6 Dec. 2001
US Secretary of State, Colin L. Powell
following the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council
at the level of Foreign Ministers.
Powell: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. The world has
changed dramatically since September 11 and NATO has responded dramatically.
Immediately after the September 11 attacks NATO was the first to offer
its support, invoking Article V for the first time in its history. On
a personal note, I will never forget the afternoon of the 12th of September,
the day after the attack, talking to the Secretary General, Lord Robertson,
and getting this expression of solidarity on the part of NATO.
It has meant a great deal to us in the United States to have this immediate
response on the part of this great alliance we have proudly served within
over the last many, many years. Fifty-two years. And to see that everybody
recognized that this attack was so severe that it warranted Article V.
This unflinching decision, and the critical assistance this alliance has
provided, has sent a clear message to our enemies about the depth of our
common purpose.These attacks have demonstrated just how indispensable
the NATO alliance with its collective defense commitment remains to our
security, fifty years after the creation of NATO.
Our resolve is shown by the NATO AWACS flying over the skies of North
America and by NATO naval forces deployed in support of Operation Enduring
Freedom. Allied nations sent forces to the field to fight side by side
alongside our forces, and more are standing by should they be needed.
A decade ago, allies decided to address the threats of the 21st century,
including terrorism. September 11 added new urgency to this process. Today,
building on our obligations under Article III of the North Atlantic Treaty,
we agreed to move rapidly to defend against terrorism and other emerging
threats. More broadly, NATO continues to enhance stability and security
throughout the Euro-Atlantic area.
Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has sought to build closer ties with
Russia as a means of increasing that security. Today, the Alliance discussed
ways to enhance our partnership with Russia, to build a more open, cooperative
and confident relationship that reflects the values and interests we share
with Russia. Our goal is to create a NATO-Russia Council to pursue opportunities
for joint action at 20 when our views converge. We have asked our ambassadors
in Brussels to work out details in the coming months. This is an opportunity
for NATO and Russia to improve qualitatively the way we work together.Let
me stress, however, that as we strengthen ties with Russia, it is not
becoming a NATO member. NATO, at 19, will maintain its prerogative to
act independently on any issue.
So we are not limiting NATO by NATO "at 20" but, in fact, we're
leveraging NATO with the inclusion of Russia in NATO at 20. NATO has a
lot of other important issues on its plate as it prepares for next year's
summit in Prague. We have made great strides since the end of the Cold
War in overcoming divisions of the past and reaching out to former adversaries.
But we have yet to complete our vision of a Europe whole, free and at
peace.We remain firmly committed to continuing the enlargement process
at the Prague summit in November of 2002. NATO will continue to anchor
the continent's new democracies firmly in the transatlantic community
and to ensure the success of democratic institutions and the democratic
We also discussed ways to intensify our outreach to all of NATO's partners,
many of whom are playing vital roles in the campaign against terrorism.
We particularly welcome NATO's efforts to strengthen partnerships with
the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus region. NATO's success
in the Balkans demonstrates our ability to meet whatever challenges confront
us. Alliance solidarity remains the cornerstone of our policy there. As
President Bush has said clearly, "We came in together. And we
will leave together."
This commitment has not changed even as we work together to hasten the
day when the region can look forward to a secure future in partnership
with NATO and its Partnership for Peace, and without a NATO-led force
present.As allies prepare the way to Prague next November, NATO and the
transatlantic community continue to form the indispensable foundation
for the peace and prosperity of all our nations and those who are friends
of NATO as well. Since NATO's creation over fifty years ago, we have met
our challenges together. And together we will conquer today's challenges
as well. Thank you very much. Now I'm prepared for your questions.
Question: Mr. Secretary, there has been a report in the last hour, so
I'm not sure you're aware of it, that Mullah Omar has talked about relinquishing
control of Kandahar Friday. Are you aware of it, and do you have a comment?
Secretary Powell: I am aware of the report. I can't confirm it. I think
it reflects the fact that Kandahar is under a great deal of pressure,
and the Taliban control in that part of the country is starting to fragment
and come apart. And I think it is just a matter of time. And if this report
turns out to be accurate, I think it will be a very positive move, as
we get rid of the Taliban regime and prepare the country for the return
of legitimate government in the form of the interim administration, which
was created earlier this week in Bonn.
Question: How do you think how the newly established friendship between
Russia and NATO will reflect on the relationship between NATO and the
US, with the Caucasian states, in particular with Georgia?
