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Rumsfeld at NATO

Aired December 1, 2003 - 11:06   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to actually go to NATO headquarters. Defense secretary taking questions about Iraq. Let's listen in.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you a question about Iraq. In light of the multiple ambushes of U.S. forces in Samarrah yesterday and the recent deadly attacks against Spanish and South Korean, Japanese, other coalition personnel in Iraq, how do you respond to people who say that there is actually a deepening cycle of violence in Iraq rather than a trend toward the positive?

RUMSFELD: What you have in Iraq -- and Pete just came from there -- and you might want to comment -- but what you have is a contradiction. You have both going on.

There's no question but that there are periodic incidents where people are being killed and wounded. We know that.

We also know that the schools are open, that the hospitals are open, the clinics are open, that people are engaged in economic activity throughout the country, and that the vast majority of the country is not in conflict, it is in a relatively stable circumstance.

I think the answer is both things are taking place. There are a limited number of people who are determined to kill innocent men, women and children who are connected to the coalition, who are coalition participants or who are innocent Iraqis, and that's taking place.

Those people are also being rounded up, captured, killed, wounded and interrogated, and that process is taking place.

RUMSFELD: Indeed, very recently there was a quite successful effort on the part of coalition forces to capture and deal with a number of those folks.

Do you want to...

PACE: Sure.

I was in Baghdad, in Al-Ramadi, Fallujah, Tikrit, Najaf last week. There's no doubt in my mind that exactly what the secretary said is true: that you have those who are bent on preventing the Iraqi people from experiencing freedom, those who look and see the tremendous progress that has been made and are afraid that their thuggery, their way of intimidation is, in fact, being overcome by the coalition forces that are there and the will of the Iraqi people to have their own government and live their own lives.

QUESTION: Secretary, there's been all sorts of reports about your reaction to the E.U. meeting in Italy this weekend. Would you like to state clearly what is your attitude to the plans of the European Union to establish military planning capacity outside of NATO?

RUMSFELD: There have been some reports. Someone showed me something off the Internet that was pure fiction. I'm sure no one in this room participated in that.

Our policy is very clear, that we strongly support NATO as the primary forum for trans-Atlantic defense.

RUMSFELD: We support ESDP that is NATO-friendly.

Therefore we worked hard -- our alliance did -- I think for four and half years to fashion Berlin Plus, which we support and we stand by them.

And you're quite right, there are discussions and consultations taking place at the defense ministerial level, at the foreign ministerial level and the prime ministerial level, and I'm confident and hopeful that things will sort through in a way that we end up with an arrangement that is not duplicative or competitive.

QUESTION: Secretary Rumsfeld, if you are interested to keep your presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina after E.U. takes the mission there, how are you going to do that, in what form?

And second question: Is the United States...

RUMSFELD: With all these people, why don't we do them one question per person?

QUESTION: It's linked. With Kosovo, how will you keep your promises to have troops in Kosovo if you need them elsewhere, in Afghanistan or Iraq?

RUMSFELD: The NATO forces in Bosnia and Kosovo had an understanding that we would go in together and out together. That's been the case for the most part; there've been some exceptions, I think. And those forces have been in the process of being drawn down as the circumstance in, for example, Bosnia -- as you mentioned -- has improved.

What will take place after NATO's formal role ends is open for discussion, and would be something that obviously would be a result of consultations with Bosnia and among the NATO countries.

RUMSFELD: The second question, I guess what you're talking about is a relatively limited numbers of people in Bosnia, in terms of U.S. forces. And our forces are 1.4 million active and some 700,000-plus reserves. And it seems to me that we certainly have the ability to do what we're doing, as well as to continue to participate in an orderly way with the drawdown in Bosnia.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, and also General Pace, could you tell us what you think this attack in Iraq says about the changing tactics there, and also the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the insurgents since there were so many involved in this and it was clearly coordinated?

RUMSFELD: Go ahead.

PACE: It's hard to tell on the basis of one attack exactly what tactics may or may not be changing.

The fact is that in this particular case about 50 or so of the enemy did collect together for whatever reason they thought was appropriate. They attacked and they were killed. So I think it'll be instructed to them for future analysis when they're thinking about what they're going to do next.

QUESTION: Secretary Rumsfeld, the fact that Lord Robertson virtually has to beg for troops and helicopters for ISAF Afghanistan, doesn't that worry you about the future ambitions of NATO in other regions; for instance, Iraq?

RUMSFELD: I think Lord Robertson's done an excellent job. And my estimate is that within a reasonable period of time he'll be able to encourage, persuade -- whatever word you want to use -- NATO nations to provide the forces necessary to fulfill the ISAF mission.

Clearly, to the extent that activities are agreed to that go beyond that, that requires then that NATO countries step forward and supply the capabilities to execute those functions. You have to see that there's a close connection between what we decide to do and what we are willing to offer up to do. And I think that we'll keep that quite tight. So I'm not concerned about it.

I think that each country has to make a judgment as to what they can offer up. And if you think about it, I mentioned in my opening remarks the large number of NATO countries and invitees that are already participating in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It's impressive.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned that NATO might take over military operations in Afghanistan eventually.

