(Also participating was Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Photos can be viewed at: http://www.defenselink.mil/photos/Dec2003/031201-F-2828D-363.html and http://www.defenselink.mil/photos/Dec2003/031201-F-2828D-351.html.)
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. I'm Don Rumsfeld and this is General Pete Pace who is the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States.
In the 12 months since the Prague Summit NATO has experienced probably more positive change than in perhaps any ten-year period in its history. Seven new members have been invited to join the Alliance. NATO made the decision to stand up a NATO Response Force, an important decision given the challenges of the 21st Century. NATO has reformed its command structure which will lead to a reduction in the number of commands from 22 to 11. That's a tough enough thing to do in one country, but to have an alliance of 19 countries do it is indeed impressive. And establish a new command to help drive allied transformation which is so important.
NATO's taken over the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, the first NATO mission outside the North Atlantic Treaty area. This is the first time in the history of the Alliance that NATO has done that. It was an enormous decision and it's going well.
In addition, NATO has helped Poland and Spain as they lead the 17 nation multinational division in south central Iraq.
The U.S., I should add, is open to an expanded NATO role in both countries.
Twelve of the 19 current NATO allies and six of the seven invitees have sent troops to serve in Iraq. We are deeply grateful to them for their steadfastness and their political courage.
And today NATO stood up the initial rotation of its new Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Battalion as I believe you were all briefed. Some 15 allies and two invitees have agreed to contribute forces to that battalion.
That's a remarkable set of accomplishments. And as the security environment is changing NATO's mission understandably is changing. The Alliance, needless to say, has to change with it.
As Lord Robertson has made clear, the very low number of deployable NATO forces is a problem. Particularly at a moment when NATO is discussing taking on still additional missions.
As we prepare for the Istanbul Summit there is a need to address the problem by eliminating unusable forces and seeing that the savings are reinvested into needed allied capabilities.
To take on new missions we also have to continue to wrap up some old missions. We discussed the progress in Afghanistan and the implementation of the Alliance decision to expand ISAF beyond Kabul by creating additional Provincial Reconstruction Teams. If this proves successful we also discussed the possibility that NATO might take over military operations in Afghanistan some time in the future, although that remains to be seen.
In Bosnia indicted war criminals such as Radicz and Karadzic remain at large. SFOR has launched a crackdown on the criminal networks that support them and U.S. forces will assist SFOR to take measures to help arrest him and other indicted war criminals.
Finally, this is Lord Robertson's last Defense Ministerial as NATO Secretary General. Needless to say, I join our colleagues in thanking him for his truly remarkable leadership. He's presided over NATO at a time of unprecedented change from invoking Article 5 for the first time in history to NATO's first mission out of area, in Afghanistan. Through it all he has been a very steady hand and a force for positive change. We'll miss his guidance, his vision, and as I'm sure all of you are aware, his excellent sense of humor.
General Pete Pace.
Pace: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
I just completed a trip last week that included visits to Afghanistan and Iraq. It was my great privilege to observe first-hand the tremendous stabilizing influence that the NATO-led ISAF force is having in Afghanistan. People in Kabul have got shops open and it looks like business as usual and they just are making tremendous progress inside of that environment being provided by NATO.
In Iraq I had the chance to visit the Polish-led, Spanish-contribution division that is being supported by NATO and they too are doing a fabulous job in their area near An Najaf, making the people's lives better and providing security.
With that, sir, I'll stop.
Rumsfeld: We'd be happy to respond to some questions. We do have the NATO/Russia meeting at 5:30 so we'll have to limit it.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you a question about Iraq.
In light of the multiple ambushes of U.S. forces in Samara yesterday and the recent deadly attacks against Spanish and South Korean, Japanese, other coalition personnel in Iraq, how do you respond to people who say there is actually a deepening cycle of violence in Iraq rather than a trend toward the positive?
Rumsfeld: What you have in Iraq, and Pete just came from there and you might want to comment. But what you have is a contradiction. You have both going on. There's no question but that there are periodic incidents where people are being killed and wounded. We know that. We also know the schools are open, the hospitals are open, the clinics are open, that people are engaged in economic activity throughout the country and the vast majority of the country is not in conflict, it is in a relatively stable circumstance.
