SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Good afternoon, folks. I certainly want to thank our allies at NATO and our friends across Europe and the world for their very generous outpouring of support to the people of the United States in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The American people are touched and grateful that so may of our friends have been so helpful.
I also want to express my appreciation to the German people for their warm hospitality here in Berlin. It's fitting that we have a meeting here in Berlin on this 50th Anniversary of Germany's membership in NATO.
Today NATO stands as the most successful and enduring political and military alliance in the history of the world. Our task, it seems to me, is to assure that our alliance transforms so that it remains an effective and capable force, sufficient to face the new and lethal challenges of the 21st Century.
We have had some good meetings today and yesterday, focusing on our efforts to broaden and deepen NATO's transformation as well as building on the success of NATO's ongoing operations. I particularly want to commend the Secretary General for his determined efforts and his fine leadership.
Our discussions included working to ensure that the NATO Response Force which in fact will be the driver of NATO's transformation, is fully operational next year, providing additional support and resources for all aspects of NATO's operations while reforming and streamlining NATO's headquarters in Brussels, expanding NATO's efforts in the area of counter-terrorism, providing additional resources to its successful training of security forces in Iraq, and expanding the Alliance's successful operations in Afghanistan for the important Afghan and provincial and parliamentary elections which take place this coming Sunday.
We had good discussion today on Afghanistan. All allies are strongly committed to expanding NATO's role. By spring our goal is for NATO to partner with the Afghan National Army, to manage security in what will amount to something like three-quarters of that country. U.S. forces will, of course, continue to play a strong role.
This is a welcome development for the Afghan people and it's another sign of NATO's increasing contributions to global security. Ultimately, of course, our goal is for Afghans to provide for Afghan security. This is another step in that direction.
Our Alliance has undergone remarkable changes in the past four years, and certainly it's come a great distance since I was U.S. Ambassador to NATO back in the early 1970s. But the process of transforming NATO has to continue at a good clip if it's to remain a fully effective and truly potent force against the emerging 21st Century threats.
This is a critical moment for NATO, but I personally am encouraged by the efforts underway to make the Alliance an even more flexible and more capable force in the decades to come. I'm certain that the great democracies of the NATO Alliance will continue to play the leading role in contributing to international peace and stability.
I'd be happy to take a few questions, but I'm told we have a time slot at the airport for an interesting reason, and we'll have to leave shortly.
Q: Mr. Secretary, in the discussion about Afghanistan, there seems to be a great divide between countries. One group promoting the idea of having a common command; and other countries insisting that the missions of ISAF and Operation Enduring Freedom are different, will be different, and will continue to be different, and because of that there is no possibility of having, or should not be a common command for the operation in the future, say starting at the end of next year. What is your take on that?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I guess I would characterize it as much ado about nothing. We have had since the beginning of the effort in Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom where Coalition forces have been engaged in a variety of counter-terrorist activities. Then eventually in came ISAF in Kabul. It then expanded north. It then expanded west. Next spring it's going to expand south, down to the Kandahar area. There's no question about command, effort, activity at all. There hasn't been, there isn't today.
The way it's been worked out historically has been that from the outset, because of the different activities taking place, the United States and the Coalition forces entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the ISAF commands successively. There have been three or four or five of them now, and it's all been worked out in a very orderly way so that we had a unity of effort if not unity of command.
The debate or discussion that will take place came about because Lord Robertson raised the question, goodness, it must be a year and a half ago, about what would be the case as we arrived into next year or the year after, and they asked the military commands to come up with some ideas, they've come up with some ideas, those ideas are being discussed and there's no real issue. It's all kind of an artificial issue as far as I can see.
Q: Mr. Secretary, Will Dunham with Reuters.
Is the United States considering reducing American forces in Afghanistan by about 20 percent, roughly 4,000? And do you agree with the notion that as the number of NATO forces in Afghanistan increases and Afghan security forces become more capable, the number of U.S. forces could be reduced?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: This question comes up periodically and I find that the answer, I almost feel like you could flip a switch in my back and give the same answer.
The first part of the answer is that the only people that are going to increase or decrease U.S. forces in Iraq or Afghanistan will be the President of the United States or me, and it will result from recommendations from the field commanders.
The second part of the answer is we constantly are asking our field commanders to look at the situation, see what the conditions are, and then we ask our planners in the Pentagon, in the services, to look at various levels of forces -- higher, same, lower -- and we have been increasing or decreasing them as the circumstances required for some number of years now.
If and when there is any decision to reduce forces, I will announce it. In the mean time, you're going to see all kinds of people looking at all different kinds of scenarios. I mean right now we've increased forces in Afghanistan because of the Afghan election. We did the same thing for the presidential election in Afghanistan. I think you're just chasing the wrong rabbit, frankly.
Q: [inaudible], from the European Security and Defense, Mr. Secretary.
The Quadrennial Defense Review will be published in the beginning of the nest year.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I'm sorry, I missed a little bit of that.
Q: The Quadrennial Defense Review from your --
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Quadrennial Defense Review, right.
Q: -- will be published the beginning of next year.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: February, uh huh.
Q: What was your guideline for this review, and is it already an impact on this, the discussion on this summit here?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The guidelines were brilliant. [Laughter]. I hope.
The Quadrennial Defense Review, for everyone's benefit is something we are required by Congress to do every four years. This is the third one, and it is about a third to a half way through. It will be finished late this year and will go up with the President's budget in February to the Congress. It should have no bearing on this conference at all that I can see.
It is a thoughtful look out 10, 15, 20 years at a whole host of issues that are important and that Congress wants us to think about and then report back to them on, but I don't see it intersecting with any of the kinds of things that are immediate here.
Q: Sabina Mueller, German Radio.
Mr. Secretary, will you miss your German colleague Peter Struck in case the current government is not reelected? [Laughter].
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Like I said, we have to catch a plane. [Laughter].
I am not going to get into German politics. Even slightly. You know that. [Laughter].
VOICE: Thank you, folks.