US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: Feb 6, 2008
Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
February 6, 2008
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: February 6, 2008
Renewal of Cease-fire with Tribal Leaders
Previous Agreement was not Effective
Use of Waterboarding / Department's Annual Report on Torture
Agreement on Framework for U.S. Forces to Operate / Negotiations
KOSOVO / RUSSIA
Russian Position on Independence for Kosovo
of Embassy / Four Embassy Staff Operating out of Airport
Update on Americans that have Departed
POLAND / RUSSIA
Missile Defense System / Not Directed at
Designed to Meet Common Threats / Iranian Threat
Choice of Location for System
Selection of New President / Arab Initiative
Need for a Lebanese Solution
12:39 p.m. EST
MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everyone. Happy to be here with you. I don't have anything to start you out with. So, Matt.
MR. CASEY: Yes, Matt.
QUESTION: I don't know if you - sorry, I missed the gaggle. I don't know if you were asked this this morning, but I will ask anyway. There seems to be signs that your stalwart partner and ally in the war on terrorism, President Musharraf, that his government is moving to another cease-fire with militants in - on the border with Afghanistan. Do you have any knowledge of that or - and if you do, do you have any reaction to it?
MR. CASEY: Well, I've seen a couple of press reports, Matt, but I don't have any information that would support that there's any kind of renewal of the previous agreement that had been placed. I think everyone understands, including President Musharraf by his own statements, that that agreement with tribal leaders did not, in fact, produce the results that everyone, including President Musharraf, had intended.
Certainly, we understand and the Pakistani Government understands the threat and challenge posed to Pakistan from these militant and extremist groups operating in the FATA, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and we all want to see actions taken to respond to that. The Pakistani Government has, of course, been engaged militarily in that area. There have been hundreds of Pakistani soldiers who have been killed or injured in fighting against these groups.
So certainly, this is a serious problem. We want to see it addressed and we want to continue to work with the Government of Pakistan on it. But I'm not aware that there is any new agreement or new proposal for an agreement that would move us back in the direction of the previous arrangement.
QUESTION: But you would oppose one or advise against it?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think we would certainly want to see that any arrangement made was effective at pursuing President Musharraf's goal and pursuing our goal, which is being able to defend against and defeat these kinds of extremist groups out there.
QUESTION: In other words, if it looked like the last one, you wouldn't be in favor of it?
MR. CASEY: Matt, you know, without having a document to look at - we want to see an agreement that's effective. The last agreement wasn't effective, and by President Musharraf's own admission.
QUESTION: But you're not opposed to an agreement in principle?
MR. CASEY: I can't be opposed to something I haven't seen and something that at this point is hypothetical.
QUESTION: Well, would the United States support an - a cease-fire agreement between the Pakistani Government and these groups?
MR. CASEY: Well, Matt, it depends on what that agreement does. If the agreement was everyone was going to tomorrow lay down their arms, join the political process, avoid violence and have guarantees for it, I think that would be something --
QUESTION: But if it looked like the last one –
MR. CASEY: Look, Matt, I need to know what it actually looks like before I could offer you any kind of reasonable opinion on it.
QUESTION: A change of subject. The White House announced today that U.S. authorizes the use of waterboarding in interrogation of terrorism suspects. I wanted to know how it will affect your diplomacy, especially the publication of the annual report on torture that you publish.
MR. CASEY: Well, I think there has been ample discussion of this, including yesterday from the Director of National Intelligence McConnell as well as the other officials -- General Hayden and others - that spoke about this. Obviously, there's a lot of -- been a lot of discussion on this matter. At this point, I can't tell you that there's been any specific international reaction to it. In terms of what that would do in the preparation of annual reports or other kinds of documents like that, I haven't checked with the lawyers, so I certainly don't know whether that makes a difference or doesn't.
QUESTION: But don't you think it can affect the credibility -- the pure credibility of the report?
MR. CASEY: I don't honestly have anything for you on the preparation of the report or whether this would, in fact, impact it one way or the other. Basically, the U.S. views on this, though, are very clear. The President's articulated them and I think we'll leave it at that.
QUESTION: Different subject. Has the Administration backed away from the idea that this long-term agreement with Iraq on the future relationship would have a security guarantee in it?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not sure -- what do you mean by a security guarantee?