I think the answer is both things are taking place. There are a limited number of people who are determined to kill innocent men, women and children who are connected to the coalition or who are coalition participants or who are innocent Iraqis. And that's taking place. Those people are also being rounded up, captured, killed, wounded and interrogated. That process is taking place. Indeed very recently there was a quite successful effort on the part of coalition forces to capture and deal with a number of those folks.
Pace: Sir, I was in Baghdad and al Ramadi, Fallujah, Tikrit, and Najaf last week. There's no doubt in my mind that exactly what the Secretary said is true. You have those who are bent on preventing the Iraqi people from experiencing freedom. Those who look and see the tremendous progress that has been made and are afraid that their thuggery, their way of intimidation is in fact being overcome by the coalition forces that are there and the will of the Iraqi people to have their own government and live their own lives.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there have been all sorts of reports about your reaction to the EU meeting in Italy this weekend. Would you like to state clearly what is your attitude to the plans of European Union to establish military planning capacity outside of NATO?
Rumsfeld: There have been some reports. Someone showed me something off the Internet that was pure fiction. I'm sure no one in this room participated in that.
Our policy is very clear. We strongly support NATO as the primary form for Trans-Atlantic defense. We support ESDP that is NATO friendly. Therefore we worked hard, our Alliance did, I think for four and a half years to fashion the Berlin-Plus agreements, which we support, and we stand by them. You're quite right, there are discussions and consultations taking place at the Defense Ministerial level, and the Foreign Ministerial level and at the Prime Ministerial level and I'm confident and hopeful that things will sort through in a way that we end up with an arrangement that is not duplicative or competitive.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, if you are interested to keep your presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina after EU takes the mission there, how are you going to do that? In what form?
Second question, is United States --
Rumsfeld: With all of these people, why don't we do one question per person.
Q: It's linked. With Kosovo, how will you keep your promises to have troops in Kosovo if you need them elsewhere in Afghanistan or Iraq?
Rumsfeld: The NATO forces and Bosnia and Kosovo had an understanding that we would go in together and out together. That's been the case for the most part. There have been some exceptions, I think. And those forces have been in the process of being drawn down as the circumstance in for example Bosnia, as you mentioned, has improved.
What will take place after NATO's formal role ends is open for discussion and would be something that obviously would be a result of consultations with Bosnia and among the NATO countries.
The second question, I guess what you're talking about is relatively limited numbers of people in Bosnia in terms of U.S. forces. Our forces are 1.4 million active and some 700,000-plus reserves. It seems to me that we certainly have the ability to do what we're doing as well as to continue to participate in an orderly way with the drawdown in Bosnia.
Q: Mr. Secretary and also General Pace, could you tell us what you think this attack in Iraq says about the changing tactics there, and also the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the insurgents since there were so many involved in this and it was clearly coordinated?
Pace: It's hard to tell on the basis of one attack exactly what tactics may or may not be changing. The fact is that in this particular case about 50 or so of the enemy did collect together for whatever reason they thought was appropriate. They attacked and they were killed. So I think it will be instructive to them for future analysis when they're thinking about what they're going to do next.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, the fact that Lord Robertson virtually has to pack for troops in helicopters for ISAF in Afghanistan, doesn't that worry you about the future conditions of NATO in other regions, or for instance Iraq?
Rumsfeld: I think Lord Robertson's done an excellent job, and my estimate is that within a reasonable period of time he'll be able to encourage, persuade, whatever words you want to use, NATO nations to provide the forces necessary to fulfill the ISAF mission.
Clearly to the extent that activities are agreed to that go beyond that, that requires that NATO countries step forward and supply the capabilities to execute those functions and we have to see that there's a close connection between what we decide to do and what we are willing to offer up to do.
I think that we'll keep that quite tight, so I'm not concerned about it. I think each country has to make a judgment as to what they can offer up. And if you think about it, I mentioned in my opening remarks, the large number of NATO countries and invitees that are already participating in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It's impressive.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned that NATO might take over military operations in Afghanistan eventually. Can you say, would that involve the absorption of the roughly 11,500 U.S.-led troops and the mission they are currently undertaking there? And what kind of timetable are we looking at?
Rumsfeld: We're not at this stage. We always have from the outset have desired to have the maximum number of countries and organizations participating both in Afghanistan and Iraq. We've got, as I mentioned, a very large number in Afghanistan. We've got some 34 countries participating in Iraq. At what pace they may assume additional responsibilities remains to be seen, but we're certainly open to it, encouraging it, and we'll see what evolves.
