(Background briefing on the NATO and Middle East aspects of Secretary Rumsfeld's forthcoming trip.)
Staff: Thank you for joining us this morning. The purpose of this briefing is to give you some details and put some context on the upcoming Secretary's trip to NATO and to the Middle East.
The attribution for today's briefing will be a Senior Defense Official, and we will have two of them for you today. So you'll have Senior Defense Official One on the top; Senior Defense Official Two will be joining us here in progress in the next couple of minutes.
The first Defense official will be discussing the NATO aspects of the visit, and the second Defense official is going to talk about the Middle East portion of the trip. However, I must note that in his discussions with you, he will not be discussing any of the policy issues related to or any of the specifics of the visit to India and Pakistan, due to the very sensitive nature. Those of you that are traveling with him, you'll get more details once you're en route on the trip.
With that, I will let --
Q: Just a housekeeping question. You just mentioned the itinerary to some extent. Is it now official as far as --
Staff: That he is traveling to NATO and to the Middle East, yes, it is.
Q: You mentioned a couple other countries.
Staff: Yes. I think he also mentioned those late last week also. Okay?
So, Defense Official One. Sir?
Senior Defense Official: Great. What I thought I would do, very briefly and then open it up to questions, is give a quick overview of the NATO portion of the trip, the European portion of the trip, and then talk a little bit about what it is that we hope to accomplish, and then open it up to questions.
The Secretary will be leaving tomorrow, will be traveling to London, where we'll have a bilateral meeting there with minister -- U.K. Minister of Defense Hoon, and then on to Brussels for multilateral meetings, including the Nuclear Planning Group, Defense Planning Committee and the North Atlantic Council, as well as meetings of the NATO-Russia Council, which I think is the first meeting of that NATO-Russia Council; the NATO-Ukraine Commission and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. So those all will be conducted over a two-day period. In addition, the Secretary will be meeting with Lord Robertson and several other of his MOD colleagues.
And then at the conclusion of those meetings, we'll be traveling down to Geilenkirchen Air Base in Germany, which is where the NATO AWACS air crews that were patrolling U.S. airspace after 9/11 were based -- are based.
And then we'll be completing the European portion by going to Talinn, Estonia, for meetings with the Nordic and Baltic defense ministers.
The -- I'm going to really focus on the NATO meetings, because I think this is an important set of meetings in the run-up to the Prague ministerials, as well as to the first set of major meetings with allies after the president's trip to Europe. The North Atlantic Council foreign ministers met earlier -- or I should say late last month, and really the focus is on three areas: one, the new members -- looking forward to new members in the alliance; number two, new relationships -- both the new, enhanced NATO-Russia Council, as well as continuing and expanding relationships with countries like Ukraine and the Partnership for Peace program. And then finally -- and I think this will be a main focus for the defense ministers' meeting -- is new capabilities.
And we are going to be having a discussion and talking about two major issues in this new capabilities area. One is a more focused capabilities initiative that builds on the work that has been done so far in the Defense Capabilities Initiative but applies the lessons we've learned from that. And we're really pressing ahead in four major areas, areas that we think the alliance needs to improve as a whole to allow us to work together and, when necessary, to fight together.
One area is in defense against weapons of mass destruction and the ability to prevent, defeat -- defend against and deal with the consequences of weapons of mass destruction. Another critical area is in what we call strategic lift and logistical support. That includes air-to-air refueling, these kinds of capabilities, since the most likely areas where NATO and allied forces might be involved will be out of the NATO theater of operations; deployable and secure communications capabilities; and, of course, modern weapon systems -- things like PGMs and the AGS system and air defenses and the like.
A second major area is structuring or restructuring the command system in NATO. We are obviously in the process of reforming our command structure here in the United States, and I think a broad consensus is emerging within the alliance that NATO needs to do the same to take advantage of changes in the threat, as well as reacting to the different kinds of contingencies that NATO forces might be involved in, in the future. We want -- so I think we'll be focusing a lot of the discussion in that area. What is the relevancy of the current command structure to the evolving threat environment? How can we make a cleaner set of command arrangements more efficient, saving resources but at the same time making them more flexible and more deployable? And finally, as the United States is transforming its forces, how can we tie in NATO and allied forces, which are also transforming in their own way, and tie those processes together? So we're very much focused on that idea.
