Tuesday, November 6, 2001 - 12:05 EST
(Also participating: Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff)
Rumsfeld: Thank you. We -- as you know, we left on Friday and returned late last evening, after a quick visit to Russia and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, India. I trust you also had a leisurely weekend.
We had, really, two principal objectives. First was to meet with the Russian leadership in connection with President Bush's meetings later this month with President Putin. And second, to visit a number of the countries on the periphery of Afghanistan that have joined in the campaign against terrorism, and to hear from their leaders and consider future steps.
One thing is clear from our meetings, and that is that the events of September 11th have changed and are changing the world in ways that we really can't fully know yet. Nations are rethinking relationships, they are reorienting policies, and they are realigning priorities.
For example, the president's decision to waive certain military and economic sanctions on both India and Pakistan will likely have an impact in that region well beyond the anti-terror campaign in Afghanistan.
Regarding the military campaign, it was -- I found it gratifying to hear during our trip from the leaders of countries that are not always in agreement with each other, but who all agree on the basic principle that terrorism has to be rooted out, and that Afghanistan is indeed the right place to begin doing that. Of course there are going to be differences in views along the way, but the objective is clear, the principle is sound, and I would say that need is great; indeed, it is urgent.
We welcome and are receiving assistance from many, many nations around the world. After stopping in Russia, we met with the leaders in four other countries. They all understand the importance of the task. They offered useful and valuable insights into the situation in Afghanistan. We discussed the post-Taliban government planning. We discussed humanitarian assistance, which has been growing day by day, and a number of other considerations.
With respect to Russia, President Putin, while of a different view, clearly understands President Bush's need and intention to move beyond the ABM Treaty. There are a number of ways it might occur, and we're still exploring how it may unfold. I described for them in some specificity the ways in which the ABM Treaty has already begun to inhibit our program of research, development and testing. And our need to get beyond it: we delivered -- and they heard -- that message.
We also discussed reductions in offensive nuclear forces as well as the need for transparency and predictability in -- with respect to our offensive and defensive nuclear programs.
Of course, the relationship is multi-dimensional. It's political and economic as well as security. I discussed the campaign against terrorism and the urgency that the availability of weapons of mass destruction brings to this very serious problem.
As to the anti-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan, as you know, the United States did not ask for this conflict. It was thrust upon us. This is not the first time in our history that adversaries have attacked and threatened our way of life. Each time we've met the challenge and defeated our enemies and emerged stronger for it. And we will deal decisively with these mass murderers as well. And that is, indeed, what they are.
The United States has a sizable task before it, to seek out the opportunities and manage the challenges that this conflict presents. We need to avoid the tendency simply to think near-term, but rather to consider how the world might look five, 10, 15 years out and take advantage of this opportunity to work with friends new and old to try to help shape that world. And I believe we have an opportunity to do just that: not just to defeat terrorism, but to help to shape a 21st century security environment in ways that will help contribute to peace and stability in what is clearly a still dangerous and untidy world.
General Pace will make some comments about the operations yesterday.
Pace: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
I have no video for you today. We'll have that for you tomorrow. The secretary did ask me to answer one question that has come up several times. It has to do with an attack on 22 October in the vicinity of Chuker -- C-H-U-K-E-R. We had studied that facility for about two weeks, had several forms of intelligence that confirmed to us that it was, in fact, a Taliban facility. There were modern buildings without window(s). They were underground facilities. And there were tents on the outskirts that had Taliban troops in it. And we did attack that on the 22nd of October with AC-130 gunships.
About nine days later, on the 31st, is when the first reports started coming in about supposed civilian casualties there. This was a valid -- validated military target, and it was struck as such on the 22nd.
Yesterday, in Afghanistan, forces flew approximately 100 attack sorties into the country, focused primarily on support to opposition forces in and around Mazar-e Sharif and north of Kabul. Also continued the strikes on the cave complexes; also delivered another 34,000-plus humanitarian rations, which brings the military-delivered humanitarian rations to the 1.2 million mark so far in this campaign.
The Commando Solo continued its mission of providing radio news to the Afghan people.
And with that, I think I'll stop and take your questions with the secretary. Thank you.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you said last week that you would like, as soon as humanly possible, to increase the modest number of Special Forces troops in Afghanistan by three or fourfold. Number one, have you done that? And number two, now that you're looking at air bases in Tajikistan and elsewhere in the region, do you intend to sharply increase the air campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda?
