|Afghanistan Is Indeed a Proving Ground|
Afghanistan Is Indeed a Proving Ground
Source: News Transcript from the United States Department of Defense. DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Saturday, April 27, 2002. Meeting with troops at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld: Thank you very much. That kind introduction kind of makes it sound like I can't hold a job. (Laughter) I am delighted to be here, to be back here I should say, in free Afghanistan.
I also want to say how important it is for me to be able to thank each one of you for the wonderful job that you are doing -- coalition forces, U.S. forces -- the job you are doing for freedom.
The world is determined to stop the tyranny of terrorism. And it isn't just one country that can do that; it's going to take the coalition of a great many countries working together as each of you are.
The Afghanistan theater has been the first one, but it won't be the last. It is a place where you are setting an example for how this battle has to be conducted, and there's no question but that Afghanistan is indeed a proving ground.
It's a momentous time. You have a momentous mission. You have been commissioned by history to play a key part. It's dangerous; there's no question. It's difficult and the American people know it and the people of the coalition countries know it. They know it because they see it on television. They know it because they see some of your comrades coming home dead and wounded.
The coalition, this coalition, stands on the front line between freedom and fear. You stand against an evil that cannot be appeased, it must not be ignored, and it certainly must be defeated.
You've done a magnificent job, each of you, and I am proud and I am grateful and I know that your families are proud and grateful. They worry about you. And they too sacrifice.
And when this war is won, and it will be won, you will be able to say that I fought with the coalition in Afghanistan against terrorism and you'll be remembered for it.
Thank you very much. (Applause)
Now I was told there were going to be 30 or 40 people here. (Laughter) Is that about right? Thirty or 40, I was told. I'd be happy to respond to some questions. I have time. If you have time, I'd be pleased to see you raise your hands and yell out what you'd like to know and if I know the answer, I'll tell you the answer, and if I don't I'll just respond, cleverly.
(Laughter) Who's first? Yes, sir.
Question: Mr. Secretary, I'm Private Marrow (sp?) with 1-29, drive the wedge. My question for you is, given the current op tempo of armed forces and the long-term outlook for this AOR, is the Department of Defense currently rethinking its two major regional conflict strategy?
Rumsfeld: We rethought the two major regional conflict strategy last year and we came to the conclusion that it had worked for about a decade, and it was a reasonable way of sizing our forces. But then looking at our circumstances in the year 2001, we decided that rather than sizing our forces for two major regional conflicts, where we could in fact engage, win and occupy the country, we decided that we would rearrange ourselves and size our forces so that we could still conduct two major regional conflicts, but engage and win decisively, and if necessary, occupy the country with one. And in second case, defeat swiftly, but not occupy the country, and it would be an open question as to which of the two conflicts would be the one that you would occupy the country and change the regime.
The reason for doing that became very clear to us. That in addition to being able to have two major conflicts at the same time, we were convinced that the United States would be called upon to do things as we are -- in Kosovo, in Bosnia, the various things we are -- training people in the Philippines and in Yemen and in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, to say nothing of all of the work that is being done with respect to the Afghanistan campaign.
So we decided that rather than to continue with that same construct for the last decade, into the 21st century, we would rearrange ourselves. And given the fact that September 11th intervened, it has turned out that we have done it wisely and we feel very good about that change.
Question: How are you doing? My name is Specialist Vollis (sp?) of 101st SSB. I wonder if a Marshall Plan has been established for Afghanistan and how do we define success?
Rumsfeld: The Marshall Plan at the end of World War II was an approach where just plain money was given to nations that had good infrastructure, a situation where they were ready and able to take the money and rebuild their industrialized societies.
The situation in Afghanistan is clearly notably different. This country has been burdened with drought and hunger. As a result you have seen many many refugees leave the country and a great many internally displaced people not able to continue living where they were -- a long war with the Soviet Union -- internal conflicts and civil war.
A Marshall Plan in the sense of the World War II Marshall Plan really wouldn't work in Afghanistan. Instead, what's being fashioned are the kinds of humanitarian assistance programs that individual organizations and countries believe would be more appropriate.
(break in tape)
Rumsfeld: The question involves Israel and whether there will be a multinational peacekeeping force.
It's too soon to know. What's very clear is at the present time, there isn't peace in Israel and in the Middle East. As a result, you can't have a peacekeeping force because there's no peace to keep. What is required is a reduction in the violence, an end to the conflict, and at that point, I suppose that it is entirely possible that one or more of the parties might look to outsiders and ask for observers or peacekeepers. But at this stage, that has really not happened. There have been some proposals that have been made by people not directly involved, but it seems to be that it's premature.
We'll take one last question and let you all get back to work.
Question: Mr. Secretary, I would like to ask you a question with regards to pay and compensation. You know our service members serve for freedom and democracy and that's in the forefront of our minds. But specifically, enlisted pay is not commensurate with the sacrifices and duties inherent in what we do. Outside of the Sergeant Major of the Army, is there enlisted representation that is putting forth in a serious fight to increase the pay? Specifically for senior NCOs, their pay is not commensurate with the level of responsibilities inherent in their roles. Will we receive higher compensation in the years ahead?
Rumsfeld: The question involves compensation and the answer is yes. I believe the pay raise that went through last year was a certain percentage across the board with some increases targeted at people in the senior noncommissioned officer levels.
There are people who are advising the Department and the Congress on these subjects. They are the senior enlisted representatives from all of the services. There is also a pay raise in the legislation that is pending before Congress, and my guess is that it would be of a kind. It would be a pay raise that would have some percentage across the board, with some targeted in increased percentages that would go to the grades that are particularly important and being -- where the need is the greatest because of the shortage in those skills. But there's a great deal of attention that is being given to it.
It's enormously important. We have a volunteer force in the United States. We don't use the draft. We don't use conscripts. Therefore, what we've got to do is see that the incentives are such that we can attract and retain the kind of people who are needed to run the modern military for the United States of America.
God bless you all. Thank you very much. (Applause)