Rear Adm. Quigley Briefing at the Foreign Press Center
Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2001 - 3:16 p.m. EST
(Briefing for foreign media at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, D.C.)
Quigley: Thank you, Rick. It's a genuine pleasure for me to be here this afternoon. I have not been over here in some number of months, and I hope you'll forgive me for not doing that. I will try to be over here more often in the months ahead and do this to provide you all an update.
I do want you to know that you all are welcome -- please understand that you all are welcome to attend the various Pentagon briefings that go on, whether or not you are credentialed to be inside and have a building pass for the Pentagon. The numbers of correspondents that have been covering the Pentagon since the attacks on the United States on the 11th of September has about tripled, and many of them do not have permanent building passes. That does not stop them or you from getting into the Pentagon.
So if you wish to cover any of the briefings over there, we post them with a press advisory as to when and what date and what time on our web site. I'm sure Rick and the folks here at the Foreign Press Center could give you those dates and times as well. But generally we're briefing Monday through Friday sometime between noon and, say, 2:00 in the afternoon.
And if you wish to come, just give our news desk a call. We will escort you from the point that you enter the Pentagon into the briefing room, similar to this one. You can cover the brief and then we'll escort you out of the building. So don't let that stop you if you wish to come.
I am here today representing the Defense Department and my boss, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld. I apologize for starting a few minutes late, but I did want to let him finish before I started, just out of courtesy for one thing, and also to see what it is he had to say in the various questions that he was asked by the correspondents over at the Pentagon today.
I need to say up front that you all will have many questions that are of a political nature that I won't be able to help you with this afternoon. I represent the Defense Department. And as such, it is the military aspect of our efforts, both in the war on terrorism and elsewhere around the world, that I must restrict my remarks to. The questions that you have, that many people have, on the way ahead politically in Afghanistan are all very good questions, but I'm just not the guy and I do not work for the organization that will have the answers to those very good questions.
So, with that, I will take your questions on either the war on terrorism or any other topic that you are interested in in the Defense Department. Yes, sir.
Moderator: Before we start, please remember to wait for the microphone, state your name and news organization. We'll start with Malcolm.
Q: Malcolm Brown from Feature Story News. Talking about this crossover between the political and military aims, given that the military campaign currently seems to be outstripping political developments in terms of pace, are you adjusting what you're attempting to achieve militarily in light of that?
Quigley: No, much has been said in the past few weeks -- five weeks, I guess -- since the commencement of the military aspect of this about a pace or who's outpacing who. I will tell you that from the perspective of the U.S. government, I don't believe there was ever a timetable as to which should proceed first, second or otherwise.
Our goal has been the same from the day the military operations commenced, and that is to destroy the al Qaeda organization, its leadership, and the Taliban government that supports it. We would like to do that from the very first day as quickly as we could, and we have been working towards that goal ever since.
Moderator: The gentleman here in the middle of the front row.
Q: Thank you. (Inaudible) I was wondering who is in charge today in Kabul. There's confusing reports. Are you there, your troops in Kabul right now?
Quigley: I certainly would not say that the U.S. military is in charge of Kabul today. I don't think that your question has an answer today is my guess. There are small numbers of U.S. military forces on the ground in Kabul. They are in an advisory capacity to the opposition groups that were instrumental in fighting the Taliban and starting them on the road out of town.
But who is in charge of the government or of the city of Kabul today? I don't know that there is an answer to that question today.
Yes, sir. Go ahead.
Moderator: The lady in the green jacket.
Q: Nadia Rahman from Al Jazeera TV.
Q: This morning an Al Jazeera office was destroyed by a U.S. missile in Kabul. This is according to a CNN crew that went to the site to inspect the site afterwards, and they reported back to the headquarters of the Al Jazeera in Qatar. Also, the BBC and APTN offices nearby were affected. What information do you have about that, and how would you explain this incident?
