Nice you may be able to get some time with General Jones and get his thoughts on that.

 

            Q:            How many countries is it?  You said you weren't sure if you could list them.

 

            A:            I think it's about five.  I'm pretty sure it's five.

 

            Q:            Are you expecting any noticeable change in the policies of some of the anti-war countries like Germany and France in terms of what they're going to be willing to do on Iraq training and reconstruction?

 

            A:            Germany has already contributed 100 or so trucks to the training effort.  I do think that with the successful elections that there is going to be probably a greater enthusiasm about doing more on the part of some countries that were maybe reticent.

 

            I think we're in a somewhat kind of new phase.

 

            Q:            Do you expect them to agree to send their people into the country?

 

            A:            I'm not going to make those predictions, I don't know.  But again, there are three basically ways you can valuably contribute.  They're also training, I believe, outside of Iraq.

 

            Q:            I wonder if I could ask you a non-trip question.  General William Moore was named today to be the point man for security in the Israeli/Palestinian situation.  I was wondering if you could shed any light on what exactly he's going to be doing and why he was selected.

 

            A:            I don't have a clue.  I'm sorry.  It's not my area.  If it had been --

 

            One other thing, it's been announced already but there will be a NATO/Ukraine summit with Yuschenko on February 22nd.

 

            Q:            What are your expectations for the meeting with the Russian Defense Minister?

 

            A:            I think we've been generally, the alliance has been working in a direction of more practical cooperation in areas such as counter-terrorism.  They also, the Russians would like to have greater interoperability of NATO forces on peacekeeping.  They're creating a special peacekeeping brigade that would be interoperable.  So I don't see anything dramatic but I think we're going to continue in this direction talking about those kinds of issues which I think we're very supportive of.  It's a good idea to increase our interoperability, especially on the peacekeeping front.

 

            Q:            What's the impact of the concerns over Russia's domestic political policy and the seeming tightening and crackdown?  What's the impact of that on our ability to do those things that you're talking about?

 

            A:            The things I'm talking about are really military to military activities.  I think that the issues you're talking about are really much more in the purview of the State Department.  I would send you there.  I think Dr. Rice made some comments over the weekend, so I would not even try to elaborate.

 

            Q:            -- doesn't make us more or less willing or interested in performing these kind of cooperative exercises with them or cooperation with them?

 

            A:            I think we look at these particular kinds of cooperation on their own merits.  If we can work together in places where you need relief for stability operations, I mean look at the tsunami relief effort.  We worked closely in that kind of an environment.  I really see them on their own merits.  But again, I would direct you to the Secretary of State for how she's characterized things.

 

            Q:            Can you repeat the NATO contribution to Afghanistan again?

 

            A:            It's 8300, I believe.  Thirty-six countries, all 26 NATO allies.  And a lot of those other countries are partnership -- Some of them are Partnership for Peace countries or Membership Action Plan countries -- Albania, Macedonia, Croatia, are the Kazakhs there?  I'm trying to think.  Anyway, it's a number of countries that are somehow involved with NATO as well.

 

            I guess I was right.  Nineteen PRTs in total.  Five NATO PRTs.  We expect, we hope to have two more new NATO PRTs after this meeting and two existing U.S.-led PRTs we expect will be transferred to ISAF.  So in total after stage two there will be 21 PRTs we expect; nine we expect will be led by NATO.

 

            Q:            Do you know how many U.S. forces are in Afghanistan right now?

 

            A:            I don't have that figure.

 

            Q:            I'm sorry, the PRTs.  There are 19 now -- 13 are U.S.-led, five NATO-led, and there's one other

 

            A:            Fourteen U.S.-led.  I was wrong on that one.

 

            Q:            Five NATO-led.  So [inaudible], no other NATO allies running them under their own auspices?

 

            A:            They are.  It's a NATO umbrella but there are countries that lead them.

 

            Anyone else?  Thank you.  We owe a couple of answers.  We'll try and get them together.  Some of them -- You might want to check on your question on this Palestinian issue.  See if you can get someone to go back through PA to Bill Luti's shop.

 

            Q:            It's from the U.S. Army Europe command.  He's the Deputy Commander there.

 

            A:            Right.

 

            Q:            Part of the European Command.

 

            A:            I understand where he's from, I just don't know how this is being worked.  So I kind of see it more as a regional picture.  Once they go do something else then -- Okay, we look forward to seeing you there, and if there's anything else let us know.