Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Navy Petty Officer Jennifer Gray, the Pentagon Channel, and Kathleen T. Rhem, American Forces Press Service
Q: All right. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for being here with us today.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.
Q: I’d like to talk about a few things. But first of all, you just returned from the NATO Summit in Turkey. They’ve pledged their support for military training in Afghanistan and Iraq, but with some stipulations. Can you clarify their decision?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes. First of all, it was a very good meeting in Istanbul. We had all 26 NATO nations gathered for a summit. In addition, we had the total of 46 countries, when you include the Partnership for Peace countries and they’re associated with NATO, their presidents or prime ministers, their heads of government and also their foreign and defense ministers. So it was really a very, very good session.
With respect to Afghanistan, President Karzai came, spoke to the largest group, the 46, said the truth – he needed help, that he had elections coming up and he was asking the countries in the room to send in forces that could assist in assuring that the election was free and fair and that the people registering to vote were not intimidated and that they did, in fact, have an opportunity to vote. This will be the first time, I suppose, in the history of Afghanistan that women are permitted to vote. And about 37 percent of the registrants, thus far, are in fact women. And there’s resistance to that in the country. And so, they particularly want to have forces there to assist.
All of the 26 NATO nations agree, except one. France did not. The proposal was to send in the NATO Response Force which is a new entity that the United States proposed about two years ago and it’s in formation. It’s not quite reached its initial operating capability, but it has capability, but not it’s complete capability. And the United States proposed that it go in and everyone agreed except France. So we’re going to have to find a way to deal with that. There are several options, but ultimately, the NATO countries will, in fact, provide assistance for the elections in Iraq – a correction -- in Afghanistan. In Iraq, it’s a different situation, and there the NATO countries all agreed that NATO would, in fact, organize a central capability to assist the Iraqis in training and equipping their security forces. That means police, border patrol, national guard, army and site-protection forces. So that was good progress. We were all very pleased.
Q: What do these decisions ultimately mean for the American troops?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it means that we’ll have NATO assisting in Iraq with training and equipping and it will not be left just to us or just to the Iraqis or just to the other coalition countries that are already assisting. And in Afghanistan, it’ll mean that our forces will be free to do the work they’re doing, which is to participate in the provincial reconstruction teams. I think we’re now up to 11 or 12 or 13 of those presence around the country. And the heavy lifting, if I may put it that way, that we’re doing against the Taliban and the al Qaeda, particularly along the Pakistan border. Our folks will be free to (do) that work, which is important that we do it.
Q: It’s been a big week. Timing not bad – sitting in the NATO Summit, getting help from the other countries and then you’re sitting there and you hear the sovereignty’s been turned over. What was that like?
SEC. RUMSFELD: It was an important day historically and we’ve been working on it for some weeks. And the feeling all along was that the transfer of sovereignty should take place no later than or, as I think we’ve put it in the U.N. resolution, by June 30th. Most everyone focused on the date and not the qualification. And what we did was working with the government once they were in place and ready to assume responsibility, started passing over some of the ministries over the past month, really. And the Iraqis had been assuming more and more responsibility. And then I guess it would be a week ago last Thursday -- well, it’d be just last Thursday it was -- that the last 11 ministries were turned over to the Iraqis. So they were, in effect, managing their own affairs at that stage and the reality is that once you announce the new team, all the magnetic particles, if you will, start pointing towards the new team and away from the old team. So you’re better off doing it as soon as they’re ready. And the prime minister requested it and we were delighted and managed to do it. And it was a good thing to have done it.
Q: Do you think they’re ready?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, sure. They’re ready to grab a hold and start riding that bicycle. It may wobble a little bit from time to time, but you can’t learn to do it, unless you get on it and climb up and go. And this team is a good team. The prime minister and the deputy prime minister are both enormously confident individuals. The president and the vice presidents and the various ministers that have been appointed are very well-educated, they’re intelligent, they’re courageous, they have stepped forward, despite the fact that there are a lot of extremists that are trying to kill them, that are trying to prevent Iraq from becoming a democratic country at peace with its neighbors, a whole nation. And yet, these folks put their hands up and say, OK, we’ll do that.