We'll also be discussing the need to continue military reforms in the aspirant countries, and the Secretary, I think, will be meeting with a group of the aspirants while he's there. And we'll also obviously have the opportunity to have the first meeting of this NATO-Russia Council, and Secretary Rumsfeld will be having a meeting with Minister of Defense Ivanov while he's there as well.
And I would point out that a year ago, at the June ministerial last year, was the first major meeting between Secretary Rumsfeld and Minister of Defense Ivanov. And an enormous amount has happened since then in the U.S.-Russia relationship, I think a great deal of it very positive. They'll be taking stock of that and looking forward to ways in which we can cooperate more fully on the war on terrorism, missile defense cooperation and in a broad range of other areas.
So with that, I think I will close and -- yeah?
Q: Does the Secretary have a new message about the disparities in spending between America and the rest of the NATO allies? It seems to come up in every single session, and it's hard to get a sense of how it's being resolved, any movement to fix that problem, from the American point of view.
Senior Defense Official: I think there's a -- one of the messages, obviously, is that there's a general recognition that we need to spend more on defense. The United States has made a major commitment to do that in the post-9/11 environment. Having said that, I think there's also an understanding that we need to spend the resources we have more wisely. And so, the two capabilities -- concepts that I discussed with you, the idea of a focused DCI -- one of the things that we felt the last defense capabilities initiative dealt with about 60 different concepts and projects, a broad range of issues, and tried to sort of move the alliance forward across the broad front of capabilities. We think focusing more on the specific capabilities that will be necessary or more useful in the war against terrorism and being able to apply force outside of area, deployability, secure interoperable communications -- what are the things that all allies need to work together that are common to be able to deploy together and to be able to undertake operations together.
And that is a smaller subset. And in some cases, those things are not particularly expensive. I mean, I mentioned secure interoperable communications as, you know, an area -- WMD protection, for example. These are not very expensive items. So, shifting priorities a little bit. Command structures is another example of that. As you make those command structures leaner and more efficient, there will be savings on a large number of -- for example, I think NATO currently is structured to develop about nine of the air operations centers, static air operations centers, two deployable centers. We think that's too many. We think that we could focus that down. And there's a huge amount of NATO resources that go into developing and deploying those air operations centers. So, that will free up funds that will be available for other kinds of things that may be more useful in the war on terrorism.
Q: You spoke about confront -- I mean, defending weapons of mass destruction. But what about confronting those who possess weapons of mass destruction? What kind of conversations will be about that particular issue?
Senior Defense Official: I think this is an opportunity to have a fairly detailed and frank conversation about that. Obviously, the president made clear in his remarks, I think in Berlin, that we face a fairly unprecedented situation here, that 9/11 was in some ways a wake-up call. There were thousands killed in that case. In the event of a potential weapons of mass destruction attack on the United States or on one of our allies, that the risks could be much higher than that.
So I would expect that ministers will have a fairly focused discussion on that topic.
Q: On the enlargement of NATO, I'm a little behind on where things stand. Can you kind of bring us up to date on where the discussion is and what is the U.S. position on the number that ought to be brought in, or has that been settled already?
Senior Defense Official: The president has said that he's is looking forward to a robust round of enlargement. On the other hand, we feel, particularly in this building, but I think generally throughout the government, it's very important that the countries we invite in be ready. And so there's been an ongoing process of helping potential aspirants get ready by implementing defense reforms, by getting their military spending focused in better areas.
For example, some of these countries have legacy military forces from the Warsaw Pact. They tend to be very officer top-heavy -- kind of an inverted pyramid. So we've been working with them to try to restructure the way their command and control arrangements are done; reducing that top-heavy structure, getting civilian control of the military, getting them focused in deploying the kinds of forces that may be of more value to the alliance in that context -- or in the various contexts, whether they be peacekeeping or out-of-area operations or whatever. So that's where we sort of stand.
Between now and, I would expect, the fall, we would continue to push for defense reform. And that's why I mentioned the point that we will continue to do that in our meetings with them this week, and there will be additional, I think, teams that will be going out and -- survey teams that will be going out and meeting in the capitals of the various aspirants over the next two, three, four months, both to get an understanding of how well they're doing on the one hand, and so that we can factor that into our own decision-making process in the fall on who the United States thinks we ought to invite, as well as to encourage them and suggest areas in which they can make improvements.