Rumsfeld: The forces on the ground have gone up, since I made that comment, about two-and-a-half times. And there are others prepared to go in as soon as weather and circumstances on the ground permit. And I continue to be of the same mind, that it is a -- helpful to the United States to have Special Forces involved on the ground to assist with communications, liaison, resupply, humanitarian activities, as well as targeting, and that is their goal and their purpose, and they're doing it well. So as soon as the others can get in, the better from our standpoint.
With respect to the air campaign, there's no question but that the better targeting information we have, the better the effect is on the ground. And the air campaign has been going along quite well. I think we've ranged, general, from something like a low of 60 sorties in country during times when weather has been bad or we've had a carrier down for maintenance, up to more recently, in the range of 120 sorties in country, which is a level that -- to the extent both carriers are functioning and everything else is working, and weather and the like, is certainly a more appropriate level, as long as we have the targets.
And the more people we get on the ground, the better the targeting information is. So we feel good about it.
Q: But if you get these extra ground bases closer to the action, would that allow you, and do you hope to then, sharply increase the air campaign?
Rumsfeld: Well, if you think about it -- obviously having options and alternatives is always helpful. It gives you flexibility. It gives you somewhat more loiter time, although loiter time with a aircraft that has a specific mission of disposing of its weaponry is not critical. If the mission is a combat air patrol mission, to stay in and look for emerging targets, then the loiter time is quite helpful. And we are looking, always, to find ways that we can do what we're doing better.
Q: Can I ask you to reconcile, sir, some comments from Admiral Stufflebeem that the weather is not really an inhibition to the military campaign, and two references you just made to weather in fact inhibiting operations to get special ops forces in and inhibiting sorties? Is in fact the weather -- does it provide an impediment to the successful continuance of the operation?
Rumsfeld: Weather is a factor. It is not necessarily determinative, but there are certainly weather conditions when -- for example, in the case of the Predator, which has icing problems in certain types of weather, it can be a factor. It can be a factor for various other types of aircraft. We've had helicopters trying to move from one place to another and not be able to proceed because of the weather.
I think the reference you're making, that you're looking to have reconciled, is apples and oranges. I think probably the reference you're referring to is a general comment about winter and the extent to which the United States can or cannot function during a winter period. And I would first say that the weather is not the same all across Afghanistan. It's quite different in the mountains than it is on the plains. And General Pace, you've made some comments on this subject. Why don't you --
Pace: Sir, thank you.
I would say that, certainly, the weather is going to have an impact, but your U.S. forces operate extremely well in cold-weather environment.
And, in fact, there are parts of the cold weather environment that are advantageous to the kinds of sensors that we use. So on balance there's always pros and cons, but we're designed to work in all types of weather and terrain, and we'll do just that.
Q: Mr. Secretary, do you have evidence to support the claims today by the Northern Alliance that they've captured about three villages in the vicinity of Mazar-e Sharif? And also, what's your assessment of their capability to eventually succeed against the Taliban?
Rumsfeld: I -- you know, there are so many reports about this village or that village. I like to let the dust settle and see where it is at the end of some period of time after there's been a pause.
I think that the answer to the other portion of your question is that there are a lot of things that have happened in that country that have been, in many cases, deadly, but at the minimum enormously unpleasant for an awful lot of Afghan people. The Taliban have not been pleasant rulers. And that fact, it seems to me, creates an environment in Afghanistan that many of the Afghan people would be delighted to have the foreign intruders -- the al Qaeda -- out of that country, and they would be delighted to have Taliban -- that brought them in and has been linked intimately with them -- also out. So the environment has that attraction and benefit and positive aspect from our standpoint.
In the last analysis, however, it's what's happening on the ground. And that means that one has to look at a specific place with what are the forces on each side, how readily can they be reinforced, to what extent can we be helpful from the air, and to what extent is the tribe or the faction or the element, whether in the north or south -- made a conscious decision to proceed and to accomplish a specific target. And those are judgments that they make, and all we can do is provide the assistance and encourage them to take back their country.
