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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Stakeouts at Fox and CBS

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 13, 2001

Sunday, November 11, 2001

(Media stakeout at Fox and CBS studios, Washington, D.C.)

(Outside Fox.)

Q: Has the United States concluded that air bases in Tajikistan will work? Are we going to be able to use those?

Rumsfeld: There has been an assessment team that has looked at it, and my understanding is that there may very well be a base there that could be appropriate for some aspects of our activities.

Q: Why is it important for us to have a presence there?

Rumsfeld: If you think about it, as things evolve you have different demands and needs and one can never know how long it will last or what the situation will be a month or two or three from now. Therefore what you try to do is you try to get your footprint, your basing, your options maximized so that you have the ability to do a whole host of different things. And what this does, it adds another piece to that puzzle of how your footprint will look.

Q: If these are not (inaudible) Northern Alliance (inaudible) Kabul, what are you going to do about (inaudible)?

Rumsfeld: I think that the way to think of it is this. It isn't a matter of whether or not you want the Northern Alliance to take Kabul. The Northern Alliance is going to do that which it wishes to do. We have a number of forces on the ground but the preponderance of the forces obviously are Northern Alliance and we're simply advisors.

The Taliban and al Qaeda currently control Kabul. They are (inaudible) repressive people. They have killed an enormous number of people. The circumstances of the people in Kabul is bad. We want them out of there. The question isn't whether you want to leave the Taliban and al Qaeda in control of Kabul, the question is how do you do it, whatever it is you're going to do, the Northern Alliance, in a way that reflects to the world and to the Afghan people the clear understanding that everybody has, and that is that it will take a broadly based government for Afghanistan for there to be a reasonably stable situation. It has to reflect the demographics of that country and it has to reflect to some extent the interests of the neighboring nations because those neighboring nations have to live with Afghanistan, and it certainly has to take into account our interests, which means that the al Qaeda and the Taliban are thrown out or killed or captured.

Q: Mr. Secretary, if Germany would send 3,000 troops next week to Afghanistan, would you talk about that? There is a lot of opposition within the (unintelligible) parties. What would you tell those politicians in Germany?

Rumsfeld: Well I think that what we have said is that we would like the help of every country on the face of the earth in all kinds of ways, in ways that they feel comfortable doing. The threat to the world of terrorist networks is obvious. We saw it here when 5,000 innocent people from all kinds of, two or three or four dozen different nations, every religion and race, were killed. We also know that Osama bin Laden is contending that he has chemical, biological and conceivably radiation weapons, and it doesn't take a giant leap of imagination to recognize that a person with those views and with that record and an organization with that record and that scope -- 50, 60 nations in the world they have cells -- if they do have those weapons will be willing to use them, and let there be no doubt they will be willing to use them. And anyone in any country who recognizes that and sees that threat clearly has to take that into account as they make their judgment.

Q: What exactly do you expect from the (inaudible)?

Rumsfeld: I think what happens is that those discussions take place at the combatant commander level and it's entirely up to Germany and the combatant commander as they all work together to find ways that each country can participate in a way that they feel comfortable with, and we are delighted with the leadership of the Federal Republic of Germany responsiveness to this very serious problem.

Q: (inaudible)

Rumsfeld: What were the first three words?

Q: How much credence do you give Northern Alliance claims at this point that they've captured Kabul? (Inaudible.)

Rumsfeld: I think the way I'd phrase it is that they're on the ground. They are saying what in fact they believe to be the case. A situation on the ground can be fluid, things can change. But at the moment I'm sure that is what they believe. And there are hundreds of reporters, I'm told, north on the border waiting to get in to the northern portion of the country, and I suspect that we'll all know their views within a reasonable short period of time.

Q: -- United States forces involved in the (inaudible)?

Rumsfeld: I keep missing the first couple of words.

Q: Sorry. To what extent are United States forces involved in (inaudible)?

Rumsfeld: The United States Special Forces have been on the ground for some time in Afghanistan. They are currently at a number of locations in Afghanistan. They have been operating with, this particular command, the (inaudible) as well as (inaudible), for some time, and they were physically present as the forces moved forward. They have been the ones that have been providing liaison, they have been providing resupply coordination, and they have been supplying the targeting information that has enabled the air war to attack the forces on the ground of Taliban and al Qaeda that have altered the situation on the ground sufficiently so that the Northern Alliance could move forward and seize the city.

Q: If you know where the chemical and biological weapons are which al Qaeda has, why would you not bomb those areas?

Rumsfeld: The United States has been delighted to bomb, attack, targets that we can validate. We're not on the ground in every inch of that country to validate things, and it is a lot easier to target a tank or an aircraft or a helicopter or a radar or a cluster of Taliban or al Qaeda forces than it is to select a laboratory, if you will, in a residential district. For example, biological weapons can be done in a van, a mobile van. And I can assure you that to the extent we have good information about where any aspect of their weaponry are located we do what we can with respect to them.