Q: Can you discuss a little bit about what's going to be talked about in the Russia Council and the significance of, you know, the first meeting of that and --
Senior Defense Official: Right. I think --
Q: -- who from Russia -- will he hold any bilateral talks with the Russian defense minister separate from this one where they --
Senior Defense Official: Yes, he's going to hold a bilateral with Minister of Defense Ivanov. In addition to that, there will be a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at 20. And the -- as I understand it, Minister Ivanov will be Russia's representative at that council. This council, as you know, was essentially created at the NATO-Russia summit that just occurred at the end of last month, in which the president and President Putin were involved post the U.S.-Russia summit. It was in Italy.
I think that there'll be a number of issues that will be discussed. Some of them will be procedural, and some of them will be substantive. I would expect the war on terrorism to be a continuing focus of this group. And I would also expect them to try to put some energy behind a concrete agenda for the NATO-Russia Council -- in particular, getting some specific projects going in areas that the council believes are, you know, ripe for NATO-Russia cooperation. Counterterrorism is obviously one of those. Nonproliferation is another. A couple of areas that I know we have been looking at and pushing is the development of a air sovereignty operations center for the entire European and Russian area of operations -- we think this is -- you know, particularly given the air threats that emerged post-9/11, has a lot of practical value -- and also looking at the possibility of developing some joint training and joint-exercise-type operations out of those meetings.
Q: What is an air sovereignty center?
Senior Defense Official: It's called an ASOC, an air sovereignty operations center. Essentially, it's a way of coordinating peacetime air activities over a particular, you know, geographic region. And so the concept, if fully developed, would be to have an ASOC that would cover effectively cover from Vancouver to Vladivostok.
Q: Would missile defense be one of those also that NATO-Russia --
Senior Defense Official: Yes, I think there's definitely room, and you saw both, I think, in coming out of the U.S.-Russia summit, as well as the NATO-Russia summit, an emphasis on looking at how we might cooperate with the Russians in developing missile defense capabilities at large, but in particular applying those to the defense of Europe.
Q: And would India --
Q: (inaudible) -- U.S.-Russia or NATO-Russia?
Senior Defense Official: Pardon me?
Q: On missile defense, would that be U.S.-Russia --
Senior Defense Official: Well, in the NATO-Russia context, it would be NATO-Russia, but obviously, the U.S. and Russia have -- would play an enormously important role because we're the ones who bring the most missile-defense capability and technology to bear. But I think in the NATO-Russia context, it would be more or less -- it would be handled within this council. So it wouldn't be a U.S.-Russia thing. Our U.S.-Russian dialogue on missile defense cooperation will continue beyond what we're doing in the NATO realm.
Q: The Russians had suggested at one point cooperating on boost-phase intercept. Is that something that's been -- being revised?
Senior Defense Official: I don't think that's going to be a focus of the discussions, no. Probably not. But if it's something that -- you know, if the Russians were to bring it up, it's obviously something we'd be willing to discuss.
I want to get over here to some of the folks who haven't --
Q: You've announced a bilateral. Are India and Pakistan going to be very high on the agenda of the bilateral meetings?
Senior Defense Official: I'm really not going to comment on India and Pakistan.
Q: On the command structure, you mentioned air operation centers, but how drastic are you looking on that issue? I mean, are the Supreme Allied Commanders sort of in the mix as a possible change in the structure? And how would that feed into possibly the whole role of NATO in the future in the post-9/11 environment, changing that?
Senior Defense Official: Okay. Just to be clear, the Air Sovereignty Operation Centers is not integrated air defense. All right? It's more of a -- and I've got some -- I've got one subject-matter expert over here, correct me if I'm wrong -- it's more of a civilian, sort of peacetime --
Senior Defense Official's Staff: Sir --
Senior Defense Official: Yeah?
Senior Defense Official's Staff: It's a -- (inaudible) -- management. It provides the airspace --
Staff: You're going to have to go to the mike if you're going to answer questions.
Senior Defense Official: This is -- (name and identifying information of staff member not transcribed).
Senior Defense Official's Staff: An ASOC provides a picture --
Senior Defense Official: And he's on background as well. (laughter) Not anymore.
Senior Defense Official's Staff: An ASOC provides a picture of the airspace over a particular country. We've done ASOCs with most of the Central European countries. We're suggesting the Russians do the same because it provides an ability to share airspace pictures that will enhance the safety of civilian air traffic, coordinate it with military traffic, and it can also be used for contingencies, like emergencies or terrorist situations, as one moves in the progression of cooperation.
