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Media Availability with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
July 12, 2005 4:05 PM EDT
Media Availability with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Good afternoon.  I am very pleased to be able to welcome our friend the Defense minister, Mr. Martino, of Italy, back to the Pentagon.  Italy has shown a great deal of courage and vision in the war against violent extremists.  We were just visiting in there about the fact that Italy this year has taken over the lead of a provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan; will be taking over the lead of the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, in August; and in addition is -- either has or will have the lead in both Bosnia and in Kosovo --

 

            MIN. MARTINO:  (Inaudible.)  Yes.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  -- at the same time --

 

            MIN. MARTINO:  Yes.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  -- which is a -- an indication of their country's commitment to contributing to peace and stability in the world.

 

            Italy has been a leader in helping NATO become a more effective force in the post-Cold War world.  It's provided critical military assistance in Afghanistan and Iraq as well.  And Italy's assistance in training the Iraqi army has been helpful to the Iraqis in improving their capability to eventually take over security responsibilities in that country.

 

            I hope, Mr. Minister, that you'll convey to the people of Italy America's appreciation and gratitude for your friendship and your important contributions to peace and stability in the world.

 

            I know that the minister would join me in expressing our support for the people of Great Britain after the attacks in London last week and in offering our assistance to them in bringing justice to those responsible for the mass murder.  The world has been impressed, though I think not surprised, by the British people's gritty resilience.  And needless to say, the United States government is proud to stand with them.

 

            I think we have to be very clear about what the terrorists' intentions are.  Their goal is to build and secure new bases for extremists and violent terrorism acts.  It is to force free people to change their way of life and their behavior.  It's to export the hatred and violence throughout the Middle East and Europe, and bring it against any nation that disagrees with their stand.

 

            They know they can't win a conventional conflict against an army or a navy or an air force; that's not their purpose.  But they do hope to damage free people by terrorizing their citizens, by hoping that public opinion will force the leaders of free countries to accommodate or retreat, by undermining alliances and trying to pick off countries from global coalition against terrorism -- one at a time.

 

            Those efforts are going to fail.  We recognize, of course, that each country's contribution will vary.  It will vary from other countries, and vary from time to time.  And we understand that.  But our resolve remains undiminished in continuing to deal with the extremists who are murdering innocent men, women, and children.

 

            Mr. Minister, welcome.

 

            MIN. MARTINO:  Mr. Secretary, first of all, let me thank you for your kind words.  Really appreciated what you said.  But since you said it so well and you said everything there was to say, I guess I better leave room for questions and add nothing.

 

            (Light laughter.)

 

            Q:  Well done.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  He's an economist.  Do you know that?  (Light laughter.)  He studied at the University of Chicago, so being from Chicago, I have a great deal of respect for him, but -- Barbara.

 

            Q:  We haven't really had a chance to ask either of you gentlemen in detail of your views on the London situation.  And Mr. Secretary, since you just said that you believe terrorists are trying to secure new bases for extremism, I wanted to ask you how you reflect on the London situation.  Do you believe that is now an indicator of a new terrorism base in the U.K.?  What does this say about the potential expansion of al Qaeda or Zarqawi associates?  And are you looking at the possibility that the high-grade explosives the British have now publicly spoken about may have come from Iraq or come from some al Qaeda or Zarqawi stronghold?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, I've, you know, heard and seen the same kinds of rumors that others have, but I think it's certainly too early in the investigations that are taking place over there to begin to make conclusions about either the explosives or the purposes.

 

            I did not mean to leave the impression that the terrorists intended to try to make the U.K. a terrorist haven.  They're doing that in other parts of the world.  Obviously, their goal in Iraq and Afghanistan is to do that, and other places.

 

            But I think it is too early in the investigations to come to conclusions like that.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q:  I would like to ask both gentlemen how the attacks in London will affect the operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and especially in Italy, if there will be any military protective operations, since Italy was directly threatened by the London bombers.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  In terms of the non-Italy part of your question -- I'll leave that to the minister -- I can't imagine that the attacks in London will affect Afghanistan or Iraq.  We know that terrorists have attacked in many, many countries around the world -- in Spain, in Bali, in the United States and elsewhere.  So I don't think that you'll see anything different in either of those two countries.

 

            I think that the coalitions that are involved in Afghanistan and in Iraq are making good progress.  They have -- we have plans in each country that are going forward, milestones are being met, and the tasks that remain ahead are clear, unambiguous and I believe will be achieved.

 

            You want to respond?

 

            MIN. MARTINO:  Yes.

 

            Let me answer this way.  This meeting had been scheduled long before the London tragedy, but since it is taking place after the tragic event, I felt it necessary to tell the secretary of defense something which he already knows:  the terrorists wants us -- want to weaken our determination, and they are not going to succeed.  Italy, the Italian military, will stay in Iraq as long as necessary, not one day more, but certainly not one day less.  They are trying to terrorize all of us.  It's their declared purpose, but we refuse to be terrorized.