Q: And it's going to take additional -- substantial additional new kinds of American assistance to get them to that point, do you have --
Rumsfeld: I think that it's unclear. What one has to do is to see it -- it's going to vary from place to place in the country. It is not going to be a steady march forward across the front. It is going to be probes and pushes and successes and steps back. That is the nature of it, and I think we just have to face that fact.
Q: Mr. Secretary, may I do somewhat of a follow-up on this? You have told us from that podium that we're engaged in a marathon, not a sprint. You have also said it's going to take not weeks or months, but years, to defeat terrorism. Yet on the trip, you were reported to have said that it will not take years to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. Is that a change of view; and, if so, why? And afterwards, if I may ask General Pace a question specifically, I'd like to do that.
Rumsfeld: You know, that question and the question earlier about trying to reconcile statements, I think it's important to take statements and keep them in context and understand that you can make a comment about one thing that is of a kind with a comment on another thing and it is not a conflict or view. In this case, precisely, I have said, and I am convinced I am correct, it will take years to deal with the problem of terrorism across the globe. I was asked that question on my trip about Afghanistan, not about the globe, and there is a slight geographic distinction between the two. (Laughter.) One is somewhat larger and more difficult and more complex and, therefore, not surprisingly, might require more time. And I do not think it will take years to deal with the Taliban or the al Qaeda organization.
Q: May I ask General Pace a question? General, using your Marine Corps uniform and not your purple suit, if I may: We have Harriers in the action for the first time. The Harrier has short legs and has a very limited bomb load. Why are you using the Harriers? And as you know, the main purpose of the Harrier is close air support. Are there Marines on the ground in Afghanistan now?
Pace: Well, first of all, we're using the Harriers because General Tom Franks, who is the commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, is using all the assets at his disposal to do the job he's been given. So it doesn't surprise me that Tom would use the Harriers. They're very capable aircraft. They do carry a good bomb load. They are refuelable and they've got some great pilots. So from that standpoint, he's using the tools the way he should be using them.
Your second point, sir, was what?
Q: Are there Marines on the ground now in Afghanistan, reconnaissance teams or otherwise?
Pace: There are teams on the ground. I'd prefer not to get into service and type.
Q: General Pace, speaking of tools, could you talk a little bit about the 15,000-pound Daisy Cutter bomb we were told that was starting to be used late last week, maybe give us some idea what sort of targets and what strategic advantages does that bring?
Pace: There were two of these weapons used in the last -- within the last week. They are 15,000-pound bombs that literally are fit on a pallet on a C-130. They're pushed out the back of the C-130 and float down by parachute. They have a probe that sticks out so when the probe hits the ground, they explode about three feet above the ground, and as you would expect, they make a heck of a bang when they go off, and the intent is to kill people.
Q: Can you give us an idea, though, what specific areas would you -- would that sort of bomb be more effective than, say, the traditional laser-guided or whatnot?
Pace: It would be extremely useful against troops that are in light defensive positions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, the day before yesterday, the United States provided some assistance to one of the major opposition leaders working in southern Afghanistan. And I believe you have commented on this. Can you provide us with what happened, how the U.S. helped him? This is clearly a man who is now asking for help on the ground, for food, ammunition, and other things. Have you been able to provide direct assistance to this kind of important opposition leader on the ground in Afghanistan?
Q: Yes. And what happened over the weekend? How did the U.S. assist him?
Rumsfeld: Well, I'd have to go back and check. But we have -- he has been in Afghanistan with a number of supporters and troops, and we have, I know, delivered ammunition and some supplies to him. Within recent days -- in fact, I think while I was in Pakistan -- at his request, he was extracted from Afghanistan with a small number of his senior supporters and fighters, I believe for consultation in Pakistan, and undoubtedly will be going back in there at that point where those consultations are completed.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there is a report I think the BBC had that on Sunday there was a helicopter -- a U.S. helicopter crash in Pakistan and that four soldiers or service members were killed. I was wondering if you can give us anything on that. And number two --
Rumsfeld: Four service members were killed?
Q: It was reported that four --
Rumsfeld: Could it have been another Taliban report? (Light laughter.)
Q: I don't know. I'm hoping you can clarify --
Rumsfeld: They are very busy, those folks.
Q: Right. (Laughter.) And has there been any --
Rumsfeld: They must have a hot line right into the media all across the globe.