Quigley: I have seen the news reports that report, as you say, that some sort of weapon went awry and destroyed those facilities. What we have done since the earliest days of the military portion of the campaign against terrorism is to try our very best every day, every hour of every day, to only target military targets. But despite our best efforts, some weapons have failed and some human errors have been made, resulting in targets being struck that we did not intend to strike.
We do not have people on the ground everywhere to give us reliable real-time information as to the status of those. So what we do is we go back and we review the strike planning. We review the reports that we have from our aircrews, as well as from people on the ground. We take a look at overhead imagery. And we put all the parts of this puzzle together. And if it is shown by our analysis that our weapons were at fault, we stand up and say so. We're not to that point yet. But if that would be the case, that is what you will hear from us.
Q: Surely in whatever wars or whatever conflicts, there's always a gathering of various news agencies, and that gathering is quite clear and the military tends to know about the whereabouts of these media organizations. You must have had information about where Al Jazeera, BBC, APTN and others in the area are.
Quigley: I don't know that we do. Typically when we have that knowledge, it is always -- you always have much better knowledge of what is on the ground if you have troops on the ground and can see it. Aerial photography and intelligence reporting and things of that sort are all useful, but they're never a substitute for the clarity that you get from seeing things with your own eyes with troops on the ground. And we don't have that, certainly not in all areas.
So we -- as I said, what we have done is try very hard to find out what did happen here. And if we misidentified a target, if a human error was made, if a weapon malfunctioned in some way resulting in our weapon being the cause of that destruction, we will say so and we will try our very best to explain how that happened.
Moderator: The gentleman right there, and then we'll go behind him after that.
Q: Greg Torode of the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong. Do you have any clearer idea as to where bin Laden is now?
Quigley: No. I was listening very carefully to how Secretary Rumsfeld answered that question. And I would say that this is -- it's very important that bin Laden eventually be brought to justice, and I have every confidence that he will be. But it's very difficult to find one person in a country, and it is also very difficult to have a sense of clarity when you are fighting a war, in many cases mostly from the air, to have the locating information on any one person, no matter how important they might be.
It is, I would say, much broader than just about one person. One person can't do it all, even though they can be the leadership for the organization as a whole. You have got to have layers of leaders below bin Laden to carry out his orders, to carry out his direction, not only in Afghanistan but in other parts of the world and terrorist cells of al Qaeda around the world. So it is much broader than one person, but that one person is very important.
So our knowledge of where he has been for these past weeks, we are getting reports, many of them quite time-late, some of them contradictory. We will try to run down every one of those scraps of information. Sooner or later we'll be successful.
Q: (Inaudible) -- Radio Voice of Palestine. Sir, a brief review into the history of Afghanistan since 1991 gives us the ability to predict that the assistance, the military assistance for the anti-Taliban groups will lead to another round of civil war. Aren't you afraid of that?
Quigley: I hope not. I think many people, certainly including the United States and a variety of nations that have joined the United States in this war on terrorism, are very much aware of the history of Afghanistan since 1991. It's not something we're looking to repeat.
On the other hand, letting the Taliban stay in power in Afghanistan was absolutely the wrong answer for a variety of reasons. So where we can find common cause and common objectives with opposition groups within Afghanistan throughout the country who want to retake control of their country from the Taliban, then we will support them and try to help them be successful wherever they might be around the country.
But I think that the creation of some sort of a follow-on government within Afghanistan that is representative of all of the elements within that very diverse country is very important. And it's going to be very difficult to do, but there's simply no substitute for that.
Q: Lambros for (inaudible) -- Greek daily. Admiral -- (inaudible) -- any concrete plan to face the atrocities in Kabul, since the situation is very chaotic, and as you said, nobody's in charge? In the meantime, are you planning to continue your operations in the south around Kandahar using U.S. land force?
Quigley: We will try to provide support to opposition groups throughout the country that share our objectives of rooting out al Qaeda and overturning the illegitimate Taliban government of Afghanistan.
Now, what does that mean? That means providing weapons, ammunition, cold-weather clothing, food, medicines, liaison, U.S. military liaisons, air strikes where it applies. It doesn't always fit, but if we can provide air strikes that will help them, then we will do that.
