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Secretary Rumsfeld Press Conference NATO Defense Ministerial

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 06, 2004
Secretary Rumsfeld Press Conference NATO Defense Ministerial

            Rumsfeld: This is a full house. Good afternoon, folks.

 

            It is good to be back in Munich for the conference on security policy and for today's informal meeting of the NATO Defense Ministers. As you know, this is the first such meeting led by our new Secretary General. We had very good discussions, as he indicated. I think they have helped to prepare our countries for the Istanbul Summit which will take place some four months from now.

 

            That summit comes at a time of transition for the Alliance. We're transforming not only our capabilities but also the mission as the Alliance takes on increasingly operational roles outside of the traditional areas of their operation.

 

            The United States believes that NATO can and should play a larger role in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

            Today 24 of the 26 NATO allies and invitees have troops in either Afghanistan or Iraq, and 17 have sent troops to both. Those deployments are having a positive impact in both countries.

 

            Thanks to the stability provided by NATO and other coalition forces, Afghanistan is making steady democratic progress. With the conclusion of the constitutional Loya Jurga, which was last month, Afghanistan now has a new constitution, a constitution that protects the rights of all citizens of Afghanistan -- men and women alike, and that paves the way for free elections.

 

            Iraq is also making progress. The security situation is improving and the Iraqi people are in discussions about the process of assuming governance of their country and also assuming security responsibility for their country. They're in a process that is not untypical of countries moving from a dictatorial system to a democratic system. You're hearing the discussions, the debates, the arguments, the different viewpoints, the different perspectives, all of which is to be expected. Leading towards ultimately a constitutional convention in that country and a new Iraqi government that is truly Iraqi -- of and by and for the Iraqi people.

 

            None of this would be possible without the stability and security that's provided by forces from now 34 countries, including 17 NATO allies and invitees, that are providing a good portion of the security in Iraq today. NATO provided critical support to Poland and Spain and the multinational division as they took over leadership of that division in south central Iraq.

 

            We discussed ways NATO could further contribute to post-conflict stabilization and help the Iraqi people as they assume responsibility for their future and begin the difficult task of building a free society from what's left of Saddam Hussein's tyranny.

 

            As Secretary Powell and I have both said, as of today a number of our colleagues also suggested, that at the right time NATO should take command of the Polish-Spanish multinational division in Iraq. When that will happen remains to be seen, but as I say, it's something that we encouraged within NATO last year, and it's also something that a number of the Ministers mentioned today as a possibility.

 

            We also discussed the way ahead for an expanded NATO role in Afghanistan beginning with the deployment of additional Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and we discussed the need for allies to provide the necessary capabilities to make those teams a success.

 

            I was pleased that in our meetings today a number of countries stepped forward volunteering to lead or to participate in additional new Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan. This is an excellent result.

 

            As the efforts progress, we will look at asking NATO to take on still additional responsibilities in other parts of Afghanistan, and we're open to the possibility of eventually turning military operations in Afghanistan over to the Alliance. NATO's decision to take over leadership in ISAF was certainly an historic decision on the part of NATO. It's important for the Alliance for the Afghan people that we succeed.

 

            Finally, we discussed the possible termination of the SFOR mission in Bosnia, and a possible follow-on mission under Berlin-Plus. I emphasized the need to proceed in a way that strengthens rather than undermines the NATO-EU relationship that is enshrined in Berlin-Plus. How it is done is important. It's important to the Alliance and it's important to the future of the trans-Atlantic relationship.

 

            I emphasized the fact that our goal was not simply to transfer an unaccomplished mission from NATO to the EU but rather to mark the successful completion of the NATO effort and the success of the Bosnian people. This is important for NATO and it's also important for the Bosnian people. Our objective is to help the Bosnian government reestablish full sovereignty and self-governance. The termination of SFOR should recognize and send a signal to the world that Bosnia has made real progress on that road to self-government and self-reliance. It is a country that no longer needs a large foreign military presence to provide security and stability within its borders. It should be a proud moment when that transfer takes place for the Bosnian people and I'm confident it will be.

 

            I'd be happy to respond to some questions.

 

            Q:  Nick Fewins, Armed Forces Journal and Defense News.              I'm interested in asking you what kind of command arrangements you might imagine if NATO took over the Polish Division in Iraq. Would that mean that NATO would come under U.S. command? And in Afghanistan, if ISAF and Operation Enduring Freedom were eventually combined, how do you imagine the command working [inaudible]?