Q: But why does the Pakistani journalists know where to find Osama bin Laden but not the CIA?

Rumsfeld: Why don't you start over with that question.

Q: Why do the Pakistan journalists find Osama bin Laden for an interview, but not the CIA?

Rumsfeld: Ah, it's because Osama bin Laden wanted to find a Pakistani journalist to give the interview. Doesn't that seem self-evident?

Q: -- statement about that --

Rumsfeld: Doesn't that seem self-evident?

Q: Yeah. (Laughter)

Q: Yesterday there was a huge rally in Rome for all U.S.A. Is there any reaction from U.S. government on that?

Rumsfeld: It was pro-U.S.A? God bless every one of them. God bless every one of them.

Q: Mr. Secretary, there have been claims of having nuclear and chemical weapons. What extent does this affect your strategy? And do you wish you had more troops on the ground in the situation in Kabul?

Rumsfeld: It does not affect our strategy at all. We are going to go after the al Qaeda including Osama bin Laden. We're going to go after the Taliban including Omar and all the lieutenants. And we're going to go after them until we get them.

Q: How about the feet on the ground to affect the situation in Kabul?

Rumsfeld: We have people on the ground and we are encouraging the Afghan people to organize themselves and we will help equip them and supply them and support them from the air and it's their country and we hope they take it back and throw out the foreign invaders.

Q: Is there a serious threat that Osama bin Laden has an atomic bomb? Do you think that's true?

Rumsfeld: I think the way to think about it is this. The al Qaeda organization has been actively seeking weapons of mass destruction for a long period of time. Chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear. They have been successful in a number of things they have tried to do over a long period of time.

The countries that have been harboring and supporting them in some instances have chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Correction. Chemical, biological, and nuclear programs.

Now what does that mean? It means one has to assume that they either have them or they will get them unless they're stopped. And it does not take a genius to understand that if they have them or get them at some point in the future that they will be perfectly willing to use them.

Q: (unintelligible) to put alternative government in Kabul was much slower than (unintelligible).

Rumsfeld: Well it was just last week everyone was saying the military process was slower. (Laughter)

Look, you can't manage the political process to fit the military and you can't manage the military to fit the political. They each have their own dynamic. All you can do is your best. We are trying to rid that country of Taliban and al Qaeda and the political people are trying -- the State Department, the U.N., the neighboring countries, the Afghan people, are trying to fashion some sort of formula that will tell everyone in that country that they're going to have a voice, that it will be broadly based, and that's exactly what ought to be going on, and I hope that at some point the two intersect.

Thank you, folks.

Q: (Inaudible)

Rumsfeld: -- as I am the military piece of it. The best thing works through the UN side and the Department of State. Thank you.

Q: -- Do you think that Germany spends enough money on its military budget?

Rumsfeld: Look, Germany spends the amount of money that the German people and their elected representatives decide to spend, and it's not for me to opine one way or the other on that subject.

Q: Do you think that the German troops will do a good job?

(Outside CBS.)

Rumsfeld: Greetings. Thank you. Happy Veterans Day to you too.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you talked inside about friction between the Taliban and al Qaeda. What evidence do you have of friction between the two parties?

Rumsfeld: There are scraps of intelligence information and information from people in and out of the country that have reason to know that that relationship is a little strained and difficult. That is to say who's going to be in charge of what and who's going to run what and who's going to move forces where and who's going to resupply what. I think what it reflects is the fact that the pressure is working, the pressure that's being put on all across the globe on their bank accounts, the intelligence that's being gathered so that we can arrest people who are connected to these organizations, interrogate them, learn more, and I think the bombing has an effect. And the resupply of the forces on the ground that has emboldened them to go ahead and take cities. I think the pressure is working.

Q: (inaudible) The Northern Alliance has had an easier and (inaudible) time than they might have otherwise had if the Taliban had strategically (inaudible) southern stronghold. Are we seeing (inaudible) Taliban?

Rumsfeld: I think it's too early to know what their decision's going to be. They've got a choice. They clearly are pulling troops out of the Mazar-e Sharif area. Those forces, if they're not killed or captured, are going to go some place. They could go toward Herat towards the west; they could go towards Taloqan to the east; they could go down and defend Kabul to the southeast; or they could at some point make a decision to withdraw all the way down and go to the Kandahar area and make a strengthened enclave in the southern part of the country.

I think that it's too early to speculate as to what that decision will be. I do not know what they've decided. I do know that they're flowing out of Mazar-e Sharif and in several directions. That will be a key decision that will get made by the Taliban or Osama bin Laden who looks like he may very well have taken over the operation.

