- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday said he does not favor using military forces for peacekeeping operations because of strains they put on military forces and personnel.
"I think that we organize, train, and equip, and recruit for people to come in and serve in the military in military functions," Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon. "And to the extent we can have as few people in uniform doing nonmilitary functions, I think we better serve ourselves, our country and our personnel."
Mr. Rumsfeld said the current size of the U.S. military is limited, and that service personnel are being discouraged from retiring because of the war on terrorism. The military also has called up tens of thousands of reservists and National Guard personnel.
The defense secretary made the remarks when asked if he has a "philosophical" opposition to using U.S. forces in peacekeeping. He denied his opposition was philosophical.
"We also have a whole lot of … military people doing a lot of things that are not military jobs," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Mr. Rumsfeld said he prefers to assign military personnel to relieve activated National Guard and reserve forces, who "need to go back to their normal lives and families and employment." He said the military needs to return "to functions of our government and our defense establishment."
The comments are in sharp contrast to the Clinton administration, which ordered U.S. troops on scores of peacekeeping and humanitarian operations around the world. The deployments hampered training, wore out equipment and stretched U.S. military forces, officials have said.
Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command, said on Monday that the United States would not take part in an international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan.
The four-star general said he prefers setting up a national Afghan army, which can maintain border control and stability in place of a peacekeeping force.
Currently, there are about 6,000 international military troops in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), led by the British military.
By contrast, the total number of U.S. military personnel is around 5,000, Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Mr. Rumsfeld said the U.S. military is helping without sending combat troops.
"We are making a contribution, philosophical or non-philosophical, as it may be … in Afghanistan by providing some logistics, some airlifts, some intelligence," he said.
"We are also providing a quick reaction-force availability in the event that the ISAF has some difficulties, which I hope they don't. So it's not like we're not making a contribution to the security in the country. I think we are; indeed, I know we are."
In other developments, Mr. Rumsfeld said the Pentagon is prepared to hold military tribunals for captured al Qaeda terrorists, if the president decides to order people to stand trial. He declined to provide details on how the tribunals would operate, but said they could be set up quickly.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that U.S. military forces in Afghanistan are continuing to gather intelligence on terrorist activities and operations and are searching for Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.
Authorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan recently turned over 16 additional prisoners to the U.S. military, Gen. Myers said.
The total number of detainees held in Afghanistan is 194. An additional 300 prisoners are being kept at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he said.


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