Q: Could you clear it up? And then before I let you go, can you also comment -- there is -- some military analysts and some members of Congress are talking about the need for more conventional ground troops in Afghanistan and that if that's going to be the case for, say, a spring offensive, that the Pentagon and the administration needs to make a decision and start mobilizing that before the end of this year.
Can you give us some sense whether you agree with that scenario and whether there's going to be some mobilization before the end of the year?
Rumsfeld: Well, with respect to the first question, I think it is very important, when you read claims or you hear claims like that, to recognize that the people making them are the people who are using mosques for ammunition storage. They're using mosques for command-and-control centers. They are viciously putting their military equipment in close proximity to hospitals and to schools and to residential districts for the very purpose because they know, and hope, and pray that they will be the safest there. And they're perfectly willing to put at risk the people who populate those residential areas and those hospitals and those schools. And one ought to have a good deal of pause about those claims, it seems to me, after all the evidence that has been accumulated.
With respect to ground troops: it is -- there's no question but that there are people, and so-called military experts and thoughtful people, who are analyzing what might or might not be appropriate. And that's perfectly proper, and we value those thoughts and suggestions. And it is certainly proper for them to offer them publicly.
We are considering a broad range of things. We have consciously avoided taking anything off the table, and we are not ruling out anything. And it would be irresponsible for us to be opining and publicly musing about what we might or might not do prospectively. It could cost people's lives.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: If I could follow up with a quick question --
Q: Mr. Secretary, you just came from India and Pakistan. To one end, Pakistan President Musharraf, himself, made a comment that if his government failed, then the nuclear arsenal may be in the hands of the terrorists or Osama bin Laden. And, two, if you have discussed with them thousands of Pakistanis are crossing into Afghanistan to fight against the United States. And finally, in India --
Rumsfeld: Wait a second. Let's do -- two's plenty. Okay? Two's plenty.
I do not believe that the president of Pakistan made the statement you just said he made. I would be --
Q: Well, the Washington Post said. (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: I'll hold myself in reserve on that. (Laughter.)
The -- I don't know how they wrote it. They may have wrote it that somebody said he said it. But I can assure you that he did not say that. I do not believe he said that. Somebody may have said he said it.
But he has indicated -- first of all, let me take it away from Pakistan and talk about the subject more generally. I just met with the president, and so I've got -- had a good deal of discussion on a whole host of subjects, and it would be wrong for me to separate out that one subject and -- having just left the president of Pakistan. Therefore, I will speak generically, broadly, generally.
People who have nuclear weapons -- countries that have nuclear weapons spend a lot of time and a lot of money and a lot of effort getting them, and they tend to have, over a period of time, a very healthy respect for the lethal power of those weapons, and they tend to be quite sensitive to the safety of those weapons. And there is not a doubt in my mind but that the president of Pakistan and his senior officials have exactly that respect for the power of those weapons and have taken appropriate steps to see that they are managed and handled in a way that is safe and fully responsible.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could you just --
Q: And --
Q: Can I follow up a little bit on the explanation you gave about the extraction of Hamid Karzai? Was that while he was being detained by the Taliban, or was this after he escaped from the Taliban that he was extracted from Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: To my knowledge, he was not detained or held by the Taliban. If that's true -- it is possible it's true, but it's not true to my knowledge. No, it was a very sensible arrangement whereby he requested to be extracted for a period, and we cooperated to extract him.
Q: So this was transportation, not a rescue mission?
Rumsfeld: Oh, exactly. No, it was not an extraction in the sense of a military campaign.
Q: And, General Pace, could you just give us an unambiguous statement that would put to rest these reports of a U.S. helicopter having crashed in Pakistan on Sunday? Did it not -- it didn't happen?
Pace: There was no U.S. helicopter shot down in Pakistan. There was a helicopter, several days ago, that through icing crashed in high terrain --
Q: Well, we're aware of that one.
Pace: -- and they were -- the folks from that were picked up and brought to safety.
I can give you an ambiguous statement: there was no U.S. helicopter shot down. There were not four, or any other number, of U.S. service members killed in that non-shootdown. (Laughter.)
Q: Sir, was that the last one, the Friday one? You're describing the Friday incident. Was that the last one to go down, sir? Because these claims -- by the way, by Pakistani officials -- were that a helicopter went down in Pakistan near the border on Sunday -- Sunday night, local time, as opposed to the Friday one you described. Is the Friday one the last one?