QUESTION: Well, when the announcement was made in November that the United States and Iraq were going to start formal negotiations about their relationship, there was a declaration of principles. And one of them included defending a democratic Iraq against internal and external threats.
MR. CASEY: Yeah, but see, what you're doing is repeating a fallacy that has been out there in a number of quarters. What we are negotiating is a framework for the continued possibility for U.S. troops to be able to operate in Iraq. And why do we need that? We need that because currently the presence of U.S. troops as well as other members of the coalition and the multinational force is governed by a UN Security Council resolution. That resolution is due to expire at the end of this year. And certainly, I think everyone understands and expects that there will be some U.S. military presence in Iraq beyond that date.
For our soldiers and other military officials to be able to legally function and operate in Iraq, there needs to be some agreement between us and the Iraqis over what their mandate is, how they can actually function, what rights and responsibilities they have. And this is why we need to negotiate a agreement that's similar to agreements we have with over a hundred other countries around the world which lays the basic structure for what their range of options are and what their range of action is.
That said, that is very different than some kind of agreement binding the U.S. to troop levels or specific missions or anything else. There have been some people out there that have tried to say that this agreement would tie the hands of a future president. It's exactly the opposite. This agreement will allow a future president a full range of options for them to choose from in terms of how they'd like future military operations in Iraq to proceed.
QUESTION: But would it have some language in it about defending a democratic Iraq against internal and external threats?
MR. CASEY: That's not what this -- the declaration of principles is a general political statement saying how we would intend to move forward our relations. This document is a technical agreement that sets out the terms under which U.S. forces can operate. It is not, and I've said this before, it's not some NATO-like treaty commitment that, you know, makes permanent kinds of decisions on behalf of the United States or commits the United States to a particular course of action.
QUESTION: So it sounds like its fair to say it wouldn't have a security guarantee.
MR. CASEY: Well, you know, the lawyers can talk to you about what security guarantee means. But to - in my humble understanding of this, there are people out there are that are saying that this agreement will require the U.S. to take military action in Iraq on specific occasions at specific times. That's not true.
QUESTION: Yes, on Kosovo. Mr. Casey, Russia warned again the U.S. that it would take a serious measure if Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo unilaterally declare independence. Did Moscow notify you about those measures?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, the Russian position on this has been well articulated by the Russian Government, and I'll leave it to them. I don't think there's any change in their position, and we certainly understand and respect their views.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) you, the USA - I was wondering if they've been notified?
MR. CASEY: I'm not aware of any new communications from the Russian Government.
QUESTION: And also, Russian officials say unilateral independence of Kosovo would destabilize the entire Balkans and fuel separatism all over Europe and the former Soviet Union. How do you respond to that, sir, since you --
MR. CASEY: I respond that the Russian Government can speak for the Russian Government, that those comments sound like comments the Russian Government's been making for months, if not years, so I don't think there's anything new there. And again, our position on this is quite clear.
QUESTION: Tom, I know you talked about it this morning, but any update on Chad, particularly any move to return to the Embassy?
MR. CASEY: I don't have a lot for you. Let me just check a couple of notes I have here. Pretty much where I've left you this morning on this is where we are. We continue to have our four embassy staff operating out of the airport. There were 16 U.S. citizens that did depart yesterday, which brings the number of those who we've helped to leave the country up to about 75. There are still a number of other Americans out there, including some in fairly remote areas, who have expressed an interest in leaving. And we're going to continue to work to assist them to be able to do so.
In terms of the Embassy itself, our officials have not been back to the site to observe it and, again, continue to operate out of the airport. We do understand from the Chadian Government, however, that the compound is secure and that Chadian security forces have taken steps to see to that. So you know, I'm sure at an appropriate time, we'll be able to send people back to take a look at it and of course, ultimately, once the situation - security situation resolves itself a bit more, we fully intend to return our officials, in one way or another, back to the embassy.
QUESTION: Did the 16 who left yesterday, those were on the French flight?
MR. CASEY: Yes.
QUESTION: The military flights?
MR. CASEY: Yes.
QUESTION: And how many or how big is the forward embassy staff that's operating out of the airport? How many?
MR. CASEY: At the airport, it's the same four people that we've had for the past few days.
QUESTION: If I might, earlier line of questioning --
MR. CASEY: Okay, we can go back there.