I would also add that there’s people lining up to join the security forces. They’re waiting in the queue to come in. And we know over 400 of the security forces have been killed -- Iraqi security forces. So it’s not like it’s not dangerous. It is dangerous. It’s a tough part of the world. And the extremists are absolute – they know what they’re doing. They’re determined to stop it. They do not want a democracy next to Iran -- the Iranians don’t, the Syrians don’t – and the people in Iraq that have taken the reigns of their sovereignty are determined to have a representative system that’s respectful of all the people. And God bless the people in the coalition, our folks in uniform and the other countries. It’s a dangerous place. Their lives are at risk and yet you go out and see them and visit with them and their spirits are up, they’re confident that what they’re doing is the right thing to do be doing and, goodness knows, they are doing the right thing and we’re just fortunate that they’re out there doing it.
Q: Equally as determined right now are the terrorists trying to stop this progress, with the kidnappings that are going on, now are American Marines. Now that sovereignty’s been turned over, how much power do we have to try to get our people back or to…
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, we’ve got…
Q: … stop this?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No problem there at all. We have a very major security responsibility. The government has said that. They’ve asked us to stay. They’ve asked us to assist them in trying to assure security in the country, as they begin to move towards a democratic system, fashion a constitution, have elections and do all those things that Afghanistan is now doing. If you think about it, Afghanistan’s about a year and half, two years ahead of where Iraq is today. But we have all the ability in the world to go out after the terrorists and to tr
Q: Can you recap on a couple of things in the last year that has made the Iraqi people’s lives better? How have their lives improved from what we’ve done in the last year?
SEC. RUMSFELD: The list is so long. If you think about it, Saddam Hussein had killed tens and tens of thousands of people, filled mass graves, had repressed the entire population. The videos are available. I don’t know if they’ve been shown on this channel, but they show him pushing dozens of people off the tops of five- and six-story buildings to their death, taking pliers and pulling the tongues out of people and cutting them off, chopping off hands and this was a particularly brutal regime that used chemical weapons on its own people and on its neighbors. Anyone who doesn’t see the dramatic difference -- the fact that the refugees have come back into the country, the internally displaced people have gone back, the schools are open, they have new textbooks, the hospitals and the clinics are open and available, oil production is up above where it was previously. The people have choices today. They can make decisions for themselves. Now is it perfect? No. It never has been perfect. It’s always tough. It’s a tough part of the world.
Q: Do you think the American servicemembers realized…
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I do.
Q: … what they’ve accomplished?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I do. I do. They see it. They see so much more than we read in our newspapers or see on our television here. We tend to see only the negative. That seems to be what people think is news. But the fact is that people out there have a chance to see the progress that’s being made. One example is – I mean, I’m interested in economics and I think people recognize how central economics are, the opportunity for people to be able to rely on their currency, for example. The Iraqi dinar is just steady as it can be. And if the situation there were as bad as we so often see in the newspapers, it would be diving. Money’s a coward and it isn’t. Every day we’ve got a perfect illustration of the fact that things are getting better and that people there have confidence in it. And it’s an example of what the people on the ground see.
Q: Looking at the global war on terror for a moment, global posturing, troops are hearing about it. They’re nervous about it. Should they be?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Nervous?
Q: Should they be?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness, no. This is a
Q: People are moving around.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, it’s a good thing.
Q: No? Are you concerned?
SEC. RUMSFELD: It’s a good thing.
Q: What do you think?
SEC. RUMSFELD: It’s a good thing.
SEC. RUMSFELD: We’ve spent about 2 ½ years thinking about it and working it through. And it’s not clear how it’ll all shake out because what you have to do is decide what’s in our country’s best interest and then begin talking to nations around the world about how we think we ought to readjust our force to fit the 21st century. We were pretty much left in place from the end of the Cold War and then reduced. And there we were. We were in a static defense mode. We have major forces in Germany, we still do. And yet, the idea of a Soviet Union tank attack across the North German plain is a little out of date. The Soviet Union’s gone. That kind of an attack is not going to occur. Weapons have evolved, precision weapons have changed. The speed and precision have reduced the need for mass. Second, the fact that we could understand where the threats were going to come from in the last century, today we know the capabilities that can be used against us, but we can’t anticipate where the threats are going to come from. There was no one in my confirmation hearing asking me what we would do if we had an attack from Afghanistan. It was unanticipated and I should add, it was not “anticipatable,” if there is such a word.
So what we’re doing is going to end up with adjusting the total number of forces we have around the world, modestly towards the United States and Guam and Hawaii (and) Alaska. It’s going to reduce the number of permanent changes of stations slightly. I think people will have a better chance to see their children finish high school and spouses not have to change jobs so frequently. We will, in many respects, have increased the tooth-to-tail ratio. We’ll have a more capable, more agile, more readily deployable force than in the past. And I think that the men and women in uniform are going to find it’s a good thing for them. And there’s no question, but that it’s a good thing for our country.