Q: Can you give an example on how this -- you know, just an example of what --
Senior Defense Official's Staff: The Baltic States have ASOCs. Each of them have an ASOC center. Together they provide themselves their own national pictures, and then they share those pictures with the other two Baltic States. So they get essentially a regional picture that they share with each other, so they can track air traffic across each of the three states. And in principle, that can be shared with the alliance.
Q: You said in "Vancouver to Vladivostok" that that would effectively be much of the Northern Hemisphere, would it not, if you had NATO and Russian airspace --
Senior Defense Official's Staff: You could envision an ASOC for Russia that covered all of Russia.
Q: Has this actually been proposed, or is this being discussed, or the United States has proposed doing this?
Senior Defense Official's Staff: This has been proposed to the alliance. The alliance has included it in the work plan it's put before the NATO-Russia Council.
Q: And the proposal is that Russia --
Senior Defense Official: And it's also been discussed with Minister Ivanov.
Q: And have the Russians mentioned one way or the other what -- how they feel? And can you --
Senior Defense Official: I think they're interested in it as a concept, yeah.
Q: It could be decided at this meeting? Is that right?
Senior Defense Official: Don't know. I'm not sure, but it's possible.
Q: But on -- I mean, on the sort of the NATO command structure as such, I mean, you mentioned that they were looking at changes to it. I mean, again, how drastic would that be, if that it what we're talking about?
Senior Defense Official: How drastic would the command structure changes be?
Senior Defense Official: Well, I think at this point it's premature to say that. I mean, I think that the idea coming out of this meeting, I think, is to get the ministers to agree. And as I said, I think there is consensus and they will agree that there -- that a sort of thorough command structure review needs to be done.
To say what it would be would sort of be prejudging that outcome. But we have obviously made or are making changes in the context of our UCP over here. Those will have -- some of those changes affect NATO, and they will have to be factored into that command structure review, and they will be. And obviously we'll be working closely with our allies on that.
And then, secondly, sort of looking post-9/11, are we configured in the way that we want to be? Are our forces -- so, for example, one of the areas that we've been very supportive of are these high-readiness force headquarters that are now being developed in Europe. We think that those are headquarter elements that ought to be emphasized in the command structure review. There may be other elements in the -- that -- of the more static nature that ought to be de-emphasized as we move forward. But the details of that will have to be conducted after the NATO military authorities and the political leadership does kind of a thorough review of this.
Q: Does the U.S. have a view on this? I mean, you mentioned the UCP. I mean, General Myers, I think, said that that change was the most drastic he'd seen in all his time as a serving officer, as far as changes to the U.S. command structure was concerned.
Senior Defense Official: We don't -- other than saying that we think a review ought to be undertaken, that we believe there are opportunities for streamlining the command structure and for adapting it to the new threats, we don't have a solution or a concept, other than to say, I think, an important element of this -- we think it's extremely important that whatever we do in the command structure review, that we tie our transformation and the transformation of allied militaries together, so that at the end of that -- there's no end of the transformation process, but as we carry out that transformation, the allies are better and better able to work with us and deploy with us.
Q: Is the Secretary going to use this opportunity to discuss the International Security Force in Afghanistan -- the size and scope, and the Karzai government's desire to see it expanded?
Senior Defense Official: There's a -- I mean, I would imagine that sort of a general discussion of ISAF will come up. I don't think it's an area that we're going to be pushing as a talking area. There will be some discussion of it in the context of sort of an update on the war on terrorism: Where do we stand in Afghanistan; where do we stand in terms of ISAF; where do we stand in terms of the loya jirga, and the like.
So I think in general terms, yes, but I don't think there's going to be a specific focus on that.
Q: Could you mention strategic lift and refueling? Are you coming in with specific requests for, you know, what NATO can do to bolster the U.S.'s -- the United States's strategic lift capacity --
Senior Defense Official: What we're going to come in with is a request that NATO military authorities focus on looking at what are our requirements, how can we make better use of the airlift assets that we have -- and I say "we", I mean mostly the European airlift assets -- more efficient use of them.
