MINISTER REID: Thank you very much for coming. Secretary Rumsfeld and I have had a long, productive meeting. Before that of course we were in with our NATO colleagues.
I just want to say a couple of things, really. The first is how delighted I am by the solidarity that we have seen reinforced again in NATO's work in Afghanistan. There has been a considerable mutual support in what is a difficult but hugely important operation for NATO in Afghanistan. We all recall the days where the terrorists appeared, planned, launched the biggest terrorist strike in history. Thousands of innocent people died. Our resolve that that should never happen again is why you're there.
So there was existing solidarity, but I'm also delighted that when it came to going down to the south, which is a slightly more challenging area, but most of us have been in Afghanistan with the Americans, then the British, Dutch, the Canadians, the Danes, the Estonians and I hope others will be joining us there. That response was, I think, very heartening for those who wanted to see NATO display its mutual solidarity.
Even yesterday in the north when our Norwegian colleagues came under attack, then people came to support them, including British forces, Swedes, Japs and others. I think that's another example of how via common bonds working together we can achieve a lot more than we do as individual nations.
That is basically all I wanted to say apart from one thing, and that is if we are going to do that again, if we're going to make sure that NATO is a true force in the world, then we Europeans have to step up to the mark and make sure that we are contributing not only towards the discussions in NATO which are very important, but also the resources, the types of troops that are necessary for today's world, and the resolution and will to deploy them in the areas of difficulty. I believe if we do that individually and collectively as European nations, then we will form a long and stable partnership within NATO. But every generation, any institution has to continually prove its relevance. I know the challenge is for us to continue to do that. In the post Cold War world, the terrorists [inaudible].
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I certainly agree with what the Minister has said. We had a very good meeting. We talked about all NATO operations, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo. We talked about the NATO Response Force and the fact that there will be an exercise this summer. Then the capability will be demonstrated by sometime in the fall.
We discussed the fact that tomorrow we’ll have the EU-US, correction, the NATO-Russian Council, and the Mediterranean Dialogue meetings. We look forward to that.
We'd be happy to respond to a few questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Minister, the violence, the upsurge in violence in Iraq over the cartoons, has that complicated your preparations for the expansion to the south?
VOICES: You mean Afghanistan?
QUESTION: In Afghanistan.
MINISTER REID: No. We naturally regret it. We have had to help the Afghan people lift the burden of that terrible regime, the Taliban, which banned young girls from being educated, which stoned to death women for transgressions, and to make sure that by doing that we defend ourselves. That is why we're there to help the Afghan people reconstruct their own country. So we regret any violence which arises. But we know that there are risks and dangers. There are more risks and dangers in the south than there have been in the north and in the west, but there is nothing compared to the huge danger and threat that would arise if we were to allow Afghanistan to slip back into the hands of the Taliban and the terrorists.
The thousands of people who died in New York should be a solitary message to all of us that the price of defending our people from this [inaudible] or the United Kingdom, throughout Europe or the United States, is not only constant vigilance, it is the constant will to confront the risks and dangers and threats that the terrorists put up against us.
QUESTION: Secretary Rumsfeld, the reaffirmation by NATO to expand its role in southern Afghanistan coming in the face of these attacks against NATO peacekeepers by Muslim protesters who were enraged by these cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, what kind of signal do you think that sends about NATO resolve?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, I think it says a great deal about NATO. If you think about it, NATO historically had been defending the NATO treaty area, period. And there were great debates back in the ‘70s and the ‘80s about even the thought that NATO would do something outside of the NATO treaty area. It did assist us on 9/11 in the United States which was in the NATO treaty area but outside of Europe; and then in the Balkans has been active in Bosnia, Kosovo, and done a good job.
The fact that they have undertaken a significant responsibility in Afghanistan not only out of the NATO treaty area but out of Europe, well out of Europe, is a significant and historic adjustment and change in how the NATO alliance is functioning. And you’re quite right in your question. The fact that they first began with the International Security Assistance Force and then the north and then the west and now the south, and at some point the eastern sector in stage four, it says a lot about the NATO alliance and the nature of the 26 nations that comprise that alliance, and also the strength that comes to the alliance from the Partnership for Peace nations that participate with us.
MINISTER REID: And doing all of these things, remember, or many of them, at the behest of the United Nations and in the service of the world community. That’s why we’re in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Mr. Minister, did you have any discussions on the tech transfers between the UK and the US, particularly with respect to the Joint Strike Fighter? Have you made any progress there?
MINISTER REID: We have ongoing discussions across a whole range of issues of a technical nature and an equipment nature and the mutual benefit that we get from each other on that. On the Joint Strike Fighter we understand that these matters are being looked at and the United States, we’re confident that our choice is the right choice on the JSF and we are proceeding with them as well as with plans to develop two major aircraft carriers as well. We hope by the end of the year these things will be getting to the stage where they’re more concrete in both the aircraft carriers and in the Joint Strike Fighter. These are pretty complex issues.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: If I could go back to that earlier question. There’s a reason that NATO is involved in Afghanistan and it’s that this is the 21st Century. Problems are not specifically nation state problems, they’re not specifically even regional problems and in many instances they’re global problems. It requires an alliance like NATO to recognize and adjust and face the challenges that exist in this new century.
We all benefit enormously from the international and the global system that we all are participants in, and as stakeholders in that system we all have an obligation to try to contribute to its strength and the security that makes it all possible. So I think it’s a logical extension of NATO’s role and it’s a credit to the NATO nations that they have recognized that and undertaken that expansion.
QUESTION: There were reports yesterday on the pledges that you and the Secretary General were hoping for, pledges, resources for Afghanistan, rapid reaction, increased defense budgets for a future requirement.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: There were some countries that made specific things, but I’m not inclined to announce who they were. I’ll leave that to those countries.
QUESTION: Have you reached 100 percent on the reaction force?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: You’d have to ask the Secretary General.
MINISTER REID: And there will be further discussion on the NATO reaction force tomorrow of course as well. Because it’s the one issue that spills over from operations into transformation.
QUESTION: Is there a timetable for moving into eastern Afghanistan for NATO?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I don’t know that there’s a hard timetable. I think that people tend to take one step at a time, and next is three.
QUESTION: What’s your expectation?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I don’t have one. I’m not in that business.
QUESTION: there are reports out of Iraq at the moment that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is surrounded and may be badly wounded --
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That would be nice.
QUESTION: Do you have any information that can support that?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I’ve been in meetings all day.
MINISTER REID: As Secretary Rumsfeld said, that would be nice. It’s not often that I can say I agree entirely [inaudible]. [Laughter].
QUESTION: Thank you.