Joint Press Conference
US Secretary Of Defense Donald Rumsfeld:
Australian Senator Robert Hill
Wednesday 19 November 2003
- bilateral talks, Iraq, intelligence sharing, Afghanistan, tanks
US SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DONALD RUMSFELD:
Well, good afternoon.
JOURNALISTS: Good afternoon.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The Minister of Defence of Australia and I have been visiting, not for the first time by a long sight, but we've had
another good visit. He's here in the United States; was in Iraq very recently. As you all know, Australia has been a
very close, cooperative partner with the United States in the global war on terror since the outset, and has been
enormously helpful in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. We have a long relationship of working
together in a great many ways, including most recently in the Counter-proliferation Initiative. And I am delighted to
welcome the Minister here to the United States and to the Pentagon. Sir?
SENATOR ROBERT HILL: Thank you. Well, I'm pleased to be back also. I remember -- I bet you can't remember the question the Australian
journalist asked last time. It was about the Arunta, a ship. And people said, "What is this all about?" -- the Americans
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: (Chuckles.)
SENATOR HILL: Anyway, it's good -- it's good to be back and to be able to thank you for America's leadership in the war against
terror, and also in the -- in our joint efforts to defeat threats associated with weapons of mass destruction. Australia
has participated in both of the operations, and continues to do so because we believe it's in Australia's national
interest. We recognise how difficult these tasks are, and it is going to take time, and it takes pain. And we
particularly think of the losses that you've suffered in Iraq. Australians, so far, have been lucky in that regard in
Iraq. But we do share with you that pain and the grief of families. We are still as confident as ever that success will
be achieved and the world will be a safer place. And we, therefore, understand why these sacrifices are being made. So,
it's good to continue a long-standing partnership between our governments and between our armed forces. And it is a
partnership that's been built on a history of mutual confidence, respect and shared values. And I have every confidence
that that will continue basically forever. Thank you.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you, sir. Charlie?
JOURNALIST: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you briefly about the attacks around Tikrit, the heavy attacks that are going on, the
AC-130 gunship, 500-pound bombs and tanks. I wonder if you could discuss that very briefly and tell us why, and whether
it's -- and to perhaps quantify the success so far. Are you trying to perhaps break the political hold of the Ba'athists
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, I talked to General Abizaid and General Sanchez this morning. We had a conference with the commanders from his
area of responsibility, and during the course of discussion, that subject did come up. And there is -- basically, what
the commanders are doing is they are continuing to do what they've always done, and that is to adjust their tactics and
their techniques and their procedures and their approaches as the circumstance on the ground changes. And clearly, as
intelligence information evolves and improves, they're finding targets that are appropriate, and they're, needless to
say, anxious to attack any targets of opposition that exist in the country.
JOURNALIST: Do the heavier attacks indicate that perhaps the resistance was getting better coordinated? And is that a result of the
stronger attacks in that area?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That particular phraseology wasn't used.
JOURNALIST: Well, how would you describe it, sir?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The way I did.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: (Laughs.) How's that, Charlie?
JOURNALIST: Well, if it requires 500-pound bombs, AC-130 gunships -
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That means you've got a target that you think merits it. And that means, as I say, that intelligence comes along that
enables you to use capabilities that you can't use, for example, if you're driving down the street and an improvised
explosive device goes off.
JOURNALIST: And the success so far?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think I'll leave it to the folks in the field to describe the battle damage and after-the-battle effects. A lot of
that happened just very recently.
JOURNALIST: Sir, following up on that, there have been a lot of attacks that, even according to commanders on the ground, involved
taking out abandoned buildings and empty houses and walls along roads. Can you talk about the strategy here? What's the
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The buildings that I've been advised they've taken out have been in some instances locations where things such as
improvised explosive devices have been put together and fashioned, and they may very well be taking walls out if in fact
they've got heavily used areas that -- where the walls create a security difficulty for them. But I'm not familiar with
what walls you're talking about.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Minister, since you're recently back from Iraq, could I get your perception of what you think the situation is like
on the ground, and your overview of what you saw?
SENATOR HILL: I think that there's a lot more being achieved than is generally recognized. I was last there in April. You see more
families out on the street, a lot more small business springing up. Ministries are operating. The issue is the security
issue, which is overwhelmingly successes. That's got to be tackled, but at the same time we've got to maintain progress
on every other front, whether it's the economic development, whether it's the transfer of governance. And I'm pleased
with the accelerated process. I think it's very important to build and maintain a momentum to ensure that the Iraqis
maintain their confidence that the benefits that they're seeking can, in fact, be achieved. So I think it's been a very
difficult patch recently for the coalition forces, but I think if they can get through that patch and maintain the
momentum that I think has been achieved in recent months, it will, in my opinion, certainly, be heading in the right
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Yes?