Rumsfeld: You know, one way to think about this is that when we have a helicopter that goes down, no matter for what purpose, we tell you. (Laughter.) And these other things are not happening. They are fiction. The idea that the two Predators were shot down by the Taliban, the idea that helicopters have been shot down -- it's just not so. The idea that Americans are captured and they're currently being detained is not so.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: So this one's fiction? This didn't happen?
Rumsfeld: He just said it.
Q: Did not. Okay.
Q: Mr. Secretary, representatives from the Northern Alliance over the weekend said they needed more support from the United States -- weapons, ammunition, and particularly time, even weeks, before they take on the Taliban. At what point do U.S. officials determine we've given enough support, the time is right, if you don't go in, we'll use our own special forces or ground troops? Is there a threshold, and are we anywhere near it?
Rumsfeld: The combatant commander, General Tommy Franks, is the person who is involved in dealing with those individuals and making those kinds of adjustments and providing those kinds of resupplies. And at -- it is his judgment that is then presented to the National Command Authorities -- to me and to the president. And that's how the chain-of-command works.
Q: Is this -- Hamid Karzai, is it going to be a round trip? Are we taking him back to Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: That was the understanding when we extracted him, and I would suspect that will prove to the be the case, but that's yet in the future.
Q: The situation -- just follow up on this resupply question -- both for the civilian population in northern Afghanistan and for the Northern Alliance seems to be quite dire. What possibility is there for dramatically expanding the resupply and aid effort, both in terms of ammunition supplies for the Northern Alliance and also humanitarian supplies for the civilian population -- maybe establishing some kind of forward base there for -- to boost the resupply? Or what's your thinking?
Rumsfeld: There's a whole range of things under consideration. There are international organizations that are involved in the humanitarian aspect. There's the U.S. department of AID, under the Department of State that is involved. The Pentagon is involved. We have been -- we recognize that winter's coming. It does happen every year.
And we recognize that there are a whole lot of people who are in dire straits from the standpoint of food and clothing. And we certainly are taking all the steps that are humanly possible to see that there can be a significant ramp-up of assistance because it clearly will be needed.
Q: Mr. Secretary, your statement that you can deal with the Taliban and al Qaeda within months, what leads you to that conclusion?
Rumsfeld: As opposed to years.
Q: Yeah. What -- what evidence -- what has led you to come to that conclusion?
Rumsfeld: It is clearly an estimate. I did not suggest one, two or three months; I said months rather than years. That means it could be as long as 23. (Laughter.) I've got a full range from one or two to 23. And I thought to myself when I was asked that question, I spontaneously responded to the best of my ability and said, Hmm, I'll bet you it's months, not years. Could I be wrong? I suppose. Do I think I am? No. (Laughter.)
Q: Well, then, let me ask you quite seriously, what leads you to this conclusion? Do you have some evidence that you have seen that leads you to some sense of optimism about this?
Rumsfeld: I've got so much -- so many scraps of information. And what happens to them all, we all look at them, we think about them, we talk about them, we discuss them with Tommy Franks, we discuss them with the people in the region. And you drop a plumb line through all of that information -- part of it's true, part of it's not true -- and you come up with a feeling. And my feeling is that it will be months, not years. And time will tell.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there's a report in the New Yorker this week that for the attacks on Kandahar two and a half weeks ago, that 12 Special Operations soldiers were injured, three of them seriously. And then on a talk show on Sunday General Franks was asked about that, and he said, well -- he indicated that maybe more were injured. He said five to 25; some of the soldiers stumbled over rocks, for example. We were told initially that only two were injured paratrooping into those objectives. Can you clear this up? How many were wounded or injured? Two?
Rumsfeld: I'll try to. I'll try to. The best information we have at the present time is something like this, that there were two broken bones in feet on two separate people, which would be the two, on -- coming in, that there were 23 other very minor jump injuries -- you know, cuts or whatever -- that happens when you --
Q: All jump injuries?
Rumsfeld: The ones I've described so far.
There were some explosives used to break into places, and as a result of the -- our explosives that were used, some pieces of materials -- concrete and what have you -- fragmented and hit some people, and there were five people who had fragmentation wounds of various types. There was one broken finger. That is, to the best of our knowledge, the sum total of everything that happened on that, except for what we reported to you, which was a helicopter that was held in reserve in Pakistan and in a dust storm landing flipped over, and two people were killed.
