Press Conference with Secretary Rumsfeld at the Southeastern Europe Defense Ministerial Tirana, Albania
Question: U.S. intelligence services publicized today a report, according to which, the war in Iraq not only has not reduced terrorism, but has motivated it. Any comment on that? Thank you.
Secretary Rumsfeld: I do not know that I can add anything to what the President of the United States has said and what the Director of the National Intelligence John Negroponte has said. Apparently, some portions of it about the National Intelligence estimate were leaked and I understand the President has decided to declassify a number of the key judgments so that American people and the world will be able to see the truth and precisely what that particular document said.
Secretary Rumsfeld: The United States has been consistently in favor of enlarging NATO and having countries participate in the Partnership for Peace program. Of course, that decision is particularly up to the countries involved and then up to NATO as an organization, but for myself, I think that it is a good thing to see more countries participating in the Partnership for Peace program and I have been one who has encouraged the enlargement of that activity.
Question: What would be your message for the Adriatic Charter group? Can we hope for an invitation for NATO membership in 2008 and, for the NATO 60th anniversary in Washington 2009, to be full members of NATO?
Secretary Rumsfeld: I guess I will just have to repeat myself. Our country has been a strong supporter of NATO enlargement. Part of it involves the response of the NATO nations, now 26 countries, part of it involves the progress that individual nations that aspire to become part of NATO have to undertake by way of reforms, in the defense area and even out of the defense area. I know that there are… I was very pleased here at this meeting to see four new countries come in as observers in the SEDM activity. And I think that's a very healthy thing, as well. So, there is no one who can answer your question because it is an interaction between the nations that aspire to join NATO and the nations in NATO and their assessments as to the progress that those countries are making with respect to the reforms that are appropriate for NATO members. For myself, I look forward to seeing a number of countries join NATO in the period ahead.
Question: General Jones has been pushing NATO countries to fulfill their pledges of troops and personnel for the NATO ISAF force in Afghanistan and I was wondering if you are satisfied now, that NATO, given the recent pledges, has the resources both in personnel and equipment it needs to fulfill the requirements of the mission in Afghanistan?
Secretary Rumsfeld: I will leave that judgment, which is a military judgment, to General Jones, the Supreme Allied Commander and the Senior military official with respect to the truly historic involvement by NATO in Afghanistan. I have been impressed by the extent to which NATO, for the first time in its history, has undertaken a major military activity in a country that is outside of Europe, outside of the NATO Treaty area, and the extent to which countries – the 26 nations – every one of them is involved in one way or another now contributing and committed to the success of that Afghanistan effort. At any given moment, as forces rotate in and rotate out, the Supreme Allied Commander, the Military Committee, and the Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, have to go out to the nations and remind them that there is a certain requirement that is needed and so you periodically will be hearing the Supreme Allied Commander asking the countries to fill in the gaps, whatever shortfall there might be. And very recently the United States stepped forward and provided a number of capabilities and I have every confidence that NATO is fully committed in Afghanistan and that the requirements that the military commanders on the ground deem as appropriate and necessary will, in fact, be filled by the NATO nations and, in some instances, by the Partnership for Peace nations, and other countries, because success in Afghanistan is important to Europe, it is important to Asia, and it is important to the 25 or 27 million people in that country who have crafted a constitution, have elected a Parliament, elected a President, and are putting their hopes and their trust in a free political system as opposed to a dictatorship.
Question: A question for Mr. Mediu and another for Mr. Rumsfeld. Mr. Mediu, what is Albania's position in peacekeeping missions in Iraq and Afghanistan – will Albanian armed forces continue to remain there to the end or not? And for Mr. Rumsfeld, on the tenth anniversary of SEDM you are in Tirana, in Albania, a country that awaits a NATO membership invitation. Where are we in terms of fulfilling reforms? And do you think there will be an increase in the number of (Albanian) troops in those countries? Thank you.
