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DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
October 08, 2001 1:00 PM EDT

Monday, October 8, 2001 - 1:00 p.m. EDT

(Also participating; Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon.

I have reported to the president, General Myers and I have, on a number of occasions over the past 24 hours, and today I'll make some general comments and then General Myers will provide a little more detail on the forces involved and an early assessment of the battle damage. I want to stress that we're still in the early stages of evaluating the intelligence data that's available, and we will be continuing to do that throughout the day.

Yesterday we stated that our objectives were to begin to create the conditions for sustained anti-terrorist and humanitarian operations. Based on our early assessment, we believe that we have made progress toward eliminating the air defense sites that have located around the country. We also believe we've made an impact on the military airfields that were targeted. We cannot yet state with certainty that we destroyed the dozens of military command-and-control and leadership targets we selected. Today we'll be continuing to collect damage assessment and will be striking additional targets as appropriate, as well as being prepared to address emerging targets as they appear. We will continue our humanitarian airdrops today, providing much-needed relief to the Afghan people.

So to summarize, every target was a military target. The reports indicating that there were attacks on Kabul are incorrect. The attacks were on the military targets surrounding the city. And most of what you saw on television undoubtedly was AAA coming up from the ground, not something going down from the air. U.S. and British forces hit some two dozen of the targets. All U.S. military personnel and aircraft that took part in yesterday's strike are safe and accounted for, notwithstanding the statements by Taliban to the contrary, which are flat untrue. We believe the humanitarian assistance flights were successful, and they will continue today.

I also want to stress the larger context in which these actions take place. First, these are not strikes against Afghanistan. Even as we conduct these strikes, we are not only engaged in a massive humanitarian effort for the Afghan people, but we're reaching out to a range of Afghan groups on the ground, in the North and in the South, as well as Afghan exiles and disaffected elements within the Taliban who are opposed to Taliban's policy of turning their nation into a haven for foreign terrorists.

Second, these strikes are part of a much larger effort against worldwide terrorism, one that will be sustained and which is wide-ranging. It will likely be sustained for a period of years, not weeks or months. This campaign will be waged much like the Cold War, in the sense that it will involve many fronts over a period of time and will require continuous pressure by a large number of countries around the globe. We'll use overt and covert military efforts as well as every diplomatic, economic, financial and law enforcement resource at our command. We will not stop until the terrorist networks are destroyed. To that end, regimes that harbor terrorists and their training camps should know that they will suffer penalties. Our goal is not one individual, it is not one group.

Finally, let me add a personal note. Here at the Pentagon, we've received and are still receiving truly wonderful support from Americans of all ages who have asked to express their thanks to, and admiration for, the men and women in the armed forces. We thank them for that. Every day in my travels around the world and here in the United States, I see the men and women in uniform. They do put themselves at risk for all of us. They voluntarily serve to protect so that others may live in freedom. And Americans certainly have every right to be proud and grateful for their service.

General Myers?

Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Yesterday our forces struck Taliban and terrorist targets in Afghanistan. The first target, as we said yesterday, was hit at approximately 12:30 Washington time [EDT]. And as of midnight last night, we and our British allies had struck 31 targets.

Again, our day-one efforts were designed to disrupt and destroy terrorist activities in Afghanistan and to set the conditions for future military action and to bring food and medical supplies to the Afghan people.

I know you're interested in the numbers of targets hit, the number of aim points, the numbers and kinds of weapons dropped. But I think it's important to emphasize at this point that in this kind of warfare against this kind of enemy, the true measure of effectiveness, in my opinion, will not necessarily be in numerical terms. Regardless of the pounds of munitions or the scope of the targets, yesterday's strikes began setting the conditions, setting the conditions for future operations.

We did destroy some of the terrorist infrastructure and we did begin feeding and assisting the victims of the Taliban regime.

We are generally pleased with the early results, but have only preliminary battle damage assessment done at this point. Some days you'll see more numbers than others, but don't assume that fewer numbers mean less effort or less effectiveness. We and our friends and allies are fighting terrorism using the entire range of military, economic, diplomatic and the other tools that the secretary mentioned. The pressure will be relentless, but not always quantifiable or necessarily visible.

With that said, the broad category of targets that we struck yesterday included early-warning radars, as we said before, ground forces, command-and-control facilities, al Qaeda infrastructure, and airfields and aircraft. Again, we don't have any battle damage assessment products to show you now, but when we do, we'll provide some to you.