 

            Rumsfeld: To take the first part of your question, if you think about what's taking place in Afghanistan today I suspect you'd probably have a model for what it might be. What you have today is NATO is in charge of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. A coalition is in charge of security in the rest of the country working with the Afghan National Army and other Afghan security forces.

 

            We entered into a memorandum of understanding between the coalition and the International Security Assistance Force first, and later, NATO as to what those arrangements would be. And as NATO then reaches out and assumes responsibility for some of the Provisional Reconstruction Teams, we would then adjust that memorandum of understanding and work out how we would be of assistance. The same thing would be true in Iraq, one would think, that you would simply enter into an agreement with NATO.

 

            In the case, for example, of the United States and the coalition forces in Afghanistan and the ISAF, what we do is we provide intelligence assistance, we provide quick reaction force assistance, various other things from time to time. There's very close coordination as your question suggests there must be.

 

            Q:  Jamie McIntyre from CNN. A year ago you came here and you met a lot of resistance from U.S.-European allies who believed that the UN inspections in Iraq were working and they should be given more time and you argued against that. Now you come back a year later, the U.S. having not found the weapons in Iraq that it believed were there -- not found them yet -- do you come back with any more sympathy for the European viewpoint that you experienced when you came here a year ago?

 

            Rumsfeld: The way you phrased the question is unfortunate. [Laughter] And had I been in your shoes I would have phrased it much differently and probably much better. [Laughter]

 

            Q:  Do anything you want, sir.

 

            Rumsfeld: Indeed. You keep referring to a European viewpoint. Let's face it, there are 17 out of the 26 NATO and invitees’ countries that have forces in Iraq. A year ago there were a relatively few countries, not a European view, but a relatively few countries that were expressing the views that you cited.

 

            My impression, and everyone obviously can have their own impression, is that the health of the Alliance is good; that the relationship between the United States and North America and the European countries is good; that the relationships within Europe seem to be pretty good -- some tensions, but for the most part pretty good. It seems to me that a lot of progress has been made and the contributions that have been made by the European countries both in Afghanistan and Iraq are valued, they're appreciated, and they're contributing to the success of some 50 million people who have been liberated in those two countries.

 

            Q: [inaudible]. I will try to rephrase the Jamie McIntyre question. Don't you think, Mr. Secretary --

 

            Rumsfeld: -- I’d rather hear from Charlie. [Laughter] Go ahead.

 

            Q: I'll try again. Don't you think that your unsuccessful search of WMD in Iraq won't help you to convince your NATO partners to send more troops to Iraq?

 

            Rumsfeld: I actually preferred the way Jamie did it. [Laughter]

 

            Oh, goodness. I spent, I don't know, goodness, how many hours? From 9:30 until 4:30 before the Senate and the House committees yesterday or the day before, the day before I guess, and George Tenet spoke for probably an hour yesterday. The texts of both of those speeches and remarks are available. He and I and Dr. Kay have all set out in great detail the view, and I think that certainly George Tenet and I would agree, that, I think he used the word almost frequently that this is his “provisional conclusion.” The reason he said that was because there are still 1300 people in Iraq engaged in the Iraq Survey Group reviewing documents, interviewing people, interrogating people, searching suspect sites, and he and I and the intelligence community all believe that there's still work to be done and it would be a mistake to think that you can make final conclusions at the present time.

 

            Second, I guess the answer to your question is also probably that there are a number of countries that are continuing to offer up troops in Iraq. So I think that people recognize that what's been done there is important, that the liberation of 25 million people is important. The mass graves that have been found there and the torture chambers suggest that the fact that Saddam Hussein is now in custody is a good thing for the Iraqi people and the world. And as a result, an increasing number of countries are interested in assisting in providing stabilization and reconstruction forces for which we are deeply grateful.

 

            Q.  [inaudible]       

 

Rumsfeld:  What's your question before we call on you. [Laughter] And where are you from?

 

            Q: Bret Baier from Fox News Channel. Sir, is it realistic to expect five new Provincial Reconstruction Teams to be in place by June run by NATO? And two, if NATO takes over the entire operation in Afghanistan, will NATO then be responsible for the hunts of Usama bin Laden and top Taliban leaders?

 

            Rumsfeld: -- Did we decide that everyone has two questions or one question? I'm not – [Laughter]

 

            Q:  How about both?