Q: How about the other helicopters? How about the large helicopter that clipped something? Were people injured on that or on the landing of the CH-47?
Rumsfeld: Clipped something --
Q: The gear came off --
Q: The gear -- knocked the gear off --
Rumsfeld: Oh, no, that was just a hard landing and broke the gear off, and the plane took off fine and left the gear there. And the Taliban showed the gear, and everyone's printed that they shot it down.
Q: That account is different from the one we had been given, which was that it happened on the way out. But we wonder whether people on that helicopter were injured -- for example, back injuries -- as a result of that.
Rumsfeld: These are really -- this -- I get the feeling we've got an instinct for the capillaries -- (laughter) -- the little -- the littlest pieces of things possible --
Q: That never hurt anybody, then --
Rumsfeld: I mean, does it matter if the helicopter had a hard landing and the gear was left there, or if it dropped out as it was coming out? I don't know. And --
Q: But the point is that no one was --
Q: May I go to the heart of the matter? (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: Let's go to the heart of the matter!
Q: In his most recent released videotape, Osama bin Laden admonished other Muslim nations for not rising up against the United States, and some analysts within the U.S. government think that's an indication that he's feeling the pressure from U.S. airstrikes. Do you share that view, one? And two, what evidence is there that these airstrikes have had any effect on Osama bin Laden or his al Qaeda network?
Rumsfeld: Well, let me rephrase your question. (Laughter.) Osama bin Laden -- comma -- mass murderer, did not admonish, in -- at least the way I would use the word. I would say that he almost wrote everyone in his religion out if they were connected to the United Nations and labeled, you know, millions of human beings "infidels" who have been practicing his religion.
He -- when one listens to it, it's alternately chilling and bizarre. I don't know what I could say about it. I don't spend a lot of time listening to it, I have to be honest, but I do read reports of his various transcripts. And it seems to me that he is not helping himself. So I don't know what else I could say. I think he has pretty much defined how the world ought to look so narrowly and so viciously and so exclusively and so apart from the religion of Islam that I can't believe he's helping himself.
Q: And what evidence is there, sir, that the airstrikes are actually having an effect on Osama bin Laden and whatever terrorist plans he has in the works?
Rumsfeld: We'd have to visit with him to know the answer to that question.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I want to ask you about Pakistan. One of the spokespeople from the Pak government said that you committed to resuming military-to-military contacts in some form. Those have been, as you know, have been on hold for almost a decade now. Can you walk us through what actually you've committed to Pakistan?
Rumsfeld: The United States is interested in strengthening military-to-military ties with Pakistan and India. And we met with each and said so.
I think that one of the finest things that the Department of Defense does is the, for example, military exchanges, military education. They have -- over the decades, they have contributed to ties that have benefited our country and benefited other countries enormously. And it is regrettable, in my view, that whenever there's a problem with a country, a human rights problem or a nuclear detonation, that the first thing we seem to want to do is to sever those connections, and then go through a period of two, four, six, eight, in some cases 10 years where a whole generation of military officers grow up not knowing American military officers, not having benefited from being in our schools, our not knowing those people.
And the absence of those linkages is very much to our disadvantage as a country, so I am absolutely convinced that it is a good thing for our country and a good thing for peace and stability in the world for us to have those kinds of relationships.
Q: Can you tell us if those lack of linkages have hurt the U.S. effort against Afghanistan right now?
Rumsfeld: I could not particularize it, but there's no question but that everywhere I go -- and I'm sure you have the same thing, General Pace -- where you talk to people, and you find that -- let's take Indonesia. I mean, Indonesia's a country with a lot of problems, and a difficult situation in many respects, and a country that we have to wish well; that we hope is able to navigate to a successful, peaceful future. The fact that there is a gap in our knowledge of those people, our connections with those people, is unfortunate. And it is to our disadvantage and to theirs, I think.
Q: Coming from Italy, I'm a correspondent for the Italian daily, Il Tempo.
I would like to ask you a question on the Italian military contribution to the ongoing campaign. Could you please tell me whether the U.S. has made any specific request for the use of Italian air and naval assets already accepted by the U.S. government for use in this campaign, particularly the use of the Tornado planes and the aircraft carrier Garibaldi?