Strikes are continuing as we speak. We are hitting targets that are similar to those we did yesterday. Today we're using about 10 (sic) [five] bomber aircraft and about 10 carrier-based tactical aviation assets to conduct our operations. Again today additional humanitarian drops will also be made. As these operations continue, however, that is about as far as I can comment right now.

So with that, ladies and gentlemen, we're ready for your questions.

Q: General, the bomber aircraft. Were cruise -- first, were ships used today? And were bomber aircraft, both bombs and cruise missiles used again today, as they were yesterday?

Myers: We used -- we will use some Tomahawk missiles today from ships. And there were no cruise missiles used from the bombers.

Q: And Mr. Secretary, might I add, are U.S. and British forces attacking Taliban troop concentrations as well as air defense and airfields and other sites?

Rumsfeld: There have been some ground forces targeted.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the issue of air superiority. Can you say whether or not that's been achieved? And do you have any sense of whether or not the Taliban has been cut off from communicating with its forces?

Rumsfeld: I think it would be too soon to say that the Taliban air defenses and aircraft and airports have been fully disabled. That is not the case. We have not got enough battle damage assessment to answer the question, but I suspect that when we do get it, it will find there's some additional work to be done.

Q: Is it just another --

Q: Communications? Can they communicate with their forces, or has that

Rumsfeld: They have a lot of ways of communicating, and I suspect they can.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you have about 4 million hungry people in Afghanistan, according to relief organizations. And yesterday, according to your figures and General Myers' figures, you dropped 37,500 MREs, humanitarian MREs. Is that purely humanitarian, or is it also part of the psyops? Because on the humanitarian MREs is a picture of the American flag. Also you dropped leaflets, and yet most of the Afghanis outside of the cities can't read. What's on the leaflets?

Rumsfeld: They're going to try to make some of them available at the appropriate time, and they include some figures and symbols. I suppose that -- I don't know exactly how many people are without food in Afghanistan, although the estimate by outsiders is probably fairly close. It's a very serious situation. Not only have the Taliban treated the people of Afghanistan terribly, but they've also had a drought for several years.

It is quite true that 37,000 rations in a day do not feed millions of human beings. On the other hand, if you were one of the starving people who got one of the rations, you'd be appreciative.

Q: How many more rations are going out today?

Rumsfeld: (to Myers) Do you know?

Myers: I think it's approximately the same amount as yesterday. And we'll get you that answer afterwards. It could be a few more. [Update: About 37,000 humanitarian daily rations are scheduled to be airdropped today.]

Rumsfeld: But I should add, with respect to that, that, as you know, the president has announced a $320 million humanitarian program for food and medicine and that the work to get that in place is underway. And we'll be using USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] and the Department of State and others to see that that begins as promptly as possible.

Q: The World Food Program today said that it has actually discontinued aid shipments into Afghanistan as a result of the strikes, and that's a cutoff of about 700,000 tons of food going into Afghanistan today. So it would appear that there's actually a net loss as a result of this action. Does that concern you at all?

Rumsfeld: Well, I think it would be a misunderstanding of the situation. What you have is a group of people, the Taliban, that have repressed the Afghan people, contributed to their starvation. And to suggest that what is taking place now is a net loss for the Afghan people would be a total misunderstanding of what's taking place.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned in your opening statement that leadership targets are among the targets, at least yesterday. Could you flesh that out a little bit, describe that in any --

Rumsfeld: Sure. There's no question but that we have looked at the al Qaeda organization and the Omar's organization and are attempting to address the command-and-control capabilities of those organizations.

Q: Does that mean their headquarters or their residences or --

Rumsfeld: It means a variety of things. In some cases it might even be if we saw moving elements that constituted part of their command and control.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you help us clarify something that you said the other day? You were quoted as saying, "One of the goals is to orchestrate the overthrow of the Taliban." Is that a U.S. goal or is that a consequence of what is happening? What are you trying to do to the Taliban?

Rumsfeld: I said that yesterday?

Q: Well, you were quoted as saying it, which is -- (inaudible).

Rumsfeld: I don't recall saying it. But there is no question but that the Taliban has rejected every proposal that the president has made. It has closely linked itself to the foreigners that are in their country called the al Qaeda, who are sponsoring terrorism across the globe. They have indicated that that is their position and that is where their position will remain.

Now, that being the case, it seems to me that it is perfectly reasonable to feel that the only way that the Afghan people are going to be successful in heaving the terrorist network out of their country is to be successful against the Omar's -- that portion of Taliban and the Taliban leadership that are so closely linked to the al Qaeda. And certainly we are working with the elements on the ground that are interested in overthrowing and expelling that group of people.