 

            We would never make any unilateral decision regarding our presence in Iraq.  We shall always work in agreement with our allies and with the government of Iraq.  If their purpose was that of making us -- scaring us -- making us be afraid to continue in trying to fulfill a mission, well, they certainly did fail because we will continue to do so.

 

            Q:  And military preparations inside Italy for protective -- against a future --

 

            MIN. MARTINO:  You see the distinction -- division of labor between the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Defense is fairly sharp.  Domestic security is my colleague of the Interior Ministry's responsibility.  We do contribute because the air force is helping in protecting our skies, and we also contribute by giving soldiers to protect some specific targets that we feel are sensitive to possible terrorist attacks.  But it is a limited role.  Most of the burden falls on the minister of Interior.

 

            Q:  Thank you.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yes?

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, after the attack in London, today, we had another attack in Israel.  Do you believe that any regime in the Middle East, let's say Iran, could be behind or could be supporting these kinds of terrorist attacks?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  As I say, with respect to the attacks in the U.K., I'm inclined to let the investigations proceed, and whatever conclusions are reached will be reached.

 

            With respect to attacks in Israel, we know that Iran has been on the terrorist list.  We know that Iran has been assisting Hezbollah and other organizations and moving equipment and people down through Damascus into Beirut and down into positions where they can attack Israel for years and years and years and years.  I wouldn't want to suggest that I know about the attack today, but clearly that's been one of the stated and continuous purposes of Iran, is to harm Israel.

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Do we have any from Italy?  Are there any -- yes.

 

            Q:  Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Martino, between the alliance between friends, two incidents, like the death of Nicola Calipari in Iraq and the kidnapping of Imam in Milano, aren't too much?

 

            MIN. MARTINO:  Well, as for the first tragic accident in which Dr. Calipari lost his life, as you know, the Italian judiciary is investigating the case.  It would be not proper for me to comment that.  The Italian government has promised that it will do anything it can to help the judiciary arrive at conclusions, and I am sure that the government will do so.

 

            As for the abduction of that Islamic element you're referring to, I know nothing about that.  It had nothing to do with something of responsibility of the Ministry of Defense, so I did not even mention it to the secretary of defense.

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, several months after 9/11, in your "long, hard slog" memo, you raised the question as to whether counterterrorism efforts could kill and capture terrorists faster than madrassas can turn them out.  Given last week's attack in London, the ongoing terrorist operations in Iraq, do you have that answer today? Are the terrorists being turned out faster than can be killed or captured?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No one knows.  We know that there are elements to the global war on terror, against the battle -- the struggle that's taking place within that religion by extremists versus the moderates.  We know the moderates represent the overwhelming majority of people in that religion, and that the extremists are a relatively small but clearly lethal cadre that exists there.

 

            We know that we have to -- defense doesn't work.  You have to defend, you have to try to defend, but you have to know the only way you can successfully defend is to go after the terrorists where they are, and to see that they don't have safe havens where they can plan, train, organize and then attack innocent men, women and children.  It doesn't take a genius to kill innocent men, women and children.

 

            Now -- so you have to go after them where they are.  And there's a good deal of that.  And as you know, a very large number of senior al Qaeda terrorists have been captured or killed.  And that process goes forward.

 

            The piece of the puzzle that you mentioned is that struggle that's taking place to see that there are not large numbers of people being brought in to the intake of this terrorist apparatus and network that exists in the world.  And that battle ultimately is going to be won by people within that religion, by the moderates overcoming the extremists.  Anything that the rest of the world can do to encourage that and to support that -- and to see that it succeeds over time -- is important.  But there's no way for anyone to know what is happening all across the globe among that extremist element that is financing, recruiting, training, and then deploying murderers.

 

            There have always been extremists.  And if an extremist goes off in a room and is extreme by themselves, that's one thing.  If they are violent extremists in that their purpose is to reestablish the Caliphate in the globe, or their purpose is to destroy free people so that they can no longer function as free people and have to change their way of life dramatically, then they are a serious problem for the world.  And they are a serious problem for the world.

 

            I believe progress is being made, but I wouldn't think there's anyone who could answer the question.  It continues to be a question that I think about and worry about.

 

            Do we have something from Italy?

 

            Q:  (Inaudible.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Okay.

 

            Q:  (Inaudible.)  (Laughter.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Everyone around here's name ends in a vowel today.  (Laughter.)

 

            Q:  Not everybody.

 

            Q:  I think you're surrounded.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Giambastiani and Bucci (ph) and Di Rita, and Pace is coming, and Cambone.

 

            Q:  Miklaszewski.  (Laughter.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Laughs.)  No, no!  Doesn't work!

 

            Q:  No!

 

            Q:  There was an announcement from the Berlusconi government, I think it was this week, that the government intends to withdraw about 300 of your 3,000 troops.  A, is that true?  And B, can you give us some of the rationale for why that's taking place?