JOURNALIST: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you whether there has been a review of the intelligence-sharing arrangements between the
allied military, the US, British and allied and Australian military since the war over its functioning during the war in
Iraq? Were problems discovered or uncovered about the sharing arrangements, and are there solutions underway to do
something about it?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I don't know. I know that there has been a review by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. If you're talking about
intelligence that is shared at the military level, military-to-military, that's a different thing. And I have heard
that, as I recall, during the war there were issues that were raised, and that those issues were addressed sequentially
during the war. And then after the war, I heard discussions about ways that information could be better exchanged, and
in some cases it required some administrative actions, and that, in some instances, those administrative actions have
JOURNALIST: I understand that Mr. Cambone said recently that they maybe hadn't quite been taken yet.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think the -- that may be; he would certainly know. That's his area of responsibility. I have a feeling there may be
some that require statutory changes as well, and they certainly have not been taken yet. But I was not aware personally
that there were administrative changes that could be taken that haven't been taken. But you may very well be correct.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Secretary -
JOURNALIST: Mr. Hill, could you comment on that?
SENATOR HILL: Well, I don't -- I'm not sure what you're talking about. I don't know of any dissatisfaction in the communication of
intelligence between our agencies. We believe it's a very good relationship. Hasn't been a problem in that regard.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think you're -- that is a different subject. And you're right; it is a very good -- a superb relationship. I think
what's being referred to is some instances where, with one or two of our very close allies, inputs were made by them
into a process that, for administrative reasons, they then were not allowed to see the product of, after they had
inputted. Is that roughly right? STAFF: (Off mike.) Yeah.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Yes. And I know there were some complications on that and that they're systematically working through that, because it
is important that we have that ease in our relationships, because we are such close friends and allies. Yes, sir?
JOURNALIST: Mr. Secretary, Secretary Powell has flagged the possibility of making security in Iraq a NATO operation.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Say that again.
JOURNALIST: I said Secretary Powell has flagged the possibility of making security arrangements in Iraq a NATO operation -
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Ah.
SENATOR HILL: It's Australian accent.
JOURNALIST: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And I was going to ask you whether you believe there were any advantages in
that prospect and whether you discussed it today. And secondly, on the question of internationalization of Iraq, would
you agree that there would be any advantages for the U.S. and Iraq in a further United Nations Security Council
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I just returned from Asia, and I'm a little tired. So I'm taking time to write down your three questions and see --
number one, NATO is already involved in Iraq, by participating in support for the Polish and Spanish-led division.
Number two, almost all of the NATO nations currently have forces in Iraq. There are some that do not, but a very large
fraction of them do. And also the so-called invitee nations that will take NATO up from 19 to 26 very soon. And that's a
good thing. And I will say that I would be delighted to see a larger NATO role in Iraq. The -- NATO has for the first
time in its history undertaken an activity outside of the NATO treaty area by assuming responsibility for the
International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan very recently, which was a big step. They are now talking about
expanding the International Security -- NATO-led International Security Assistance Force out of Kabul into other parts
of the country, which is a second big step. Down the road it's conceivable, and needless to say, we would be pleased to
see NATO play a larger role in each of the countries. As to the U.N. Security Council Resolution, that's a matter for
the Department of State and I leave it to them.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Secretary -
JOURNALIST: Follow-up on Afghanistan?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Sure.
JOURNALIST: Some of those members of the International Security Force are also concerned -- one of the reasons they want to
increase their participation is because they think the security situation in Afghanistan may be reaching a dangerous
tipping point. What is your response to critics who say that the United States, while fighting the war in Iraq, really
did turn attention away from Afghanistan, and the government of the U.S. and the Pentagon just hasn't been paying enough
attention, putting enough resources to Afghanistan?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That people can think what they think, say what they say. We obviously believe -- I believe correctly -- that our force
levels are roughly what they were. Our attention is roughly what it's been. We are deeply involved. I've visited
Afghanistan as many times as I've visited Iraq, and so has General Abizaid. I can't imagine what anyone's talking about,
other than just theorizing. We have, as a matter of fact, sought additional funds from the international community, as
well as from our Congress, for Afghanistan. We have developed a concept of a provincial reconstruction team, initiated
it, launched it, gone around the world asking other countries to assist in taking the leadership or participation in
provincial reconstruction teams. We've gone from none to three to six, and I have lost the number that is currently on
the drawing board, but I heard it this morning, and I don't want to say it wrong or I'll catch the dickens from someone
here. But the work that's being done there is important. It is still a dangerous place. There are still pressures and
porous borders. And the -- I have no question but that the Taliban and the al Qaeda would like to take that country back
and turn it back into a terrorist training camp, and they're not going to do it; they're not going to be successful. And
our folks and the coalition countries that are engaged there are doing a darn good job.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Secretary, a question for either or both of you. In your discussions today, did you discuss the increasing
deployment of U.S. troops, or the prepositioning of equipment in Australia? And is Australia considering buying Abrams
tanks, and is that something that came up in your discussions today?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: We did not discuss, nor do I -- we did not discuss preposition capabilities in the country. We did not discuss bases in
the country. We had a discussion about our footprint generally around the world. (To Senator Hill) But you may want to
talk about tanks.