Rumsfeld: The answer I would provide is this: that I have met with the minister of defense; the prime minister and the minister of defense have both been very forthcoming. They have been supportive of the campaign against terrorism across the globe. They have been in touch with General Franks and the liaison offices in Tampa. And last, I'd -- I -- other than saying that we appreciate the greatly the -- how forthcoming they have been, I have a pattern of allowing the countries to characterize what it is they're doing with respect to the campaign against terrorism, rather than trying to do it for them. I think they do it better than I could.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Q: (Off mike) -- the military campaign, German forces into the military campaign, and you asked for 3,900 troops. So we would like to know when and where they will be deployed and needed, and why you need those special forces. Aren't there enough American Special Forces, or are we better? (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: The last portion of that question I would never think of answering. (Laughter.) And I think that ours are all well trained and well equipped and effective.
Just to rephrase your question a little bit, we did not ask as such. We asked for broad support; we asked people to come forward with what they thought would be appropriate and what they felt was comfortable for them, as opposed to our asking for certain specific things, which we tend not to do. And my answer's the same from there on, that it's up to Germany to characterize what it is they're doing.
Q: When will they be involved? Do you know that?
Rumsfeld: That's their call.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you have said a number of times from that podium and other briefers that you are providing ammunition -- ammunition to the Northern Alliance.
Are you not providing machine guns and mortars and other equipment that they might need, or are leaving that strictly up to the Russians to provide weaponry?
Pace: Ammunition, food, water, blankets, weapons, food for their horses, the things that they need to sustain themselves in power.
Q: But you are providing weapons to them, not just bullets.
Pace: That's correct.
Q: What kind of --
Q: Can you tell us the kinds of weapons?
Pace: I'd prefer not to.
Q: Mr. Secretary, can I ask you to expand a little bit on your -- on the comments you made a moment ago, that Osama bin Laden was not helping himself. In light --
Rumsfeld: That's a personal opinion. I do not -- do not ask me for evidence. (Light laughter.)
Q: No, sir. No, sir. But in light of -- if I could ask you to expand, in light of reports that there, in fact, is some popular support subsequent to the bombing that started in Afghanistan in -- among Muslims, and, in fact, in many countries suddenly the Osama bin Laden forces have appeared everywhere, and, in fact, there are some people in Pakistan who have gone over to fight with them in Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld: I think that probably my answer unconsciously was a net effect as opposed to suggesting that he was not helped in any respect at all, but that when you net out the way he is benefiting and harming himself, I would think -- a wild guess -- that it's net minus.
I think that when you have a person who is a mass murderer on television over and over again saying things that the broad scope of the people of this world don't believe in, the idea that it's appropriate to go out and murder people and kill innocent people by -- in large numbers, and then to describe a major faction of the people on the face on the earth as being not simply in disagreement with him, but because of that disagreement with his extreme views, writing them out of their religion, I have trouble believing that on a net basis that's going to be useful.
And Torie is suggesting that the morning is almost over except for this question right here.
Q: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, you've often stressed that there's no unified Northern Alliance. Will the growing number of U.S. teams on the ground attempt to bring about any greater military coordination or cohesiveness to the Northern Alliance -- opposition groups?
Rumsfeld: If you think of the country as a whole, there are a variety of different tribes, a variety of different interests, and a variety of relationships and interrelationships among these various groups. There is a degree of coordination. Certainly within the Northern Alliance there is a greater degree of coordination there than there is with tribes in the South.
Within the Northern Alliance in the North there is an uneven degree of coordination. I see in some respects it improving; the communication linkages improving. And I know for a fact that in a number of cases, the coordination is quite good. How it will evolve over a period of time, I just can't say. But certainly one would hope that by providing assistance and creating an environment where it is possible to succeed and have success on the ground, by doing a good deal of damage to the forces opposing them, that we will see a greater degree of cohesion on their part, and that we'll see more success. That certainly is the hope.
Q: So are those U.S. teams speaking to each other now about what's going on with their -- in their meetings with --
Rumsfeld: There is no question but that there are continuous communications among the various U.S. forces on the ground, both with the various factions that they are located with, but also with a central figure that is in communications with General Frank's headquarters.
And thank you very much.
Q: Thank you.
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