I would think that if he had, if the al Qaeda is now in the driver's seat, that one of the effects of that will be that people who have been supporting the Taliban will be less likely to be supportive of Taliban if Taliban is no longer in charge, because they will feel that the foreign invaders, the al Qaeda crowd who are basically Arabs in an Afghan country, have taken over and it's no longer their country. So they'll be opposed to the al Qaeda. But maybe that's more hope than fact at this point.

Q: Are you putting pressure on the Northern Alliance not to take Kabul itself?

Rumsfeld: The Northern Alliance makes pretty much their own decisions. They're influenced by a lot of people. They're influenced by their neighbors. They're influenced by history. There was a bad history of what happened in Kabul in a previous interaction. Kabul is a city that's been largely destroyed by the Soviet Union and then by civil war over many many years. There are a lot of people in Kabul who are being repressed by Taliban an al Qaeda at the present time. Everyone, anyone with any sense would want them, the people of Kabul freed of the Taliban and the al Qaeda. Anyone with any sense would also want whatever happens in Kabul to be capable of providing something better for those people. That is to say humanitarian assistance to feed them and take care of them because they're going to need a lot of care. And third, anyone with any sense would desire that it be done in a manner that is reflected to the entire country, that everyone understands there will need to be a broadly based government, that it has to reflect the demographics of that country, that it has to reflect the very real interests of the neighboring countries, Iran and Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and others.

So there's a tension as to how it's done, when it's done, who does it, what's said about it. In reality there isn't anyone who's smart enough or clever enough to manage the events on the ground, which are uncertain. We don't know how heavily it will be defended. It could be a long time before anyone could take it. Plus there's no way to predict what's going to happen in the political side. How is the UN going to work? How are all these different factions that are thinking things through politically as to how that provisional government ought to look, a transitional government ought to look. All people can do is express their best hopes that there will not be carnage when it's occupied, as has happened before, that there will be food for those people, that we have to care for their terribly difficult circumstance, and that it will happen sooner rather than later.

Q: -- Pakistanis (inaudible) nuclear weapons (inaudible). Can you confirm that? Is that good for us? Are they safe?

Rumsfeld: I think the way I'd like to answer that is this. The countries that have nuclear weapons have spent a good deal of time getting them and a good deal of time thinking about them and a good deal of time thinking about why they have them. And if there's anything that begins to become very aware, that people become aware of, it's that those weapons are enormously dangerous and enormously lethal. The risk of not handling them well is so great that you must in fact take every conceivable step to assure to their safety and their reliability and their protection. I have every confidence that Pakistan will do that.

It's a wonderful thing if you think about it. Nuclear weapons have existed on the face of the earth since 1945. They have not been fired in anger since the end of World War II. I don't believe there's ever been a weapon in the history of mankind of that significance that has not been used. So that says a lot about the respect people have for the potential damage and carnage that those weapons can cause.

Q: How concerned are you that bin Laden claims to have nuclear and biological weapons?

Rumsfeld: I'm concerned. There's no question but that he and the al Qaeda organization and other terrorist networks have been actively trying to get chemical, biological, radiation weapons. There's also no question but that the terrorist networks that exist in the world, and the President's been listing them sequentially, have very intimate relationships with the terrorist states that harbor those networks. We know those terrorist states have chemical and biological weapons and have weaponized them. We know they have been actively seeking radiation and nuclear capability. Reasonable people have to assume that terrorist networks either have or will have those kinds of capabilities in the immediate future and we have to be very respectful of the numbers of people that can be killed -- not thousands as in the September 11th attack, but tens of hundreds of thousands of people can be killed by those weapons.

Q: Do you have any evidence that he has them?

Rumsfeld: There's a great deal of evidence that he has been actively taking steps to develop and acquire them.

Q: Mr. Secretary, there's been another video interview with bin Laden in which he admits to the bombing of the World Trade Center. How do you react to that, and how does that play (inaudible)?

Rumsfeld: I have not seen that particular phrase that would validate the premise of your question so I can't comment on it.

I will say this about his latest interviews, plural. I find them, it seems to me this is a person who's under pressure, this is an organization that's under pressure, this is an organization that's accident prone. I think he's made some very big mistakes and he has changed this from an anti-U.S. effort to an anti-the rest of the world. If you do not believe with me, my extreme view, he is saying, then you are the enemy and I will be after you. He has now lumped anyone connected with the UN, he has demonstrated, I think, that he's on the edge and is capable of making mistakes and if he makes mistakes we'll find him and we'll get him.

Thank you.

And if I were all of you, I would have staked out across the street in the sun. (Laughter)