You know, for example, you know, there are some indications that a lot of airlift flies around Europe empty. You know, if you can figure out ways of streamlining and of making a more efficient use of moving cargo around, you can get more bang, if you will, for the airlift buck. And also task them to look at what the requirements might be with the road -- you know, again, looking forward to Prague, getting heads of state to endorse a set of fairly concrete goals for developing alliance capabilities in these four focused areas. So the real goal is to -- just to begin to look now at what those capabilities ought to be with the goal in Prague being getting the heads of state to focus on the outputs, if you will.
Q: Have you --
Staff: We're going to take just one or two more and then our second defense official is here, and we want to move on to the Middle East, if we could.
Senior Defense Official: Okay, this gentleman has -- (inaudible).
Q: Yeah, will there be any discussions on NATO Atlantic command? It's been somewhat orphaned by the -- (inaudible). The one in Norfolk.
Senior Defense Official: (inaudible) -- on SACLANT?
Q: Yes, SACLANT.
Senior Defense Official: Yeah, I think there will be a general discussion on that. And as I said, we understand that SACLANT is a NATO command, that its disposition has to be a NATO decision, and therefore we believe that its ultimate disposition would be decided in the context of this command structure review. It's not something that we can decide, obviously. And we'll be discussing that with our allies and how we -- you know, how we would propose to move forward on that. But I think it's an open question, for example, whether or not NATO ought to have one or two strategic commands. And it's two strategic commands today, and it's something that ought to be looked at by all NATO allies in the context of that review.
Q: You said that there would be focused discussion on confronting those with weapons of mass destruction. Will there be focused discussion of the U.S. approach to confronting Iraq?
Senior Defense Official: I don't think there's going to be a focus on Iraq per se, but I think there will be a focus on the problem of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorist-sponsoring states. And so, that includes, obviously, more than Iraq. But --
Q: So, a more general discussion?
Senior Defense Official: I think so, yes.
Okay, thank you.
Q: One quick thing. In Britain, you mentioned him meeting with Minister Hoon. Will he be meeting with the prime minister as well?
Senior Defense Official: I'm not sure. It's possible. It's possible.
Staff: Thank you, sir.
And as I told you earlier, our second defense official is here. Let's do this -- our second defense official is here to talk to you about the Middle East aspects of the upcoming trip. Again, we're not going to have anything for you today, though, on any of the details of India and Pakistan.
Senior Defense Official: Good morning. The Secretary has -- well, as you just heard, there will be an India-Pakistan visit. The exact dates are not determined. But there are three Gulf countries that are on the agenda -- on the itinerary: Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. This has been on the schedule for some time. The Secretary had in mind visiting some additional Gulf countries that he hadn't visited yet. These are three countries he has not visited at all as Secretary of Defense. I don't know whether he visited them in an earlier capacity, but as you know, he's taken several trips to the region, stopped in a number of the other Gulf countries. And he had in mind since he was in Europe and he's on the way to the region, he ought to visit countries that have been -- with which we've had long-standing defense relationships and which have been very supportive in OEF.
Now these three countries have been particularly supportive of Operation Enduring Freedom. You know, a number of the -- particularly the Lower Gulf countries have been demonstrative in their support for us. I mean, they -- after September 11th, there have been number of rulers, crown princes, ministers of defense, defense chiefs who've come to Washington, very proud to associate themselves with us. These are countries that -- all three of which value the American connection. It may be the countries of the Lower Gulf have -- the smaller Gulf countries have traditionally associated themselves with an outside power to give them -- you know, a lot of these countries had associations with the U.K. over a long period. So they value the U.S. connection. They see it as an assurance of their security. And from our point of view, we value the fact that we have a number of friends in the smaller countries of the Gulf, which of course adds to our flexibility when we're engaged in that region.
Again, these are countries with which we have no outstanding, no burning issues, no disputes, nothing to negotiate, really. It's a desire to visit friends. As the Secretary of Defense, he wants to, you know, get to know these folks and, again, acknowledge the fact they've been very supportive for us.
Now what kind of support have they given us? This is something I'm sorry I can't be too specific on. You know the Secretary's doctrine on this. There are a lot of countries out there giving us access to bases, overflight rights, assistance-in-kind, and we usually leave it to the countries, themselves, to indicate what exactly they're doing. It is a sensitive matter. So I will try to avoid getting too specific.
But needless to say, these three countries have been particularly helpful. It's not inconceivable that other issues may come up in conversation beyond just OEF. These countries are interested in -- particularly Bahrain and Qatar -- are interested in that they're both -- their internal evolution is of some interest. They're both engaged in experiments and domestic liberalization. And so I think again, it's an opportunity for the Secretary to educate himself on what's going on.
