(Media availability en route from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, to Bagram AB, Afghanistan.)
Q: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned improving security in Afghanistan. Why is it important to improve security in Afghanistan, especially at this time?
Rumsfeld: Well, in any country in the world, without a reasonably secure environment, the rest of life can't go forward in a normal way. And for the economy to begin to recover or for the internally displaced people who want to go back home, and or for the refugees to return, for investment to come in, all of those things depend on a reasonably secure environment.
Now when I say "reasonably" in the case of Afghanistan, we're not looking for a model like the United States or Western Europe, it is a country that is used to a good deal of unrest. But it is improving continuously, humanitarian workers are at work, people are returning home, and the interim government is taking a variety of steps to improve security, and it's important that all of the countries that have this interest participate and see if we can't be helpful.
Q: Do you plan on discussing that with Chairman Karzai, the improvement in conditions?
Rumsfeld: You bet.
Q: Are you worried sir, that there are increasing signs of guerrilla warfare by al Qaeda and Taliban?
Rumsfeld: No. I am always concerned and watchful. But there's not -- there are a lot of people saying, well now that spring is coming, the Taliban and al Qaeda will reorganize. Well, if they do, we'll go after them.
Q: Do you expect things will be different from the last time you were there in December? What do you think has changed?
Rumsfeld: Well, the government's been in place a while. The various coalition forces have had an opportunity to conduct a number of sweeps and drive out and capture additional Taliban and al Qaeda. The government officials and the various leaders that I will be visiting with will have a perspective on what's taking place that ought to be helpful. The movement towards the loya jurga and the transitional government to follow is farther along.
I think there are a series of things that have happened. The Germans have been making progress training some of the police, the International Security Assistance Force under the Brits have been making some progress in training elements of an army, we're getting ready to start next month training some additional forces for the Afghan National Army. So there is a lot that has been happening.
Q: Is there anything that you're proposing or preparing to offer? Is there anything new in the way of assistance or security arrangements?
Rumsfeld: Well, we are already talking to the Turkish government about a memorandum of understanding that we will have with them in connection with their responsibilities when they succeed the British as head of the ISAF. There are any numbers of things that we are involved in.
Q: Should U.S. troops be involved in ISAF?
Rumsfeld: Well, U.S. troops are providing intelligence for ISAF, the logistics for ISAF, quick reaction support for ISAF. There is no question but that we are involved in ISAF; we're just doing it in ways that are distinctive and appropriate to us.
Q: What are you prepared to do to help the Turks carry out their responsibility?
Rumsfeld: Well, we'll talk to than about that. We'll certainly be willing to provide the same kind of assistance we're providing the current ISAF.
Q: The rapid reaction?
Rumsfeld: And in addition, we've volunteered to step up and participate in helping to raise money for the Turkish participation and that process is beginning.
Q: Okay. Thank you sir.
Rumsfeld: You bet.