Secretary Powell: I think it will enhance our ability to deal with difficult
issues such as Georgia. We will be meeting NATO at 20, when we get it
all established. The 20 will be meeting on a very regular basis here in
Brussels. I would expect they could meet several times a week. There is
an opportunity for greater consultation and coordination, a greater opportunity
for us to present our current concerns to Russia, and for Russia to respond
to those concerns and to give us their perspective.So I think this will
make it easier for us to deal with these sorts of issues as they come
along that affect the entire Euro-Atlantic community. And so I think it
will enhance our ability to deal with these kinds of issues.
Question: Could you please comment on another aspect of the situation
in Afghanistan, with General Dostum appearing to oppose the government
deal? And also, on the Middle East, you have been asking President Arafat
to make 100 percent effort; he seems to have done just that, and he has
run into some difficulties. What would you like to say to him now?
Secretary Powell: With respect to General Dostum, I don't have any details
on the position you just described. I am confident, however, that the
interim administration that has been selected is representative of the
Afghan people and all the various parts of Afghan society. It will enjoy
the support of the international community. It will be able to set up
a government that then can expand into a broader government.And so I hope
that upon reflection all of the leaders in Afghanistan, the military leaders
and other leaders, will welcome the arrival of the interim administration
on the 22nd of December. And notwithstanding what differences may exist
between individuals and the administration, I hope they will put those
differences behind them in order to give the Afghan people a new lease
on life with this new government.
With respect to the Middle East, our message has been clear and consistent
for the last several days, that Chairman Arafat has to make 100 percent
effort. I have noticed in the last 24 hours that there have been more
arrests, there have been other activities on his part that are promising.
But I think more is required. I recognize that he is having some difficulties
with those organizations which resist his authority. The very fact that
they are resisting his authority makes it that much more important for
him to apply that authority.I have been in contact with General Zinni,
our envoy in the region, and my diplomats in the region, and we are still
doing everything we can to get the situation under control and to see
if we can start conversations again with security officials on both sides,
and that is not a lost cause.
There has been some minor progress in the last 24 hours, as General Zinni
has talked to both sides, and start to put in place a way in which the
two sides can start talking to each other, security officials to security
officials, to bring some order out of this chaos and this very, very dangerous
Question: Mr. Secretary, a question on the campaign against terrorism.
Prior to the offensive against the al-Qaida and the Taliban, the United
States made a great effort to lay before its allies the evidence that
it had for the links between this organization and the attacks in the
United States. If and when you decide to move to another stage of the
campaign, possibly targeting other countries, will you be, as a preliminary,
setting out your evidence in that sort of detail prior to taking any military
action against other countries?
Secretary Powell: The United States will not act against another country
or another group without a basis for taking such action. Taking military
action is a serious matter, and we don't do it unadvisedly or without
having solid evidence. It will depend on the specific country involved
or the specific group involved as to what we are able to put in the public
domain with respect to evidence. With respect to al-Qaida and Usama bin
Laden and the Taliban, we were able to put some information out rather
quickly, and then our British colleagues were able to put out another
body of information, and then we were able to follow up.
And there were those then who said, do you have all the evidence that
you need? And we were quite sure we did, and put out as much as we reasonably
could at that time, considering security concerns. But I don't think there
is anybody who doubts now that al-Qaida and Usama bin Laden were responsible
for what happened on the 11th of September. And we will act with the same
care and consideration as we move forward to Phase 3 and the subsequent
phases of our campaign against terrorism.
Question: Secretary Powell, before you arrived here in Brussels, you
said that you were going to be talking with US allies about various offers
to contribute to this international peacekeeping force, this coalition
of the willing. You said you were going to try to answer questions about
the mandate, the size, who would lead it. Have you come any closer to
that, in putting this force together, and is it necessary for this force
to be in place before December 22nd, when the interim administration moves
Secretary Powell: I have had some bilateral discussions with my colleagues
here, and I expect to have more in the course of the afternoon, just to
share with them my thinking on it, the United States thinking on it, and
to get their views. The interim administration that was created in Bonn
has asked for an international force to come in, and we are now talking
to our friends, talking to the United Nations about what the mandate of
this force should be, what mission should it be ready to perform. They
asked for it initially to be in Kabul. Where will we put it in Kabul?
And what has impressed me so greatly are the number of countries who
have stepped forward and said they are willing to contribute troops to
such a force. There will be no shortage of troops. Getting the right mix
and determining the leadership of this force has yet to be sorted out.