And where our objectives coincide, where they are one, we will support them and try to make them successful, not only in the north, as has been most visible for the past week or so with a variety of U.S. air strikes really pounding the Taliban positions, resulting in the successes that the Northern Alliance forces have enjoyed over the past few days; we would try to replicate that as best we could elsewhere in the country, and that includes the south, absolutely.
Q: And the atrocities? How you can face the atrocities? It's a very important element of this war.
Quigley: Would you repeat that part of the question, Lambros?
Q: Yes. The question is, what about the atrocities into the capital, because this is the most crucial point in this war?
Quigley: I don't think that anybody -- we have made it a point in our discussions with opposition leaders -- these are U.S. military and political officials -- in our discussions with opposition leaders to warn them about the terrible consequences of retribution and of revenge killings and things of that sort, the exact same things that the Taliban did just a few years ago. The people were terrified, when the Taliban took over, in any number of cities throughout the country.
Two wrongs don't make a right. And it is very important that the opposition groups that are being successful against the Taliban are not viewed as just a different kind of problem. They need to be seen as defeating the Taliban for the right reasons, and that is to regain control of their country from an illegitimate government, not for some sort of payback or retribution or any such motivations of that sort. So where we find atrocities, we would argue strenuously against them, and I think we'll be successful.
Moderator: All the way in the back.
Q: (Inaudible) -- Al-Quds Television, Palestine. Has a decision been taken, since now Ramadan within a few days will begin for the Muslims, that the military operation would decrease or at least pause for a while? And another question: Are there any kind of cooperation with the human aid operation, because according to Lakhdar Brahimi reports, it has been interrupted because of the continuous bombing.
Quigley: First question first. We will continue to not show our hand or announce our intentions on the way ahead. And that includes the period of Ramadan. And on the second question, we have continued to provide air drops of food to the people of Afghanistan. But during this last few days, I will give you, it's been much more chaotic where the fierce combat has been taking place up around Mazar-e Sharif, around Kabul, around Herat and other cities, other population centers up in the northern part of the country.
It would not surprise me to learn that the food distribution ability has been hampered over the past few days due to the intensity of the combat operations. I think the best thing we can do for the people of Afghanistan is to hurry the demise of the Taliban so that we can get a much more systematic, organized and huge increase in volume of assistance in to the people of Afghanistan.
By having Mazar-e-Sharif, as one example, fall to the Northern Alliance forces, that clears a path all the way from there to the border with Uzbekistan so that the friendship bridge can be opened, so that hundreds of tons of relief supplies can be trucked across and perhaps flown across as well to the airfields there, to really provide a much more meaningful increase in the amount of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
As conditions permit, we would look to expand that capability in different areas around the country, to try to go where the people are, where we can deliver the supplies where they would be closest to the people that need the most. The conditions on the ground will dictate our ability to do that, to a great extent. But as the opposition groups take control of airfields, take control of cities, take control of roads, and we can move into safer areas to provide greater volumes of assistance for the people, we will do that.
Moderator: In the middle -- towards the front more. There we go.
Q: (Inaudible) -- with Middle East News Agency of Egypt. There have been reports over the past days that we will have a potential peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan and that a number of Islamic countries have already expressed their readiness to commit forces to this mission. Do you have specific information which Islamic countries are ready to put forces to this mission? And is the U.S. willing to commit peacekeeping forces to that mission? Thank you.
Quigley: I have heard those reports, as you have, but I don't know what will come of them. I don't know what the future will hold. It will be up to all of our governments, of many nations in the region, to determine the way ahead. And that would include whether or not their country is willing to participate in the provision of military forces to act as some sort of a peacekeeping force to put inside of Afghanistan.
How big would it be? What countries would provide what? Where would they be placed within the country? When would this take place? These are the very, very difficult questions that are being discussed amongst our governments right now. For my part, from being a United States citizen, this would be something that our president would announce. But I know those discussions are ongoing. I just don't know where they'll take us.