QUESTION: But are these negotiations going on now with Iraq and at what level and at what --
MR. CASEY: No, they haven't - they haven't started yet and as you've heard before, the lead U.S. negotiator for them is Ambassador Crocker. And of course, he's spoken to a number of people including certain news organizations represented in this room about what he intends to do in terms of the basic way forward. But these will be broad-based negotiations and again, they're designed to give us a basic framework for being able to operate in Iraq after the conclusion of the current UN Security Council resolution.
QUESTION: Is he back in Baghdad yet?
MR. CASEY: I'm not sure, Matt. I think he may still be out visiting some family out in the West Coast.
MR. CASEY: Due back in the next couple of days if he's not back there yet.
QUESTION: Yes, on the European news, on the missiles in European -- in Europe. Mr. Casey, Russia's Ambassador to NATO Dmitri Rogozin warned yesterday of any confrontation between Warsaw and Moscow in connection with the U.S. plan to deploy missiles in Eastern Europe, saying, "As in the Second World War, the country lost almost every third inhabitant." I'm wondering why you are insisting that those missiles should be deployed against Iran, something nobody believes in Europe.
MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, I think we were very pleased with the visit here of the Polish Defense Secretary; got to a general agreement, as you heard him and the Secretary say, on the terms for deploying the missile defense system. And again, our views on this are clear and you've heard them from us before. This is certainly not a system that is directed at Russia, it's not a threat to Russia, and it is a system that's designed to meet the common threats and challenges we believe that everyone faces not only from Iran, but from other potential actors out there.
In terms of Russia's views of the Iranian threat, I think we've seen some comments, talked about this this morning a little bit, today from Russian officials expressing some fairly serious concerns about Iran's recent missile launch and efforts to send up a space vehicle. So you know, I think there's clearly an understanding on the part of the Russian Government that the Iranians are doing some disturbing things. And again, the missile defense program, at least in terms of response to that threat, is just a prudent way of being able to ensure that as Iran continues to move forward with the development of its ballistic missile program that we have a reasonable response in place to help protect ourselves and our allies.
QUESTION: Why you don't place them in Iraq, which is more closer to the Iranian theater?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, you can go and look at the rather extensive set of briefings that various officials at the Defense Department and from here, including the Director of the Missile Defense Agency, have had in terms of the technical requirements of the system. But these are the locations where it was determined it would be most effective, particularly I think one of the basic things you'll find is it requires a certain amount of time for any of these systems to be able to track, lock in on and respond to a missile launch, and therefore being closer to the point of launch actually makes it harder to hit your target rather than easier.
QUESTION: What's your position toward the Arab initiative in Lebanon to elect a new president, General Sleiman, as the new president?
MR. CASEY: Well, you know, we, first of all, want to see a resolution to this longstanding political dispute, but we wish it to be done in a way that represents the wishes of the Lebanese people. Certainly, we're supportive of efforts to help resolve that. But again, I want to emphasize that this needs to be a Lebanese solution and shouldn't be imposed by us or by the Arab League or by anyone outside.
QUESTION: That means - do you - are you still backing the Arab initiative or not?
MR. CASEY: It means we want to continue to work with the Arab League and the Arab initiative to try and help the Lebanese work through this problem.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: She had one more.
QUESTION: One more on that? The CQ said today that the agreement with Iraq is expected to include provisions on - to allow for U.S. forces to train Iraqis, protect U.S. assets and engage in counterterrorism. Do you know, are those basically intended to be in the agreement?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, we're talking about negotiations that have yet to begin. And of course, whatever we bring to the table needs to be matched by what the Iraqis want to see in it. But I think - and again, Ambassador Crocker has talked about the general range of things that you might want to be able to do with U.S. military forces in Iraq, and that would include activities related to responding to and taking on al-Qaida operatives that are there. It would reasonably include continued training of Iraqi forces and a variety of other things.
But again, what I want to emphasize is these are not - this agreement is not intended to commit the U.S. to any of those activities. It is designed to allow us and the Iraqis to have an agreed-upon range of operations and actions and an agreed-upon legal foundation and understanding for the basis on which the troops would conduct those kinds of missions. The determinations as to how many troops would be required of what kind and what missions would actually be taken on are, of course, political judgments which will be determined by the President in consultation with military commanders on the ground, as well as, of course, through its usual checks and balances in our system, the Congress.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:57 p.m.)
DPB # 23
 Polish Foreign Minister
Released on February 6, 2008