I'll tell you a little bit about each one and try to answer some questions. Qatar -- you know there's an important air base, al Udeid, there. The foreign minister was just here a few weeks ago; Hamad bin Jasim was here. He met with the Deputy Secretary here. This is an important facility. And again, it's something that we've had access to for some time, and I think this is a relationship that will continue.
Qatar has been very helpful in a number of areas, you know, the law enforcement kind of thing with the war on terrorism. Publicly, there was an Islamic Conference meeting, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, in October, that was a resolution which Qatar had a lot to do with supporting Pakistan's change of course; supporting the action against the Taliban. The Qataris have pledged economic support for the new government in Afghanistan, including a commitment to build some hospitals. So they've been, you know, generous to the new Afghan government.
We have a Military Consultative Committee, the usual kind of bilateral forum, with them. There will be another meeting in September in Washington of this group, this sort of standing group that deals with bilateral mil-to-mil issues.
Qatar internally is interesting. I mean again, as I said, they've begun an experiment of their own in democratization. They've had municipal elections, a couple of years ago; a new constitution being drafted; women have equal voting rights. The new constitution will lead to parliamentary elections next year some time. This is a place, of course, where Al-Jajeera operates from, so they have a robust view of the press, which is very, very significant in the Middle East.
Bahrain. Bahrain is a country we've had mil-to-mil relations with since 1948. We always had a little naval presence in the Gulf, even during the period when the British had the major responsibility. And the British, as you know, left the Gulf in 1971. They had protectorates over the lower Gulf States and a relationship with Kuwait. But the British pulled out and then we've gradually moved in over the years, particularly since the Iranian revolution. But the naval presence in Bahrain was something that goes way back. It's now called the headquarters of NAVCENT. It's home to the 5th Fleet and there are personnel, American personnel, there. They've just agreed to headquarters of Marine, MARCENT, Marine Central Command, Marine presence.
Last October they were given the status of "major non-NATO ally." This is a formal status that entitles them to access certain kinds of defense supplies and so forth with the United States. Major non-NATO ally. That's in recognition both of the long history of our cooperation and -- as well as their support for Operation Enduring Freedom.
Bahrain too has begun an experiment in domestic liberalization. Hamad, the king -- it's now -- he now calls it a constitutional monarchy. Elections -- there will be elections in October for a lower house of parliament. This is an interesting experiment. Bahrain is 70 percent Shi'ite and -- a complicated relationship with Iran, of course, but again, this has not stood in the way of a long relationship with the United States. And I forget which Bahraini was here, but they -- again, they very openly associated themselves with us in the recent crisis.
We have a bilateral military consultative committee/forum with them. We had -- the last meeting was in February. It's an ongoing, of course, cooperative relationship.
In OEF, I think -- this is something I think I can say -- there were the first GCC country to offer their own forces to the effort. And they have a -- their major -- in fact, the most -- the biggest surface combatant that they have, which is an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate -- they offered that to the OEF effort. And we have access to -- other forms of access to Bahrain.
Kuwait -- I have less to say. I think you all know -- we all know the history of Kuwait. Again, they too have offered us significant cooperation for OEF. We're engaged in Kuwait, have a presence there, to protect Kuwait against a recurrence of 1990. Operation Southern Watch in southern Iraq is staged out of Kuwait.
In the Gulf, we and the Kuwaitis also cooperate in other things, including enforcement of sanctions against Iraq. And again, given the depth of the U.S.-Kuwaiti defense relationship, it's a logical place for the Secretary of Defense to pay a visit to.
So why don't I stop there and see if I can answer some questions. Please.
Q: You mentioning the U.S. relationship with -- how many American troops now are in each of those three countries?
Senior Defense Official: I think I'd -- I don't think I should get into the details. We've got the -- I don't think we get that specific about the size of the presence.
Q: How about Camp Doha? Is he going to Camp Doha and --
Senior Defense Official: I think -- yeah, you can expect that he'll -- in these places he'll visit the troops. And that's clearly something he likes to do.
Q: Will he be meeting with heads of state in all those three Gulf states?
Senior Defense Official: The schedule isn't definite. I'm sure he'll have access to people at the highest level. I just can't tell you. I mean, if I knew, I would say something, but I can't tell you right now.