For the foreseeable future, General Tommy Franks, our commander, the CENTCOM
commander, will command all of the coalition forces that are in the theater,
because he still has a mission of going after al-Qaida, the Taliban and
Usama bin Laden.I would expect, however, that as the international force
comes into the theater, and as General Franks winds down his part of the
mission, we would pass off control to the leader of this coalition of
The point with respect to whether we get it in there before the 22nd
or not, we haven't really discussed this, whether that is an essential
matter or not. The 22nd isn't that far away and you just don't beam people
in. There is quite a process required to identify units, get them ready
to go and then actually move them into the theater.Let me just touch on
the fact that there are so many countries, not only in NATO and elsewhere,
that are willing to contribute. There has been some speculation that NATO
was kept on the sidelines. Quite the contrary, it was just a source of
great encouragement to me to see how so many of our NATO colleagues came
forward immediately and said, we'll put 2,000 people on alert, we'll put
6,000 people on alert, we'll give you more AWACS, we'll give you C-130s,
we'll give you special operating forces. We're ready, tell us what you
There are 200 liaison officers at our headquarters in Tampa, Florida,
all anxious to be a part of it. I understand that.But when you run a campaign
plan, you have to feed units into the campaign as you need them, and there
will be future needs as we get into this international peacekeeping force.
So the suggestion that NATO has been kept on the sidelines is not an accurate
one. NATO was right there at the very beginning with the offer of its
capabilities.And then we had the option, the pleasant option, of choosing
from that menu that was provided and all that capability that was made
available to us by NATO. That shows the relevance of NATO.
And as we get further into this international peacekeeping force, I am
quite sure we will be going back to our NATO allies, most likely on a
bilateral basis or within the UN framework, to ask them to bring those
capabilities, bring those units forward in order to keep Afghanistan moving
in the right direction. Far from being on the sidelines, NATO has been
front and center since day one.
Brodeur: I think we only have time for two more.
Question: Secretary Powell, just to follow up on this, do you see a collective
NATO role in this international force in Afghanistan?
Secretary Powell: I am sure it will be discussed collectively within
NATO councils. But as you know, Article V doesn't say the whole alliance
has to respond collectively. Each individual member of the alliance decides
how it will contribute to that Article V invocation requirement or commitment.
And so I am quite sure we will be discussing with Lord Robertson and his
colleagues what the needs are. But then I think the actual contributions
and the deals that will be cut will be between the leader of the coalition
of the willing and the individual countries who are offering capabilities,
because they will not only be NATO offers, they will be offers from many
other nations around the world who have made such offers, and there will
have to be a UN role in it as well.So it will be a little complicated,
but we have dealt with complicated situations like this before, and they
all tend to work out notwithstanding what looks like bureaucratic impasses
at the front end.
Question: Mr. Secretary, in previous NATO and NAC meetings, some of the
issues of contention were very much related to the US and to Russia, like
the ABM Treaty, like concern over US national missile defense. And now
we are told at this meeting they didn't come up, if at all, or at least
weren't heated arguments. Do you think that these matters are just being
obscured for the time being by the dominance and the urgency of the September
11th issues? Do you think they will come up again as contentions inside
NATO and the NAC? And now with the addition of Russia, does that make
these bilateral issues NATO-centric now as well?
Secretary Powell: You sound wistful for a contentious past there, Teri.
(Laughter.) No, we had a very, very straight, clean-cut meeting, where
we knew what we were about. Terrorism was in pride of place for this meeting.
And since we have been working together on this since the afternoon of
the 11th of September, we pretty much knew what we had to do, and I'm
very pleased with the statements that are being made.With respect to NATO-Russia
at 20, we have had good, intense conversations for the past several weeks,
and I am pleased at how quickly we came to a unified position within the
alliance, and we look forward to discussing it with Foreign Minister Ivanov
tomorrow.There are still issues out with respect to missile defense, and
as you discussed with Lord Robertson a few moments ago, how we actually
decide which of the one to nine nations will be allowed into, invited
to join, the alliance in Prague in November of the next year.
So there are lots of issues out there, and there are issues that we don't
even know about yet that will come up. That's what makes this alliance
so vibrant, that nobody would have thought three months ago that we would
be spending the fall season talking about terrorism, but here we are.
And because we can't see into the future clearly, because we are looking
into a glass dimly and darkly, we don't know what is going to come along.
That is why it is important to have alliances such as NATO that are vibrant,
that change with the times, that can adapt to new challenges and threats
that come along.But the consistency that exists within an alliance such
as this is that we are likeminded nations with a firm belief in democracy
and the free enterprise system, and believe that is a system that can
benefit all of the nations in the Euro-Atlantic region. And that because
we are able to debate contentious issues and arrive at consensus conclusions
that reflect the will of the free peoples of NATO and allow us to move