Q: Mr. Secretary, lastly, we hear a lot about the troops on the ground in Iraq but, as you know, there’s servicemembers all over the world helping fight…
SEC. RUMSFELD: Indeed.
Q: … the global war on terror. Do you have a message that you’d like to give to troops worldwide?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I do. If one thinks about it, we’ve used from our history classes, we’re used to reading about wars having a beginning and having and end. The Cold War was a change in that and the Cold War lasted -- what, 50 years plus – and it was a different kind of war, but it was a war. And it was dangerous. And we’re in a war that is not a classic war today. The struggle we have between extremists on the other hand, and moderates, people who are respectful of other nations, on the other hand, is very real. We’re up against truly vicious people who are determined to change and terrorize and change our behavior. And to deny free people of freedoms they want and to impose a way of living that is inconsistent with the freedoms that we believe in, it will take a long time. It will take determination. We will need to be steadfast. And as we go into the July 4th weekend, it seems to me that people will be reminded of our independence and of the freedoms we value and how important the people in uniform are to the protection of those freedoms and to the defense of our freedom.
So we have to be grateful. I am grateful. And I know the American people are deeply grateful. And we also have to be realistic. This is not going to end up with a signing ceremony on the U.S.S. Missouri, as did World War II. It is going to take a good long period of time and we have to recognize that the cause we’re fighting for is important and each generation has had to do it.
Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for your time today.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.
Q: [Inaudible] follow-up? [Inaudible] Thanks. Sir, for the sake of the cameras, if you could address your answers to the petty officer here, that would be helpful. By answers – I just finished the program. What is this about?
Q: This is the ambush, sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: All right.
Q: Not true, not true.
SEC. RUMSFELD: All right.
Q: When you talk about moving NATO forces into Afghanistan, sir, do you see that as a short-term surge, just around the elections or…
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes. It is specifically designed to create a more secure environment during a period when parliamentary and presidential elections would be taking place.
Q: And has it been decided how many forces or how long they might stay?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, General Jones, the supreme allied commander is in the process of considering what that might take, and he’s not made that judgment at the present time. And it could change with the facts on the ground also, as the security situation on the ground changes, the requirement changes.
Q: And now, switching to Iraq a little bit, as troops change their role, especially with the handover of power, do you have any words of wisdom, the things that you’d like the servicemembers to keep in mind, as they go about their duties these days?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, goodness. I think they ought to keep in mind the fact that the American people are appreciative and that the Iraqi people are appreciative. I met with the Iraqi foreign minister and defense minister in Istanbul last week and they stood there and expressed their appreciation for what the American soldiers and sailors and Marines were doing for their country and it’s a heartfelt appreciation.
Q: Sir, the only other thing I wanted to ask is how do you see the changes in the global posture affecting military families and what are your words to those families as they deal with some of the changes that’ll be coming up?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, there’s not going to be a big announcement about the change in U.S. force posture. It is something that will be negotiated and discussed with one country after another and then each piece will be announced. The actual effect of it could take as many as five, six, seven years for it to play out, as we work with those countries and make the kinds of adjustments that will eventuate. Also we have to work with Congress and end up getting the kind of military construction funds that will enable us to do that. The net effect of it over time will be that, as I say, there will be fewer permanent changes of station, not dramatically fewer, but fewer in a career and that’s a good thing for families.
There’ll be more rotational forces that will go in for shorter periods. It will allow, I believe, more families to have their children complete high school in one place and more families where spouses work to not have to change to a different location as frequently. We are making sure also that where are forces are, they’re in places that are hospitable. We do not want our forces in places they’re not wanted. So one of the tests that we’re imposing as to where we fashion these arrangements is that the country want to have our forces there and that they treat them in a way that shows that hospitality.
Q: Sir, I don’t have any other questions.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I bet you do.
Q: It’s a good opportunity for you.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I bet you do.
Q: Is there anything else that you’d like to add that you feel we didn’t touch on that you think is important to mention?
SEC. RUMSFELD: No, except say hello to Wrigley.
Q: Thank you, sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: All right.
Q: Mr. Secretary, would you mind taking a group photo before you leave?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Be happy to.
Q: Excellent. Thank you.