Moderator: In the back.
Q: Thomas Korghisian, Al Wafta, Egypt. My first question is related to -- it's a follow-up to my colleague's question. Is that part of peacekeeping, is it political or military decision? Because you said you cannot discuss the political issues, right?
Quigley: Well, you can't divorce one from the other completely. In the first instance, it would be a political decision by any number of nations as to whether or not they would participate. And the second decision would be if they say yes and we're going to provide military forces, then you would try to create a force that would fit with other nations' forces so you'd have a complementary nature to the forces that were provided.
Q: The other -- my main question is, today it was reported or it was described that now we finish like a phase which is related to the north and beginning a new phase of the beginning -- if it's the end of Mazar-e Sharif and Kabul, it's the end of the north issues or the strategy, beginning of the south strategy. I mean, can you tell me exactly what you saw from your perspective?
Quigley: Well, I'm not sure that I would agree with your characterization. I don't think that General Franks or others had a sense in their plans for prioritization of effort that it would necessarily end up here with the successes that the opposition groups have seen in the north over the past few days.
There was never any doubt in anybody's mind how this would end. We will prevail. The terrorist organization al Qaeda will be destroyed and the Taliban government will be overthrown. There's no question. But exactly what sequence that was to have taken over time, I don't know as if anybody could have had a very good prediction on that.
It is no secret that the greatest strength of the Taliban is in the south and in the southwest part of the country, around the Kandahar area. That is the heart of the Taliban movement historically over a period of years. And they were weakest in the North, where the Northern Alliance forces over the past several years have been successful in holding onto ground in Afghanistan, despite the best efforts of the Taliban.
So you had a relative strength in the one part of the country, a relative weakness in the other part of the country, by both the Taliban and the opposition forces. I think that what we're glad to see is progress, period. And over the past several days, it's been very, very encouraging. Much work remains to be done, and it is perhaps in the most difficult part of the country, in the southwest, at the heart of the Taliban strength, where work remains to be done.
Q: May I ask a clarification?
Q: You mentioned the word about the food supply or dropping food. Ten days ago it was said that -- it was mentioned the intention to change the color so it doesn't look like cluster bombs. Was that realized?
Q: The blue and the yellow color.
Quigley: The blue and the yellow, yes. I don't know -- I know we started that in motion. What we found when we checked a little further, though, is that there was no place in Afghanistan where we had dropped food that there were cluster bombs that had been dropped.
So despite the similarity in colors, it's very, very unlikely that a person would pick up a cluster bomb thinking it was a packet of food, because food hadn't been dropped there and cluster bombs hadn't been dropped there. So they were physically separated.
Despite that, the unlikelihood, we couldn't eliminate that possibility. I know we put in process to change the color of the heavy plastic covering that contains the meals. I don't know where that process is, to be honest with you, but I know we had started it.
Moderator: Let's go back to the back there.
Q: (Inaudible) -- Italian News Agency, ANSA. Do you have any evidence that Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden are still alive? And are they part of the movement toward the south of the Taliban forces now? And second question: Could you give to us an idea of the number of mobile targets hit by U.S. raids in the last 24 hours?
Quigley: I don't think we have any firm evidence, one way or the other, on the life or death or movement of either Mullah Omar or Osama bin Laden. In the absence of absolute clarity and specific information, we will continue to operate as if both men were still alive, because we just don't have anything that says conclusively that they're not.
And on the second part, I don't have a number for you, but I know that it's been a considerable level of effort on our part to try to take out the targets of armor, armored personnel carriers and things of that sort, as the Taliban forces have been retreating from Kabul, from Mazar-e Sharif and all points. As they have started to move towards the south and the southwest using the road system, we have tried our very best to take out as many of those as we could. But I don't have a number; I'm sorry.