Q: So, therefore, the United States is also interested in overthrowing the Taliban.

Rumsfeld: There's no question but that the group of people that are closely linked to al Qaeda, who are in the Taliban, including Omar and his lieutenants and that structure, are harmful to the world and dangerous to the world and are -- and that Afghanistan would be vastly better off were they not there.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you say whether the Northern Alliance is making any military gains on the ground? And if not, do you expect that in the coming days they will?

And General Myers, if you could just answer whether the B-2 Stealth Bomber is part of today's operation, and are they operating out of theater now, without specifying where they are?

Rumsfeld: (to Myers) You want to answer that?

Myers: The bombers today are both B-2s and B-1s. And the B-2s will be operating out of CONUS.

Q: Out of what?

Myers: Continental United States.

Rumsfeld: Continental United States.

Q: Mr. Secretary? Mr. Secretary?

Q: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: I will. I will. The other part of the question involved the Northern Alliance. I've watched that over a period of time, and I'm reluctant to try to characterize that, because it seems to ebb and flow. And I've not seen anything thus far that would suggest to me that there's been something approximating a permanent change in the circumstance of the Northern Alliance.

Q: Mr. Secretary, along those lines, Northern Alliance envoys met with NSC staffers at the White House last week, and what they're looking for is financial assistance as well as military assistance. And in particular, they said they're looking for air cover for their upcoming offensive. Will you offer them air cover?

Rumsfeld: As I have indicated, the United States is interested in the elements of Afghans on the ground that have it in their mind that they would like to end al Qaeda's role in Afghanistan and end the senior Taliban leadership's role. And the Northern Alliance and the tribes in the south and other are among those.

Q: And what kind of assistance will you give them, can you say?

Q: Mr. Secretary. Mr. Secretary, is the ultimatum essentially now off the table in the sense that at this point, you're no longer going to accept any kind of concessions from the Taliban, that it's really a military operation, period?

Rumsfeld: Well, I wouldn't hold your -- yeah, I don't think I'd hold your breath waiting for concessions from the Taliban.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the vehicles that were struck, the leadership vehicles, was that a convoy? Were they al Qaeda leaders in there? Was it Taliban leaders? And where was that?

Rumsfeld: I could be mistaken, but I don't think I said they were struck. I said that they would be legitimate targets.

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Q: Is there any sign that any Taliban leaders have defected or they're changing sides or changing their minds, that any of this pressure is working?

Rumsfeld: I have no solid information to that effect, although you do hear that. And I'm not in a position to validate it.

Q: General Myers?

Rumsfeld: General Myers?

Myers: Tony?

Q: Are today's strikes against prearranged targets, or are they of the type you talked about, where actionable intelligence, quote, is coming in and you're striking them fairly quickly?

Myers: Tony, they're against actually both types of targets. There are pre-planned targets, and there's also the ability to handle targets that might emerge.

Q: In the last couple hours, have they actually been able to do ad hoc attacks?

Myers: Operations are ongoing. I just can't comment on that.

Q: General, could you talk about the kinds of --

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you know how much this is costing, this campaign is costing on a daily basis?

Rumsfeld: No.

Q: General, can you talk about the kinds of anti-aircraft opposition you saw? I know you've got operations now, but that you have seen? What kind of defense have gone into operation against U.S. and against --

Myers: Well, we know that they had a handful of surface-to-air missiles of a couple of different varieties, and they also have a variety of anti-aircraft fire. And I think what we saw yesterday was a lot of the anti-aircraft fire and some manned, portable surface-to-air missiles being shot. Obviously, the aircraft were at heights above both the anti-aircraft fire and the manned, portable surface-to- air missiles that they weren't affected by it.

Q: Can you say whether or not there --

Q: Mr. Secretary, speaking specifically of Afghanistan, when will the mission be over for the United States there? What will be a victory for the United States in Afghanistan?

Rumsfeld: Well, I suppose the answer would be the same anywhere as Afghanistan because the goal is simply to try to free the world of the threat of terrorism, global terrorism. And the president has indicated that it strikes at our way of life, and the only way to deal with it is not through simply defense but through taking the effort to those terrorist groups. And that would be true -- as true in Afghanistan as elsewhere.

Q: But when do you stop the attacks then?