Q: And also, will he be -- sorry. Will he be bringing up -- trying to gauge support for any kind of a future operation against Iraq?
Senior Defense Official: Well, that I can't predict. We're not at the stage where we're, you know, going around soliciting allies or something like that. But these issues may come up. All these countries live in the Gulf. They have both Iran and Iraq as neighbors. And it would be surprising if, you know, this weren't discussed. And it would be an opportunity for the Secretary to learn about how these countries view the threats from both those countries.
Q: Is the Secretary going to explore expanding U.S. facilities or having more access to the local facilities in these three countries, given the (inaudible) we're having on our base in Saudi Arabia?
Senior Defense Official: Well, I think -- I mentioned Al Udeid, which is -- I don't think that's a secret that this is a place we have and we've been discussing with the Qataris, you know, our presence. But I think, as I said, we value the flexibility we gain by having relations with a large number of Gulf countries, the small ones as well as the big ones. It just -- it is an asset to the United States. It means, you know, whatever the contingency one thinks about, any contingency that arises, and you look at even OEF, the political sensitivities vary from country to country. So it is just, you know, a smart strategy for the United States to have lots of friends and, you know, sort of diverse relationships, and it gives us some flexibility.
Q: Are you looking at possibly expanding --
Senior Defense Official: It varies -- I mean, I don't want to get into the details. It varies from case to case.
Q: How helpful would you say that the three Gulf countries have been in the U.S. war on terrorism? And can you give any specific examples of what each of them have contributed?
Senior Defense Official: Yeah, I'm sorry. I think I can, that's the problem. But, I mean, just -- I -- these countries have been helpful, and I don't want to get into any more detail. I mean access, the kinds of things I mentioned generically, you know, these are countries that have been helpful and we're grateful for that help, and the relationships are pretty solid and that's -- you know, that's why he's going there.
Q: Would you characterize it as these have been the three most helpful countries in the region?
Senior Defense Official: No, I think -- no, because he's been to other -- on earlier trips -- I don't know how many trips he's -- I mean, he was in Saudi and Oman on earlier visits, and I forget -- in October. So he -- you know, and other countries he may visit on a future trip. But I think --
Q: So don't try to read too much into this.
Senior Defense Official: No, no. These aren't THE three; I didn't mean to oversell this particular trip.
Q: Can you give some idea of how long he plans to be in India and in Pakistan and if he plans to stop in Afghanistan?
Senior Defense Official: Well, Afghanistan I have not heard about. No, the visit to India and Pakistan would be pretty short. But again, the scheduling is --
Q: (inaudible) -- day, hours? More than a day? Overnight?
Senior Defense Official: Yeah, I don't want to characterize it. And again, the date and exact time, whether it's before or after the Gulf, is up in the air.
Q: What were those dates, approximately, for the Gulf? And also, can you be a bit more specific about any troop visits he might make, where he'd go?
Senior Defense Official: I don't know whether I should -- and how specific -- the dates -- well, I guess I could -- what I think -- but I have to say, this is all tentative, because it's -- a lot of these things are up in the air. I think this would be the maybe the beginning of next week. But I have to say, a lot of it -- the India-Pakistan timing is not set, and that's -- the whole schedule may adjust. And I cannot exclude there may be some other countries that he will add on to this itinerary.
Q: But why is the India-Pakistan timing not set? I mean, what sort of --
Q: It's a combination of things. It's the schedules of the people there and in our own assessment. The Deputy Secretary of State will have just been there. So we need to figure what is a good time for Secretary Rumsfeld to be there. There are a few things that we haven't sorted out yet. I mean, I have a personal interest in wanting this sorted out quickly, and the Secretary's still ruminating about some of these scheduling issues.
Q: I know that you don't want to talk about what he's going to be doing in India and Pakistan, but I'm wondering if I can engage you on some history here, talk about when the United States suspended IMET programs with Pakistan, if the Pentagon has ever had IMET programs with India. What kind of window have we had in the military operations of either of the countries in the last decade or two?
Senior Defense Official: Well, these were -- the sanctions, of course, after the nuclear explosion, and with Pakistan -- there were sanctions, some of which are still in effect -- limits on their -- have to do with their democratization. But those sanctions were lifted last fall, and we're beginning programs with both of them. And the Indians -- we had the Defense Policy Group at the undersecretary level, Doug Feith, we just had the Indians a couple weeks ago here. And Doug Feith, I went with him last December to India. So we have the beginning of a defense cooperation relationship with them, which involves all of these things -- training, some limited arms supplies, joint exercises. And with Pakistan again, we're resuming a relationship, as you say, that was cut off, but which does have a history.