Q: During the secretary's briefing just now [ transcript ], we heard -- Greg Torode of the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong. We heard several references to his concerns that as Taliban forces retreat, it's difficult to identify them --
Q: -- separate them from the local population and some of them -- apparently there's NGO trucks. I got the impression that there might have been some incidents, in fact, where targets had been wrong and perhaps some civilians or NGOs had been hit. Is that the case?
Quigley: Not that we know of so far. But it certainly adds a level of difficult to the targeting. Let me explain a little bit what the secretary meant. Military forces that are moving together as a cohesive military unit tend to move together roughly the same speed, roughly the same direction of advance.
You'll see a lot of similar sorts of vehicles. It could be tanks. It could be armored personnel carriers. It could be trucks. But they tend to have an order and a coherence to them as military forces move from one place to another. Whether they're advancing or retreating, they still have a coherence.
Now, there will come a point, if an enemy is really feeling that its very coherence is threatened, they will completely crumble and fall apart, and the discipline of that organization or that unit will fail. And so, instead of armor, that's easy. It's going to stay easy. A tank is a tank. It always looks like a tank, an armored personnel carrier, the same thing.
But if it's a truck, if it is an unmarked truck, or if it is a truck by a non-governmental organization of some part that has been commandeered by retreating Taliban forces, that makes it much more difficult, complicates the targeting issues very much, and certainly gives us pause as to how we go about our business.
Q: Just by way of follow-up, you talk about discipline breaking down and them sort of becoming very disjointed. Are you worried that there might be surrendering troops among those Taliban forces, in this organization, that could be getting caught up in some of this?
Quigley: I'm not sure I understand the question.
Q: Well, they're retreating. You've described them losing cohesiveness.
Quigley: When and if they do, yes.
Q: So are you saying they are losing this organization?
Quigley: Well, by the reports that we're hearing about them commandeering some of the non-governmental organizations' vehicles, that is not typical of a military unit that still has its cohesiveness and is still moving and fighting together as a unit. It is more indicative of a loss of that discipline and that coherence.
Q: Okay, as part of that breakdown. Are you encountering surrendering troops as well?
Quigley: Defections have been widespread, yes.
Moderator: Let's go to the gentleman -- (inaudible).
Quigley: Sometimes there's a penalty for sitting too close to the front.
Q: Yes, my name is Gabriel Diarte. I'm from Pagina Doce from Argentina. The retreating troops we've been hearing about seem to have been the ones who were garrisoned in Kabul. It seems to be unclear exactly what has happened to those who were fighting in the north since they can't retreat south because they were being attacked from the south.
And the reason I'm asking this is that there seem to have been a strong presence of foreign troops who appear to be being executed either by Northern Alliance or by the local population, and I would just be curious, since they were numbered in the thousands, at least by some reports, if you know anything about what's happening to them.
Quigley: I have not seen reports that describe deaths in the thousands of the retreating Taliban forces. I have not seen those. I don't -- I would -- our ability to understand with clarity exactly what's going on on the ground at any place in Afghanistan is very, very questionable.
We take every last scrap of information that we can come by, including reports from the ground, and try to sew it together to make sure that we understand.
It's similar to your answer on weapons that apparently have gone awry. It sometimes takes many days to have that clarity of understanding as to exactly what has been happening for the past few days at any give point on the ground.
Now, as to where the Taliban forces are retreating to, we don't have very good information on that, either. If they have been moving in columns -- similar to that gentleman's question -- if they have been moving as a coherent military unit, that is much easier to spot. But if the units, themselves, have dissolved, and their discipline and organization have dissolved, that makes it much more difficult to understand where are they going. And our knowledge there is very imperfect -- very imperfect.
Moderator: Back there.
Q: Lambros Papantoniou, Elettheros Typos, Greek daily.
Admiral, what is your assessment between Northern Alliance and Pakistan, since animosity exists between the two? And what are your allies in the area?
Quigley: Between who?
Q: The Northern Alliance and Pakistan.
Quigley: Between the Northern Alliance and Pakistan.
Q: And Pakistan. Since there animosity exists, and both are your allies in this war?
