By John D. Banusiewicz
PORTOROZ, Slovenia, Sept. 28, 2006 – The enemy in Afghanistan underestimated NATO's will and ability to bring security and stability to the country, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today. "The enemy obviously decided that once NATO came in, NATO would be a soft touch," Rumsfeld said at a news conference during an informal meeting of NATO defense ministers. "And so they went after NATO, and they were surprised. NATO was not soft; NATO was hard. And NATO pushed them back, and they didn't like it."
Rumsfeld said he was impressed by the commitment to the Afghanistan mission that he saw in his counterparts today. He noted that several allies are pooling resources to purchase three or more C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to help the alliance meet an important need and show NATO's commitment and ability to meet its mission requirements.
"I think that the progress that's been made with respect to assuring that NATO will have some strategic airlift is a significant thing. It's an enabler that's needed," he said. "But in addition, it is an example of NATO addressing a real problem and people stepping up, providing the funds and the political decisions to move forward with it.
He noted that today's meeting yielded offers of thousands of weapons and millions of rounds of ammunition for the Afghan National Army, as well as pledges for additional troops to help in the NATO effort.
Rumsfeld said that in World War II's aftermath and in the advent of the Cold War, then-Secretary of State Dean Acheson knew many of the institutions the allies were putting together to make a new world would endure; in fact, Rumsfeld said, Acheson titled his memoirs, "Present at the Creation."
"I believe the past few years have represented a similar juncture in history," Rumsfeld said, "where we're at the end of the Cold War and in the initial phases of the 21st century and what will prove to be a long struggle against violent extremism and a range of very complex, derivative and asymmetrical challenges, such as the opportunity we have today to modernize and transform our institutions, including NATO."
He said NATO arguably is the most successful military alliance in history. "I have no doubt that if NATO and its members muster the political will to make the necessary adjustments and investments, we will be able to successfully deal with challenges of this new era."