 

            MIN. MARTINO:  Yes.  First of all, let me put that statement in the context that it was mentioned.  The prime minister said that Italy would continue to stay in Iraq as long as necessary.  Second, he said all our decisions will be made in agreement with our allies and with the government of Iraq.  Third, it is true that as the training and formation of new Iraqi military and police proceeds and the Iraqis are gradually more and more capable of taking care of their own security by themselves, then our presence will become progressively less important.

 

            And as you know, our province -- (inaudible) -- Dhi Qar, is a fairly quiet province.  On January 30th, the election time, elections in Dhi Qar were marked by the fact that there was a higher turnout than in the rest of the country, there were no accidents, and the security was guaranteed not by us, but the Iraqis themselves, 5,000 policemen which had been trained by our carabinieri, and 1,000 soldiers had been trained by our soldiers.  I think, therefore, that the Italian contingent has been successful in its mission in Dhi Qar.

 

            And this is why it was planned, we had talked about it on January 28th with the secretary of defense, that gradually we could pursue our mission with maybe fewer units.  And what will happen in September is that the paratroopers that are presently in Iraq will be replaced by an armored brigade.  And we feel that the 3,000 of the armored brigade who will replace the 3,300 presently there will be capable of continuing to pursue the same mission with the same effectiveness.  So it's just a reduction of 10 percent, 300 fewer, from 3,300 to 3,000.  But it will -- the mission will remain the same.  The effectiveness will remain the same.  Only the situation has changed. It has improved.  And it's measure of the success of our military in Iraq that we can continue to pursue that goal with fewer people, because we have succeeded in doing what we've done so far.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think if you -- one way to look at the security situation in Iraq in terms of the forces is, you have coalition forces, you have U.S. forces, and you have Iraqi security forces.  The total number is going up if you add all three together.  The mix is changing and will change and has changed.  I mean, we've gone from what, 160(,000) down to 137,000 or something like that.

 

            And on the other hand, we've looked, as we have in Afghanistan, at the major milestones or events, and now we have coming up in Afghanistan, for example, the parliamentary and provincial elections coming up, I believe September 18th.  And we've had a pattern of increasing forces for the -- prior to and shortly after those events while the voting is taking place, and it's had a good effect, because we've been successful.  And NATO, as the minister knows, is planning to send additional forces in, for example, into Afghanistan prior to and for the period after the local elections.

 

            Q:  And the U.S. is sending a battalion too.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Pardon me?

 

            Q:  The U.S. is sending in an extra battalion into Afghanistan --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We likely will also, yes.

 

            Q:  Are there discussions, Mr. Secretary, to reduce the total multinational force in Iraq to 66,000 by early next year, as revealed in a British memo this week?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You know, I've not read that memo.  And I never -- would not want to ever say that there aren't discussions, although -- there are always discussions.  We have people here in this building, which you know as well as all of us, that have the job of planning.  And what do they do?  They plan.  That's their job.  Their plans in 99 percent of the time never are implemented, fortunately, because a lot of it's contingency planning and war planning and the like.  But what they do is, in the case of Iraq or Afghanistan or Bosnia or Kosovo, is sit there and look at what might be.  Might we need more? Might we need less?  How would that work?  What would we do?  What units would be deployed to replace people leaving?  If the number were to go up, how would we do it?  If the number were to go down, how would we do it?  We're doing that all the time.  The Army and the Marines and the Navy and the Air Force do it continuously.  And it is the commanders on the ground that will make recommendations back up to me and to Dick Myers and Pete Pace, and then we will make recommendations to the president, and then the president will ultimately make judgments about the U.S. aspect of that.  But -- so I'm sure there -- somewhere in the world there's somebody planning something.  But I think it's a mistake for people to report that type of thing as thought it is going to happen, or decided, or fact.  When something is decided like that, I will let you know.  (Laughter.)

 

            Q:  But don't you think it sounds plausible?  You don't -- you don't think it plausible, sir? 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Is that possibility?

 

            Q:  The things mentioned?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Is it proper and appropriate for the people with the responsibility for training and equipping and mobilizing and deploying forces to look at a full range of increases, levels and decreases?  Of course.  It's responsible, plausible, and -- now, would I want you to walk away from this thinking that's going to happen?  No, I wouldn't, because those recommendations have not been made by the battlefield commanders, they have not been made to me.  I've not made those recommendations, I have not discussed it with Dick Myers, and we have not discussed it with the president.  So it's a mistake for everyone to run around chasing their tails on some aspect of something that is a part of the responsibility of ministries of defense.

 

            MIN. MARTINO:  Plus it was the -- what was it -- the poet Robert Burns who said that the best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Indeed.  (Laughter.)

 

            Thank you, folks.

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, was the leak Karl Rove?  (Pause, laughter.) He didn't say yes.  (Laughs.)

 

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