Quigley: The coalition -- the confederation of nations that has been put together to fight the terrorism on a global scale is a very different sort of mixture of countries than we have seen in recent years. And I would use Desert Storm as an example. All the nations of that coalition were united with a single goal in mind, and it was to contribute military forces or money or something to help drive the Iraqi military forces out of Kuwait. That was everybody's goal.
Now, the nations that have come together to fight global terrorism -- they have the goal of eliminating terrorist organizations with global reach, as does the United States.
But their ability to -- their willingness and their ability to provide assistance will vary from nation to nation. Some will provide military forces. Some will provide money; some, diplomatic support; some, basing rights and overflight rights for military forces to use their soil and their airspace to move back and forth, and to stage things.
And as the battle against global terrorism shifts around the world -- everything is focused on Afghanistan today, but that's just the start of what will be a very long-term conflict around the world. All terrorist organizations do not exist with -- inside the -- within the borders of Afghanistan; there are many other places around the world where terrorist organizations dwell.
So how will the efforts against these change in their appearance over the years? It's a hard one to predict, but we have said that we would bring a variety of capabilities, military being only one of them, but financial, diplomatic, all those elements to go together to strangle the ability of terrorist organizations to survive and to do their evil acts.
In my mind, I have a vision of the day where a terrorist is standing there, and that person has no money, has no political support, no training, no access to weapons or ammunition, no safe place to lay their head. That will define the long-term goal, where terrorist organizations just cannot survive. You need all of those elements to be successful in carrying out a war of terrorism, and if you take them away, one by one, little by little, the terrorist organizations will not be able to be successful, not in the way that we have seen them.
Moderator: (Off mike.)
Q: Hi. Khaled -- (inaudible) -- with Middle East News Agency of Egypt. Clearly, the way Taliban troops have abandoned Kabul is quite a surprise for us. Is it -- do you characterize it as a surprise for the U.S. military strategists as well? And is the U.S. Department of Defense taking that development on the surface of it, or is it looking into the deeper tactical intentions of the Taliban itself?
And how do you explain why the Taliban just retreating so easily, as it looks? What do you have in mind that you may know? Thank you.
Quigley: I think the only one of those three that I can really give you a good answer for is the first one. And after having said that, I forget what the first one was. Could you --
Q: Were you surprised?
Quigley: Oh, yes. I'm sorry. Thank you very much.
There was no -- there was no doubt in our mind of what ultimately the end state would be. No doubt. I mentioned that before. We would -- we would destroy al Qaeda and we would overturn the Taliban government. Now, how soon would that happen? Where would it happen first? Where would we see it start to be successful? I don't think we had a preferred outcome in that way. As soon as possible and in as many places as possible; that would be the simple goal. So it as not a question in our mind of, gosh, we're surprised that the opposition groups are being successful. It was all about the application of pressure, whether it's the withdrawal of financial support, the U.S.- led air raids that were pounding Taliban military positions day after day, night after night. The ability of -- our ability to provide weapons and ammunition and air strikes and liaisons to the opposition groups.
All of that created an incredible insurmountable pressure on the Taliban and al Qaeda, resulting in the successes that you have seen of the past few days. They're very encouraging, but we've got a lot of work to do. We've got a lot of work to do.
And I don't think I can give you good answers to the second and third questions. I just don't know. I just don't know.
Moderator: All the way in the back.
Q: (Name and affiliation inaudible) As we have included some of the Palestinian resistance forces like Hamas, Jihad, PFLP as terrorist groups, how do you view the future if you -- will you follow them? This is first. Second, I'm asking about the future if Osama bin Laden escapes from Kandahar and some of the Taliban regime militias give in to the alliance forces. What you will do with them?
Quigley: On the first question, there are a variety of terrorist organizations in the world. Al Qaeda just happens to be the first one that the world has decided to eliminate. Where they might be, what is the scope of their involvement around the world and how nations will come together to eliminate their activities is something I can't predict.