Minister Mediu: In Albania there is clear commitment and will from both sides of politics that we participate in NATO-led peace operations. Our participation in Iraq was achieved with the full consensus of the Parliament; the same about Afghanistan; the same about Bosnia. We believe it is important that Albania contribute to peace and stability around the world. I believe this is a really good thing for the Albanian Armed Forces, because the lesson learned – which we have discussed about a lot today – is the great experience that we are getting from these missions and it helps the transformation of the Albanian Armed Forces. The Albanian Government openly declared that we will stay in Iraq till the end of the mission. We will stay there with our partners, with Americans and all the other countries that are in Iraq. We will stay in Afghanistan even thinking to extend our presence there to contribute even more to peace and stability in Afghanistan, because, as Secretary Rumsfeld mentioned, winning the battle in Afghanistan is helpful for Europe as well. So, that is our commitment. That is my position as Minister of Defense, but I can declare that is the position of the Prime Minister and I believe that is the position of both angles of political parties in Albania.
Secretary Rumsfeld: There is really nothing I can add, except to say that I am delighted to be in Albania. I had excellent meetings with the Prime Minister, the President, the Minister of Defense, as well as with our colleagues from the SEDM countries. My view has always been that each country ought to do that which it feels comfortable doing, and in the case of Albania, they have stepped forward and committed forces and support to the activities that are being undertaken in Afghanistan and in Iraq. We appreciate that, we value it, but the decision is entirely theirs. I must say the Minister is exactly correct that everyone I have met with in Albania has been strong and firm and proud of the contribution they are making to a freer system in that part of the world.
Question: Mr. Rumsfeld, considering Albania's support to be in Iraq with its peacekeeping troops, can there be a deadline until when the troops will be in Iraq?
Secretary Rumsfeld: It is a very difficult thing to answer that question. Our view has been that it is for the Iraqi people to provide for their governance and that it is for the Iraqi people to provide for their security. And, our task has been to assist them during this period, the early days of their free system, so that they can develop the security forces capable of providing for security in the country. There are now something in excess of 302,000 Iraqi security forces. We are involved, as is NATO, in helping to train and equip those forces. They have been increasingly taking over responsibility for the security of the country. They provided almost all the security for the elections, for example, the recent election. They have stood up a chain of command and they are now, each month, assuming responsibility for a larger number of the challenges. With respect to the provinces, I believe two provinces now have been turned over for Iraqi governance. We are turning over military bases to the Iraqis. One can't predict with perfect certainty the pace at which that will happen. We do know it is happening. We know that real estate, responsibility, command and control are consistently being increased for the Iraqis and decreased for the coalition forces. Our goal is obviously to recognize that that country is perfectly capable of governing itself and providing for its own security. And the task is to get them to that point. I think they are making good progress and I think they are going to achieve that goal. And, I think what we will see during this year is a continuation of passing over more and more responsibility to them. But trying to set a specific date just is not manageable because, as President Bush has repeatedly said, it is the conditions on the ground that will determine that pace. Thus far it is proceeding along well. I suppose you could have a setback at some point – you could pass over some responsibility and it might not work and you have to step back in and that is a possibility. But I think we are on a good path and we are ultimately going to be successful.
Question: I will get closer to the region and pause on the region's hottest point, that of Kosovo. I would like a comment by Mr. Mediu on whether the question of Kosovo was addressed during the meeting? If yes, what is the position? For Mr. Rumsfeld, what is the U.S. position on the Kosovo status? Is it going to be resolved this year because numerous comments say failure to resolve the Kosovo status issue may lead to destabilization in the region?
Minister Mediu: We had a presentation during the meeting from a security viewpoint, but also some of the options about solutions. The Albanian Government stays firm on its position that the future of Kosovo must be based on respecting the rights of all ethnic groups and people of Kosovo. That is very important. Independence cannot function without respecting all ethnic groups in Kosovo. Second, they have to move on with the process of decentralization. The Albanian Government recognizes international borders and we strongly push and support Kosovo leaders to reach out and work with all other political and ethnics groups in order to build a stable Kosovo in the future. That is the position of the Albanian Government on that issue.
Secretary Rumsfeld: The answer is that Kosovo was discussed. It is something that a large number of the countries represented here are involved in and have been for a good long period now, and I would not have anything to add to what the Minister described as the position.
Minister Mediu: So, thank you very much, thank you Mr. Secretary, thank you all for being here in Albania. It was a great pleasure and privilege to host you. We look forward to meet you next year in Ukraine, it will be a great pleasure. Thank you to the media for your interest and your questions – we hope we answered all of them. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.