But it is entirely possible that at some point that could happen although I wouldn't want to predict it because it's some distance out. I also wouldn't want to put a timeframe on it. I just think that sets a hurdle that doesn't need to be set.
Q: Mr. Rumsfeld, how far is your decisionmaking process to deploy U.S. troops in the new NATO member countries?
Rumsfeld: We have spent a couple of years thinking through the challenges of the 21st Century and addressing the question as to how we can best work with our friends and allies and partners around the world to deter and defend and deal with some of these 21st Century threats.
We think we have some good concepts and we're at the initial stage of discussing them with our allies and with our Congress. My guess is what will take place, I think there's actually a team that's coming over next week, people from the State Department and the Defense Department, to talk about things here. I was in Asia last week talking to our friends there in Northeast Asia. This will kind of roll out over a not-rushed pace because these are important issues and they'll take discussions. We don't have firm conclusions about where or what numbers.
Once we develop conviction, having talked to our friends and allies and partners, we then have to look at how you might roll that out over a period of years. It might be five, six, seven years depending on funding and circumstances, to get yourself rearranged properly.
We have, in direct answer to your question, we don't have specifics of the type you're looking for.
I would say the one interesting thing to me anyway, is that the more the United States has looked at our circumstance and the more NATO has looked at NATO's circumstance, we have tended to move towards a capabilities-based approach and capabilities are different than numbers of things. We've got a whole task, all of us have grown up in a period when we looked at numbers of troops or numbers of tanks or numbers of aircraft or numbers of ships and began to make judgments about capabilities based on numbers.
Of course the real world today is a single precision bomb can do what six, eight or ten dumb bombs can do. So the idea that if you have ten dumb bombs and you reduce them by five and you replace them with smart bombs, the idea that you've got your capability in half is nonsense. You've actually vastly increased your capability. And we're all going to have to get our heads thinking that way about the future, and it's going to take us all some time.
For example in the past when a combatant commander wanted to deal with the Pentagon, they would think in terms of battalions or they would think in terms of aircraft or they'd think in terms of ships. In the future they're not going to be doing that. They're going to be thinking in terms of the ability to put power on a target in a precise way, and speed becomes more important than mass sometimes. And flexibility becomes more important than mass.
Do you want to comment on this?
Pace: You did a great job on that. (Laughter.)
Q: You just mentioned the fact that the United States is going to help SFOR to arrest criminals of war. What kind of measures do you think of? And do you agree with Madame del Ponte when she says that she will not close the doors of the Tribunal for Yugoslavia until Karadzic and Mladic are put on trial?
Rumsfeld: I think it is important that indicted war criminals be brought to justice. When you say what kind of methods, clearly it's a matter of the interested countries putting assets against that set of problems. I think that that part of the world will be vastly better off if and when those folks are off the streets.
The young lady there. Everyone's young to me, right? (Laughter.)
Q: Thank you for that compliment, by the way.
Mr. Secretary, do you think that if the Europeans set up their own planning cell and a military staff away from NATO is that duplicative or not?
Rumsfeld: I think I'm going to let the Ministers and the Foreign Ministers and Prime Ministers sort through that and characterize. First of all, that's a hypothetical question. We don't know what's going to evolve. And I've kind of set out my views here earlier and I don't know that I can add to it usefully. The discussions are going on. That's a good thing. And we've indicated our views I think fairly clearly, notwithstanding the fact that in some reports they've been imperfectly conveyed.
Okay, why don't we take one last question. The lady way in the back.
Q: This is rare that you're quite reluctant to give an answer because normally when we do ask you very direct questions you're very quick to give very direct and entertaining answers.
Rumsfeld: You're egging me on.
Q: No. (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: Yes you are. You’re trying to get me in trouble. (Laughter.)
Q: No, no. However --
Rumsfeld: I know your organization. (Laughter.)
Q: However, --
Rumsfeld: I'm plucky but I'm not stupid. (Laughter.)
Q: I never said you were. However, can I go back to the EU and defense headquarters? This debate is nothing new for you. You were personally involved in the Berlin-Plus negotiations that took a long time.
Can I ask you a very direct question? Regardless of what has come out or not come out of NATO's meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers, does the EU need an independent operational planning cell?
Rumsfeld: Like I said, the other was the last question. (Laughter.) We're out of here. Thank you.