But I -- Afghanistan may very well be a unique circumstance where you have an illegitimate government that is sponsoring a global terrorist organization. You have -- thankfully, you have smaller terrorist organizations in other countries that do not have the global reach. But nation after nation, legitimate government after legitimate government all can agree that terrorist organizations are a threat to their government, to the stability of their nation, whatever that nation is, and to the people that they are responsible for governing. So you're going to find nations that have different political views, very different cultures, very different capabilities of their economies or their military all agreeing that terrorist organizations need to be stopped and eliminated wherever they might be found. How specifically that will happen at different points around the world and when, I can't give you a good answer to that question.
Q: (Off mike) -- the PFLP and Hamas and Jihad are not fighting against America on the international stability, they're fighting against Israel, which is considered, according to international law, as occupying their land. So in what sense the United States and the international community could include them as part of the terrorist attacks?
Quigley: That's a very good question, but I can't give you a good answer. I don't know what sort of political decisions would be made by the various governments that would be involved in any part of the world. Each nation will have to come to its own decision internally as to how it will cooperate, with whom, to accomplish what. And I can't give you a good answer, I'm sorry.
Moderator: We have time for a couple more questions -- (off mike).
Q: Nadia Tsao with the Liberty Times, Taiwan. The first question is that based on the current situation, would you expect more forces and troops from the alliance to join the combat in Afghanistan? And the second question, we have seen some report that a neighboring country, or, you know, some people tried to smuggle arms to assist the Taliban. Could you confirm that with, you know, intelligence or based on any clues you have? Thank you.
Quigley: The first -- I certainly hope that we would see a growth in all opposition groups throughout the country of Afghanistan to try to rise up against the Taliban. So not only Northern Alliance, but I hope we see growing numbers of opposition groups throughout the country in as many places as we can.
And the second part, I think we've seen a real shrinkage in the number of weapons, and things of that sort, going to the Taliban over the past few days. If you went back a couple of weeks ago, or a month ago, when this was just getting started, there was still a pretty good supply of weapons and ammunition being provided to the Taliban forces. That has shrunk considerably over the past few days. A, it's much more difficult for the Taliban to communicate and ask for help to be provided to a specific location because they can't communicate effectively anymore with their allies. And second, I think on the part of any would-be ally that would provide assistance to the Taliban, I think they see where this is going, and at the end of the day, the Taliban will be no more. And so I think they are all giving pause as to whether or not this is a smart move.
People will do things to make a profit in the most difficult of times, and that is always a motivator; it always will be a motivator for some in the world. But I think that if there's any element of this where an organization or an individual would be providing weapons to the Taliban, it is very clear how this will end. And I don't think anybody wants to be associated with a loser.
Moderator: Just maybe one last question.
Q: Takashi Sakamoto of Yomiuri Shimbun, Japanese newspaper. My question is somewhat related to the previous one. When you fought in the north, you fought with Northern Alliance as a partner on the ground. And when you fight in the south, who will be your partner on the ground?
Quigley: Well, I think -- let me take issue with the way you phrased your question just a little bit. What that sounds like, the way you asked the question, is that you had a unit of Northern Alliance and an American military unit side by side, shoulder to shoulder on the ground, and that's not the case.
The fighting was by far done by opposition groups that are part of the Northern Alliance up in the north.
We had American military liaisons in very small numbers with each of the opposition groups -- the major opposition groups, anyway -- that were opposing the Taliban in the northern part of the country. We will continue that pattern and try to increase it as we turn our attention to the south, and try to -- as I think one of the earlier questions -- the Taliban's greater strength is in the south and in the southwest part of the country. It should not be surprising that there are fewer opposition groups, at least at this point, that have had much of a chance to gain strength and have an ability to oppose the Taliban. We hope that that will change and that there will be growing numbers of opposition groups who each have a greater ability to fight the Taliban. And if we can help in making those groups successful in the south, as we have been helpful up north, that is what we will try to do.
Moderator: Admiral, thank you very much for coming.
Quigley: Thank you very much. And we will try to come over here periodically and do this again. Thank you.