(Regional Telephone Interview with NBC – Rob Quirk)
Quirk: Good evening, Lisa, and thank you very much. Let’s get right to our interview with Secretary Rumsfeld. First of all, welcome to Colorado Springs.
Rumsfeld: Thank you, it’s a beautiful place and a sunny day and we’re delighted to be here.
Quirk: Glad for you being with us here. What’s your opinion on the willingness and capability of NATO to increase their role as far as the war on terrorism is concerned? Is that a message that you’re here to put across?
Rumsfeld: Well, certainly, the 27 – or actually 19 plus 7 plus one defense ministers that will be here – will be discussing those subjects. NATO has just made an enormous transition over the last two years since the beginning of the global war on terror. They had really never been involved outside the NATO treaty area originally, and they are in the Balkans now -- in Kosovo and Bosnia – and, to some extent, elsewhere. Now, within the last month, they’ve taken over the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, which is really the first time NATO has ever been involved outside of Europe.
Quirk: And assisting Polish Forces in Iraq, if I understand?
Rumsfeld: They have, indeed. You’re quite right.
Quirk: Is it imperative to get a reduction in U.S. force strength, or can we see a reduction in U.S. force strength with more of a participation from NATO countries? Is that something that needs to be discussed as well? Does one lead to the other, do you believe?
Rumsfeld: Well, I look at it this way. There are three elements. There are U.S. Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are coalition forces, some are NATO and some are non-NATO countries; in fact, quite a few are non-NATO countries. And third, there are local forces in Afghanistan. We’ve got the Afghan National Army stood up and actually participating with Joint Patrol. In Iraq, in 5 months we’ve gone from zero to 56,000 Iraqis currently with arms doing police work, Army work, border patrol, site protection and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. So, it’s the three of them that makes up security for the entire country.
Quirk: Given that, were you disturbed, or what’s your reaction to Lt. Gen. Sanchez’s comments that was on the wire yesterday regarding his comments that it could be years now for coalition forces in Iraq and that he, at some point, could see another a major conflagration in that country and in the region involving U.S. forces. Is that a personal opinion from the man on the ground, or is that a policy statement that came from the top?
Rumsfeld: I’ve met with Sanchez and talked to him on the phone and I’ve never heard him say anything like that.
Quirk: He was quoted in a wire story to that affect that --
Rumsfeld: Doesn’t make it so. (Laughter) I just don’t know.
Quirk: You don’t know?
Rumsfeld: I’ve never heard him say anything like that.
Quirk: It was in direct contradiction to Deputy Wolfowitz, for example, who said the end of next of year. Is that a viable timetable?
Rumsfeld: I’m sure that’s a misunderstanding and a miscommunication. I talk to him regularly and I’ve never heard him say anything like that.
Quirk: Talk about your visit here to Colorado Springs. I understand you’re going to be visiting with families and troops. We’ve lost 19 soldiers here. How does that affect you personally, and does that change the mission or policy of the Administration as it relates to Iraq? How does the way they’re being killed in Iraq, these hit and miss terrorist attacks, how does our mission change there?
Rumsfeld: Well, of course, last May, 1st major combat activity and the low intensity conflict, which has continued to this day and very likely will into the future, has been taking the lives of some young men and young women from our country, from coalition countries and also Iraqis who are involved in the security forces. There have been dozen of Iraqis that have been killed as well. It always just breaks your heart to see any fine young people die or wounded. I was just at Walter Reed Army Hospital yesterday visiting the wounded that had just came out of Iraq.
On the other hand, what they’re doing is terribly important and I’ve been so reassured to see that they know that. They appreciate the importance of it. They’re proud of what they’re doing, and they care about doing it in a highly professional way, and our country’s blessed to have these people, young men and young women in uniform, doing what they’re doing.
Quirk: Very quickly, sir, what will your message be to the soldiers and families at Ft. Carson tomorrow?
Rumsfeld: That’s easy. It will be thank you and God bless you and thank you. What they’re doing is – you know, each one of them is a volunteer, each one of them stepped forward an said, send me - I want to be involved in defending our freedom. And if every generation didn’t have people like that, we’d be a very different place here in America.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, thanks so much for taking the time, here live on News First at 6 to speak with us. We appreciate it.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
Quirk: And Lisa, of course we’ll have much more with the Secretary on News First at 10, roll back to you.
Quirk: I have just a couple more questions (inaudible), sir. I was wondering if you could sir, your gut feeling about the spending measure in Congress right now. Where do you feel, ultimately, it’s going to come down in terms of a loan, a contingency or what’s your feeling on that?
Rumsfeld: Those things are all being worked out right now by the White House and Congress, and everything I see on both sides of the aisle is very broad support for the proposal.
Quirk: So you don’t believe that at some point they’re going to take a portion of that and make –
Rumsfeld: (Inaudible) the President proposes the Congress (inaudible), at the moment I’ve been very impressed.
Quirk: Particularly strong support from people how have been to Iraq.
Rumsfeld: Some 17 of them came back Republicans and Democrats from the House last week. And right down the line they were very positive on the progress that’s being made and were struck by the contrast that they themselves saw and what they see reported in the news.
Q: Speaking of that, let’s talk quickly about the search for weapons of mass destruction and the preliminary report before Congress last week. Is there enough time being given to find what we need to find and to rationalize it’s really the portion of our reason for going into Iraq in the first place?
Rumsfeld: Oh sure. I mean, we’re patient, we’ve got some 1,200 people over there - a country the size of California - and you could probably put all of their elicit, (inaudible) elicit programs in a two car garage. And they’ve been burying (inaudible) aircraft - you probably read about that. You could imagine how difficult it is to find these things. But Dr. Kay is professional, he’s doing an excellent job, we’ve got a fine group of people supporting him, he gave (inaudible) report. He said there was no doubt but that there were programs and that he has developed evidence of their denial and deception and when one looks at the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 that in fact what they have found suggests that (inaudible) that was a fraudulent filing of that of Iraq’s report (inaudible). They were supposed to declare (inaudible) and they did not.
Quirk: If you could briefly just comment on the development of this NATO response (inaudible) that could be anywhere from 2 to 10,000, perhaps as many as 20,000 forces. Is that a done deal? Where do you come down in terms of trying make sure that is imperative and that NATO utilizes that to the benefit of the United States?
Rumsfeld: We recommended that a year ago, and I was impressed with the way it’s moved along. And it critically important that our country, as well as NATO, be capable of moving in days and weeks, not months or years. And to the extent you don’t have a response capability where you can actually effectively decide, move, get there and engage in a very short order, you’re really not much of a deterrent. And so, I’m just very pleased with the way that NATO Response Force is moving alone. The Heads of State agreed to a (inaudible), people have been volunteering various types of capabilities, we’ve got to round that out, but I think it’s going to be an enormous (inaudible) for NATO. By virtue of the Response Force having to get into the 21st Century they can (inaudible) into their national capabilities and begin transforming their national militaries as well.
Q: Will there be any decision maker in this conference as to finalizing the make-up and mission?
Rumsfeld: Normally that’s done in the military channel versus meeting at the Ministers level.
Q: Okay. Thank you very much, sir. Appreciate your time.
Rumsfeld: Enjoyed it.
Copyright © 2003 by Federal News Service Inc., Ste. 220, 1919 M St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a U.S. government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service, please visit www.fednews.com or call (202) 347-1400.