SENATOR HILL: We are going to acquire some new tanks, and Abrams is one of the types that we're looking at, together with Leopards
JOURNALIST: Mr. Secretary -
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Let's have some people from Australia here.
JOURNALIST: On the question -
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I assume you're from Australia.
JOURNALIST: Indeed I am, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Good.
JOURNALIST: On the question of interoperability -- this is a question to both of you. I understand it was discussed between the two
of you today. I wonder, Mr. Rumsfeld, what your expectations are from this increased cooperation, interoperability
aspect of the military relationship. And I wonder if you can just put it in your words. And perhaps Senator Hill would
also like to make an observation about it.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, the 21st century is a time where the threats have evolved and it's a new security environment. And if anything is
clear, it is that speed and agility and connectivity is critically important. That means that here in this Department of
Defense, we have to continue to try to -- strive to do a better job with respect to our own services so that we can
assure that we are not simply going out and deconflicting between the Navy, the Army, the Air Force and the Marines but,
in fact, totally connected into a unified, joint, truly joint fighting capability. It is equally true that with those
numbers of countries that you have a pattern of working very, very closely with -- which is the case of Australia and
several others -- it is equally important that you be able not simply to be truly joint, but also combined in those
relationships. And that means you have to plan together, you have to exercise together, you have to see that you've
taken the time to connect yourselves in ways that that is relatively easy, rather than something that -- for example, in
the last century, if you were going to be engaged in a process over a period of two or three or four years, you could
take the first half-year to try to figure it out and get together. In the world today, things last a relatively short
period of time, and therefore you better be ready at the outset. Sir?
SENATOR HILL: Well, that expresses it pretty well. That's -- war against terror is a shared threat. It requires a multilateral
response. And as parties are going to work together in coalitions, obviously they want to work together effectively.
That requires the capability to interrelate. We've had a lot of experience of that in recent years. I go back to the
sanctions on Iraq and where ships worked together in the Persian Gulf. We had to learn to be interoperable, and that
required acquisition of new communications equipment and the like, as well as shared operational doctrine. But we got to
do it very well, so much so that the tactical command was quite often in the hands of an Australian, who might be
working off an American ship or an Australian ship. And since then we've carried it on into responses in other
conflicts. I think it's very important, in our mutual self-interest, to be able to work cooperatively and effectively
JOURNALIST: Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Make this the last question.
JOURNALIST: You say often that you find weakness as something that's provocative, when you speak philosophically about defense. And
I wonder if you think when organizations like the United Nations, or allies, or NGOs pull out in the wake of a terrorist
attack, if they're merely provoking the terrorists to do it again; that they're in some way playing into the hands of
anybody who is attacking us, be it Iraqis, terrorists.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, I think that -- needless to say, I mean, one would wish that there wouldn't be anything that would be encouraging
to those that we're contending with there and elsewhere, whether it's terrorists in any situation. On the other hand,
the world is what it is, and I think that they have to take a look at the totality of the situation. And I think it's
very clear to them that the United States is very firm in its commitment to Iraq in this case, or Afghanistan. I think
it's very clear that our coalition partners are; that they have been and that they remain so, and any number of them
have demonstrated that since the recent attacks. So, we're going to -- we're going to -- we're going to adjourn. We've
JOURNALIST: Could you just tell us how many troops, how many Australian troops are in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do you plan on adding
any more, just very briefly, sir?
SENATOR HILL: In the area of operation, we have about 850 -- it's usually between about 850 and 900 at the moment.
JOURNALIST: In Iraq?
SENATOR HILL: No, not necessarily all in Iraq at any one time, because it includes the C-130s that are flying in and out.
JOURNALIST: In Afghanistan, sir?
SENATOR HILL: There's very few Australians in Afghanistan at the moment.
JOURNALIST: And -
SENATOR HILL: And the force size, our current intention would be to maintain at about the same size, but the force structure might
change as the tasks change.
JOURNALIST: Are you considering any more, sir, in response to request for additional troops, international troops?
SENATOR HILL: No. I think -- well, A, we haven't had a request; but B, we think that our force contribution is commensurate with our
size and responsibility. We're pleased that there's over 30 countries now that have forces in Iraq. We'd like to see
even more. But I think we're doing our bit.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you.
JOURNALISTS: Thank you.