Rumsfeld: Well, of course attacks are just one small part, these raids are one small part of the entire effort. The cruise missiles and bombers are not going to solve this problem. We know that. What they can do is to contribute by adding pressure, making life more difficult, raising the cost for the terrorists and those that are supporting the terrorists, draining their finances and creating an environment that is inhospitable to the people that are threatening the world. That's all -- it is not simple. It is not neat. It is -- there is not a silver bullet, as I've said. It is a problem that is going to take continuous pressure by countries across the globe gathering intelligence, providing it to each other and seeing that we in fact over time are sufficiently successful that we can say that those terrorist networks are no longer a threat to free people.

Yes.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the U.S. has written a letter to the UN Security Council saying that (inaudible) the U.S. may need to launch attacks against other organizations or states. Do we have any other military operations against any of the networks connected with al Qaeda in some places other than Afghanistan today?

Rumsfeld: We don't discuss things of that type.

Q: General Myers.

Q: General Myers.

Q: Mr. Secretary.

Q: General Myers.

Myers: Sir.

Q: Are the 20 aircraft, strike aircraft that you mentioned in today's operation as well as the Tomahawk shooters, are those exclusively American? And also, did the numbers that were participating in yesterday's operations turn out to be fewer than the 40 that you initially planned?

Myers: No, I think the numbers yesterday were very close to the exact numbers. And today, the aircraft are exclusively U.S.

Q: And the Tomahawk shooters?

Myers: And the Tomahawks, to the best of my knowledge, will be exclusively U.S. today.

Q: General, to your knowledge -- to your knowledge, General, have any Stingers been fired?

Rumsfeld: Go ahead.

Q: Have any Stingers been fired?

Myers: You mean from Afghanistan?

Q: You said several missiles have been fired. Any Stingers?

Myers: Yes. We have to assume that some of those were -- we just assume that some of those were the Stingers missiles, because we know they have those man-portable surface-to-air missiles, so we assume some of them were fired.

Q: General.

Q: General Myers, although you've both said bin Laden is not the specific target in this, you've talked mostly about Taliban targets here. Can you tell us with any specificity, have you struck anything in these first two days that hurts bin Laden and his people where they live? What have you done to strike at him?

Myers: Well, I think for starters, in that list of targets that we have both talked about, the training camps, the al Qaeda training camps are probably as good as any example of trying to take out the network. And --

Q: Those camps are empty, aren't they, though? Those guys have abandoned those camps.

Myers: Well, I'm not going to talk about the details there, but the camps have great training -- inherent great training capability. They are not totally empty.

Rumsfeld: There are also al Qaeda-dominated ground forces that exist.

Q: General, can you --

Q: And where have you struck those, Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: I beg your pardon?

Q: Excuse me. I apologize. Where have you struck those targets? Can you tell us anything about that?

Rumsfeld: Well, we're not at the point of completing the battle damage assessment, but they are -- they tend to be located in the North.

Q: General, the fact that --

Rumsfeld: Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, we know that cruise missiles and smart bombs were using during the Persian Gulf War. How has technology made them more accurate?

Rumsfeld: That's a good question.

Myers: Probably the most significant capability that's been added since the Gulf War -- there are two points. One is, we have a lot more of them. If you remember in the Gulf War, about 10 percent of our munitions were what we call precision-guided munitions. In Operation Allied Force, about 90 percent of our munitions were guided munitions. So we have more of them. And the other thing we have are our joint direct attack munition, which is a Global Positioning System, the satellite system that provides accurate positioning to the weapon, so we can drop in all weather conditions without actually seeing the ground. That's a huge difference from previous conflicts.

Q: So the lack of fixed mobile missile activity, is that a result of U.S. targeting, or is the Taliban husbanding their few high-altitude missiles that they have?

Myers: Well, hopefully, we'll be able to provide you some of that bomb damage assessment as we continue our analysis. We think it's the former.

Rumsfeld: Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you talk about what other allies in this coalition are doing to contribute to this campaign? I mean, we know that the British are in cruise missiles, but are other countries contributing militarily? And can you be a little specific? I know some you won't name, but --

Rumsfeld: Well, I really do think it's proper for the countries involved to characterize their involvement themselves, because of the obvious sensitivities. And I know, for example, I happened to see a press release, a statement by Prime Minister Howard of Australia, where he has publicly announced the ways that Australia is involved. There are -- there were any number of countries that have been involved.