And I think this administration feels that particularly training, things like IMET, are enormously valuable to us as well as the recipient. They give us professional contacts and personal contacts with people who, you know, become the leaders of friendly military establishments. And so we -- we paid some price by being cut off for a number of years from, you know, a generation or a part of a generation of military leaders. So this is something we are, you know, resuming. And I think we'll -- again with Pakistan, too, where we have in mind some kind of a high-level, undersecretary-level forum with Pakistan that we are in the process of organizing.
But, you know, we think it has -- you know, we benefit. We also -- we think our influence with foreign militaries is, as a rule, a constructive thing. The kind of skills we impart are not only military skills but, you know, things that we impart in our own military -- civil-military relations, views of how, you know, military service conducts itself in a democracy, this sort of thing. So I think that's something we're pleased about in the last six months or more and that we're doing this with Pakistan again, and with India, as you say, a lot of this is brand new. Now, whether it helps us now to help overcome the present crisis, we will find out.
Q: (off mike) -- not visiting Saudi Arabia, isn't that kind of unusual that a Defense Secretary would go to the region, not visit the Saudis, and particularly in light of the fact that there have been numerous reports in recent months of at least a cooling in relations between --
Senior Defense Official: I wouldn't read too much into it. As I said, these three countries were picked because he hadn't been there before, and he's been to Saudi on a previous visit and we have pretty extensive contacts with the Saudis.
They also say -- you know, the itinerary isn't final, so, you know, who knows whether other countries may be added. If he doesn't go to Saudi Arabia, it's not because of -- it's not a political -- these are countries that are friends that he hasn't been to before. So, yes?
Q: Secretary Armitage will have just left when Secretary Rumsfeld comes in. Is it safe to then say that Secretary Rumsfeld will have a somewhat different mission than Armitage did in terms of, will he be carrying a message that Armitage wasn't? Or is it just going to be a similar --
Senior Defense Official: Well, there are two things I would say. One is the administration is pretty unified, and we have interagency meetings all the time. So, whatever policy, whatever we're saying to the two sides is certainly coordinated. But there may well be a division of labor. I mean, Rumsfeld has his own contacts. His counterparts obviously will be the ones he spends most time with, although I expect he would have access to very senior people. But it is partly a division of labor, given his portfolio. But the messages that Rich Armitage delivers and that Secretary Rumsfeld delivers would be -- you expect them to be certainly coordinated. I'm not saying they would be identical, because Secretary Rumsfeld may have his own way of -- the points he wants to make, but I also certainly don't want to indicate that these would not be coordinated.
Q: But he will -- will he be meeting the heads of both nations?
Senior Defense Official: That I don't know. It's possible. I don't know how -- he might well be received by the top leaders. I can't -- you know, I don't know what the schedule is yet.
Q: Will he be briefed by Armitage before he --
Senior Defense Official: We're working that out. He will certainly -- we'll find some way for them to communicate -- you know, secure phone or message or whatever -- but that's obviously something we would make sure that he had the full reading from Rich Armitage.
Q: Will there be State Department officials on this trip with the Secretary?
Senior Defense Official: We've been talking about that. It may or may not be needed. I mean, we're going -- the ambassadors, in the Pakistani case, the chargé, will certainly be in on the talks. It's a technical issue. I mean, again, there's transparency between us and State. And so, we'll solve that one way or another.
Staff: We'll take one more question.
Q: You said he might be visiting some other countries. What are some of those options?
Senior Defense Official: I don't want to get into that. But, again, just depending on how he does it, if he does India-Pakistan at the end, he may have an opening in the middle. So, we'll see. Stay tuned.
Q: When is he due back?
Senior Defense Official: Well, again, it'd be the weekend -- it depends. I mean, he may stretch this out to the end of next week. It depends on whether he adds things on to the itinerary.
Thank you very much.
"THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS PREPARED BY THE FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE INC., WASHINGTON, D.C. FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE IS A PRIVATE COMPANY. FOR OTHER DEFENSE RELATED TRANSCRIPTS NOT AVAILABLE THROUGH THIS SITE, CONTACT FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE AT (202) 347-1400."