 

            Rumsfeld: Yeah. I think the answer to the first question is yes, it is realistic. The Provincial Reconstruction Teams are not large. They vary in size from 80 or 90 people up to 200 or 300, if I'm not mistaken. Someone correct me if I'm wrong. I've visited most of the ones or a good portion of the ones that exist. They're doing a good job. We know the model. It varies in different parts of the country -- what's most important, what's needed the most. But this is February 6th. There isn't any reason why sometime in the summer we couldn't have another five that NATO stands up and some additional ones that the United States stands up.

 

            The answer to the second part of your question is no. My guess is that what would happen is that as NATO assumes a bigger responsibility it might go something like this, and I'm not going to put a timetable on it nor am I going to say that this is necessarily how it would go. But a possible path would be that NATO first takes over ISAF, which they've done. They then suggest they would like to have not only have ISAF but to take some of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams which they've done -- one thus far, the German. Then they expand beyond that and say they want to include still additional PRTs, which today a number of countries stepped forward and said they wanted to do.

 

            A next step might be to take over some portion of the country, a sector like the west or like the north. A next step after that might be to take over still another sector. They start with Baghdad and vector north and west, they might take over the south at some point.

 

            The bulk of the problems are along the Pakistan border, and that's where the kinetics for the most part are taking place. And it's entirely possible that that would be the last sector. And even if that sector were ultimately taken over by NATO it's entirely possible that your memorandum of understanding, for example, could provide that the task of moving around the country and dealing with any possible reconstitution of Taliban threats or al Qaeda threats or acting on intelligence that might give you a clue as to where any of the so-called high value targets might be located could be left to the coalition which is organized, trained and equipped to do that.

 

            I do not want to leave anyone with the impression that that's the sequence it's going to happen. That is just a theoretical, hypothetical possible. So don't quote me. [Laughter]

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, your German colleague Peter Struck is worried that you are going to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany. Are these plans, sir, some type of punishment for German stubbornness?

 

            Rumsfeld:  He's smiling. He likes that question.

 

            Look, there is no punishment involved here as your question suggests. There just simply isn't. We still have our forces arranged around the world where they were in a certain extent left after the end of the Cold War. It's time to adjust it.

 

            We have to look at where they are, and they happen to be here and in Korea and in a number of other countries, and as we proceed, we are doing it based on some very clear criteria. We're basing it on how can we be best arranged -- what kind of a footprint -- to participate in our important alliances, and to be able to deter and defend effectively with our friends and allies around the world. Where are the potential threats and problems?

 

            We're arranged as though we're still worried about a tank threat coming across the North German Plain from the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union isn't there. That's not going to happen. So we need to get readjusted. We've had extensive talks, Minister Struck and I have, and our people have had various other visits at different levels. What we're looking at is what's the most effective way to be arranged that we reduce stress on our force? What's the most effective way to be arranged that we're in countries that want us? I don't want our forces in places that are inhospitable and where people don't want them there.

 

            Clearly Germany has been a hospitable place for our forces, and we've had a very good working relationship for decades. We want our forces to be usable. They have to be in locations where we can readily deploy them rapidly, with agility, to possible trouble spots in the world. And to the extent possible, given the improvements in several things -- transportation, communications -- we're going to be able to have more of our forces at home because of the reach-back ability today, because of changes in transportation and communication. And we can support deployed forces have fewer deployed forces because a number of the back office type things can be done out of the United States.

 

            So we're doing it in an orderly way. We started when I came into office three years ago. It's taken time, it's complicated, we've done it first by looking at our areas of operation, at European Command, at Pacific Command, Korea and the like. We then had to look at it en toto, the entire thing, and see that those threads come together. We then begin dealing with all our friends and allies as to where we are and to where we might be. We're now involved in talking to the Congress of the United States that has to provide the assistance and military construction to do that. We're also involved in a base closing process in the United States.

 

            This is an enormously complex thing. So if any of you have written or read that a lot of decisions have been made and it's going to be this, that or the other thing, you ought to check your sources because the decisions can't be made finally until we've gone through this process of bringing all those threads together, talking to our allies. In some cases we're going to have to renegotiate Status of Forces Agreements, for example, so that we are sure that there's no problem of moving our forces because the United States taxpayers can't have one army for this country and one army for that country. We have to be able to use them where they're needed as a country.

 

            So it's a complex thing, and people who are rushing to judgment and writing that they've decided this or they've decided that, I think probably are going to be proven wrong.

 

            And with that I will say thank you, and good to see you all.

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