There are -- I would say it's probably more than three or four or five handfuls that have been involved in a variety of ways. In some cases, it may range from overflight rights; another, it might be landing rights; another, it might be providing intelligence, which is very valuable. It may be that they have ships steaming into the area to be available in the immediate future. It may be offers of special forces capabilities.

There are a lot of countries engaged in this in a lot of different ways. And I wish it were possible in one place to capture it all using the words that they prefer to use; but my interest is much more in getting the job done and having as many people help in as many ways as they want to. And there is no question in my mind that, were I to start trying to characterize it all, it would reduce the assistance rather than increase it.

Yes?

Q: The Taliban have a number of their own aircraft. Have they put any of those in the air, and have there been any engagements in the air?

Myers: There have been, to the best of my knowledge, no air-to-air engagements. And as the secretary has said yesterday and again today, that airfields and aircraft have been targets of our strikes. And we're talking about aircraft on the ground, primarily.

Q: General --

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you say, is there any difference between U.S. and Pakistan in regards with the role that must play the Northern Alliance? Because General Musharraf was saying that he did not consider it fair to the Northern Alliance to take advantage of this conflict. What do you think about it?

Rumsfeld: Well, it's not for me to characterize what his views are or what -- my views are very clear, and the views of our government. We are interested in the Afghan people opposing the al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership that are harboring the al Qaeda. And certainly each country in that part of the world has views as to how they would like that to all sort out. Our particular interest is very clear; it is to root out the terrorists that exist in that country. And from my standpoint, and I assume this would be the view of the country eventually, is that it's up to the Afghan people to sort through what happens thereafter.

Q: Can you -- Mr. Secretary, can you say how your military campaign is going to avoid the mistakes that the Soviet Union made in the 1980s when they got engaged in Afghanistan, in general terms?

Rumsfeld: Well, in general terms, I would say that one would hope that everyone would learn from history. And I think the circumstances are quite different. We have -- our only interest is having terrorism stopped from that country and, the good Lord willing, having the Afghan people treated in a more humane way than they have been treated by the Taliban and the al Qaeda. We hope to be able to accomplish both. And the way that would be accomplished would be not by -- we seek no real estate, we seek no influence over that. It's up to the Afghan people. And, I would think that over time, we'll find out to the extent to which we are or are not successful, but I suspect that it will be because of the help of lots of countries putting enough pressure on the situation so that eventually it creates a situation internally where it disintegrates and falls apart, and the people on the ground are then able to replace something that is obviously a serious cancer on that country.

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Q: Will the NATO AWACS --

Q: Mr. Secretary, if you're going to provide air cover perhaps for the Northern Alliance or perhaps the tribes in the south, and if you're going rock the Taliban back on its heels with these air strikes, do you think it may be necessary or not necessary to use U.S. ground troops and just the indigenous troops of the Northern Alliance and others?

Rumsfeld: I wouldn't want to speculate on that. And -- and I would add that I think it's unlikely that the air strikes will rock the Taliban back on their heels, as you say. They have very few targets that are of high value that are manageable from the air. The military campaign from the air can be helpful. We believe it is being helpful. But it is a part of the broad based effort that is involved -- the financial, and the diplomatic, and the economic, and the political -- and I think -- and the covert, all of which are important -- and I think that we ought not to -- we have to have a clear understanding of what is possible in a country like that. That country has been at war for a very long time. The Soviet Union pounded it year after year after year. Much of the country is rubble. They have been fighting among themselves. They do not have high-value targets or assets that are the kinds of things that would lend themselves to substantial damage from the air.

What we are doing is that which is doable in the way we're currently doing it, and it is only a part of an overall campaign. And I think it's just terribly important to underline that and emphasize it so that people don't go away with the mistaken understanding that some sort of a cruise missile is going to solve that problem, because it isn't. It's going to be a range of things that will do that.

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Q: General Myers. General Myers.

Q: Mr. Secretary, NATO is --

Rumsfeld: We'll make this the last question.

Q: -- NATO is detaching or detailing a number of AWACS planes to the United States. Are they going to be used for homeland security? And does that mean that there's going to be an increase in combat air patrols over the country?

Rumsfeld: I think that they're -- that the North Atlantic Council is making some decisions on that today. And I suspect that what there will be is announcements. [ NATO statement ] I believe that the secretary general of NATO, Lord Robertson, will be coming to the United States sometime later this week.

Myers: That's correct.

Rumsfeld: And I suspect that he and the president will be announcing what they have in mind. Certainly it is a significant event, however.

Thank you very much.

Myers: Thank you.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

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