QUESTION: Can you say would that involve the absorption of the roughly 11,500 U.S.-led troops and the mission they're currently undertaking there? And what kind of timetable are we looking at?

RUMSFELD: We're not at this stage. We always, from the outset, have desired to have the maximum number of countries and organizations participating, both in Afghanistan and Iraq. We've got, as I mentioned, a very large number in Afghanistan. We've got some 34 countries participating in Iraq.

At what pace they may assume additional responsibilities remains to be seen, but we're certainly open to it, encouraging it, and we'll see what evolves. But it is, you know, entirely possible that at some point that could happen, although I wouldn't want to predict it, because it's some distance out.

And I also wouldn't want to put a time frame on it. I just think that that sets a hurdle that doesn't need to be set.

QUESTION: Mr. Rumsfeld, how far is your decision-making process to deploy U.S. troops in the new NATO member countries?

RUMSFELD: We have spent a couple of years thinking through the challenges of the 21st century and addressing the question as to how we can best work with our friends and allies and partners around the world to deter and defend and deal with some of these 21st-century threats.

We think we have some good concepts. We're at the initial stage of discussing them with our allies and with our Congress. And my guess is what will take place -- I think there's actually a team that's coming over next week, people from the State Department and the Defense Department, to talk about things here. I was in Asia last week talking to our friends there in Northeast Asia.

And this will, kind of, roll out over a not-rushed pace, because these are important issues and they'll take discussions, and we don't have firm conclusions about where or what numbers.

Once we develop conviction, having talked to our friends and allies and partners, we then have to look at how you might roll that out over a period of years.

RUMSFELD: It might be five, six, seven years, depending on funding and circumstances to get yourself rearranged properly.

We have -- in direct answer to your question, we don't have specifics of the type you're looking for.

I would say the one interesting thing, to me anyway, is that the more the United States has looked at our circumstance, and the more NATO has looked at NATO's circumstance, we have tended to move toward a capabilities-based approach.

And capabilities are different than numbers of things. And we've got a whole past -- all of us have grown up in a period when we looked at numbers of troops or numbers of tanks or numbers of aircraft or numbers of ships and began to make judgments about capabilities based on numbers.

And, of course, the real world today is a single precision bomb can do what six, eight or 10 dumb bombs can do. So the idea that if you have 10 dumb bombs and you reduce them by five, and you replace them with smart bombs, the idea that you've cut your capability in half is nonsense; you've actually vastly increased your capability.

And we're all going to have to get our heads thinking that way about the future, and it's going take us all some time.

For example, in the past when a combatant commander wanted to deal with the Pentagon, and he -- they would think in terms of battalions or they would think in terms of aircraft or they'd think in terms of ships. And in the future, they're not going to be doing that; they're going to be thinking in terms of the ability to put power on a target in a precise way. And speed becomes more important than mass sometimes and flexibility becomes more important than mass.

Do you want to comment on this?

PACE: Sir, I think you did a great job on that.


QUESTION: You just mentioned the fact that the United States is going to help SFOR to arrest criminals of war.

QUESTION: What kind of measure do you think of?

And do you agree with Madam Del Ponte when she says that she will not close the doors of the tribunal for Yugoslavia until Karadzic and Mladic are put on trial?

RUMSFELD: I think it is important that indicted war criminals be brought to justice. And when you say, "What kind of methods?" clearly it's a matter of the interested countries putting assets against that set of problems. And I think that part of the world will be vastly better off if and when those folks are off the streets.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you think that if the Europeans set up their own planning cell in the military staff away from NATO, is that duplicative or not?

RUMSFELD: I think I'm going to let the ministers and the foreign ministers and the prime ministers sort through that and characterize.

First of all, that's a hypothetical question. We don't know what's going to evolve, and I have set out my views here earlier. And I don't know that I can add to it usefully.

The discussions are going on; that's a good thing. And we've indicated our views, I think, fairly clearly, not withstanding the fact that in some reports they've been imperfectly conveyed.

QUESTION: Defense Secretary, I mean, this is rare that you're quite reluctant to give an answer, because normally when we do ask you very direct questions, you're very quick to give direct and entertaining answers.

RUMSFELD: You're egging me on.



RUMSFELD: Yes, you are. You're trying to get me in trouble.


QUESTION: No, no. However...

RUMSFELD: I know your organization.


QUESTION: However...

RUMSFELD: I'm plucky but I'm not stupid.


QUESTION: I never said you were.

However, can I go back to the E.U. defense headquarters? And this debate is nothing new for you; you were personally involved in Berlin Plus negotiations that took a long time.

Can I ask you a very direct question? Regardless of what has come out and not come out of the Naples meeting of the E.U. foreign ministers, does the E.U. need an independent operational planning cell?


RUMSFELD: Like I said, the other was the last question.


We're out of here. Thank you.

KAGAN: And with that, the defense secretary wraps up his quick news conference at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, answering questions from an international corps of reporters, saying that there are both good and difficult times taking place in Iraq, but he believes most of the country is relatively stable, despite a number of insurgents attacking the U.S. and international troops there. Also, he said he is committed to having the government take over military operations in Afghanistan, but does not have a timeline as to when that would take place.


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