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DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Pace

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
December 06, 2001 11:15 AM EDT

Thursday, Dec. 6, 2001 - 11:15 a.m. EST

(Also participating is Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Slides and videos shown in this briefing are on the Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec2001/g011206-D-6570C.html)

Rumsfeld: Good morning. I'd like to recognize the brave service of those soldiers that were killed and wounded in Afghanistan yesterday. Our condolences go to their families and their loved ones. These men were engaged in a noble and important cause, and their families have every right to be proud, as we all are, of their commitment and their sacrifice.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are, as you know, under investigation. We'll have more to say about that as we learn more.

We're moving forward to take this fight to the terrorists.

I understand there is concern about the access that was afforded journalists in the vicinity of the incident. We are mindful of the sensitivities of families back home who may not know that an incident has occurred, and we prefer that they not learn about something like that until they have been advised by the department. We do remain committed to the principle that the media should have access to both the good and the bad in this effort. The people on the ground, in the Marine Corps, have acknowledged -- or correction -- in the service have acknowledged that they have not handled the matter perfectly, and they're in the process of reviewing their procedures.

The deaths do underscore the nature of what we're doing. This is a war that began because we were attacked on September 11th. Every day, American troops are placing their lives on the line in the defense of the country.

Tomorrow is the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, a surprise attack that killed more than 2,000 Americans. A terrible surprise attack on September 11th killed even more Americans. It is certainly right to recall the lessons of Pearl Harbor as we fight the war against terror. In both cases, it wasn't that we were not expecting threats -- indeed, we were -- but that we may not have been paying sufficient attention to what then seemed improbable. We now know that the improbable can happen, and has.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction with increasing range and power in the hands of multiple potential adversaries means that now, in the coming years, we face new threats from new forms of terrorism, to satchel bombs, cyber-attacks, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles.

The threats are real, and the lethality is multiples of what we have previously experienced. We remain firmly committed to transforming our military so that we as a country are able to meet the challenges of this new century.

General Pace.

Pace: Thank you, sir. Good morning. Along with the secretary, I'd like to also express for all of us in uniform our condolences to the families of the three service members who were killed in action in Afghanistan, and also to the families of the 17 who were wounded -- 20 who were wounded, 17 of whom were evacuated and are currently receiving medical treatment, and the three who were wounded who were able to stay in Afghanistan. Also, to the families of the five Afghan soldiers who were killed and to the 19 of those soldiers who were medically evacuated to U.S. ships and are receiving treatment there.

We did have yesterday approximately 85 aircraft conducting strike operations. I have three videos for you. The first is a video on a compound where Taliban troops were believed to have been holed up.

Q: What day is this?

Pace: This is 4 December.

Q: And where?

Pace: In Kandahar.

(Videos shown.)

Pace: That was a JDAM munition delivered by an F-16.

The second video, also in the Kandahar area, an F-18 delivering a laser-guided bomb on an al Qaeda troops facility. And the third is a series of weapons delivered on what was believed to be an al Qaeda leadership compound.

Q: All in Kandahar?

Pace: All Kandahar.

Q: On Tuesday, sir?

Pace: On 4th of December. Go ahead.

Q: Do you have any idea what or who? What leadership or who was in that compound at the --

Pace: We do not know the results. We just had confirmation through several sources, intel sources that there were -- that third video was of a al Qaeda leadership compound.

Rumsfeld: Charlie.

Q: Mr. Secretary, there are reports that Omar and the Taliban leadership have agreed to surrender Kandahar with the understanding that Omar would remain in the control of opposition forces. Number one, have you any confirmation of that, or are such negotiations moving faster? And would you be willing to accept Omar remaining under control of the opposition if he surrenders? Taliban.

Rumsfeld: The -- I have seen any number of reports on this subject over the past 48 hours, and they are continuing to be reported.

There is no question what the position of the United States of America is, and that is that we have as our principal objectives seeing that we deal effectively with the senior al Qaeda leadership and the Taliban leadership, and that we -- the remaining al Qaeda fighters do not leave the country and go off to conduct additional terrorist attacks on other nations, including the United States, and that Afghanistan not be a nation that harbors terrorists.

We have expressed very forcefully to all of the so-called opposition leaders, who have been opposing the Taliban, what our principal goals are and what are views are, and we have -- at least at this moment, I have not seen or heard anything that would suggest that anyone is negotiating something that would be contrary to what our interests are.

Q: So you're saying --

Rumsfeld: It is not to say it could not happen, but I -- at least at this moment, our message has been delivered very clearly.

Q: So you're saying, as you've said before, that you wouldn't accept any other circumstance except that Omar be turned over to the United States?

Rumsfeld: I -- I guess I'm saying what I said. And it means that the United States does, in fact, have as its intention seeing that we have stopped all of the senior leadership and the al Qaeda and that the country is not a haven for terrorists.

Is it conceivable that some formulation could evolve that would satisfy that and not be consistent with what you said? I don't know. I haven't thought of what it might be. But certainly, you can be certain that the people -- the opposition forces in and around Kandahar, where it is believed Omar is, are fully aware of our very strong view on this. And our cooperation and assistance with those people would clearly take a turn south if something were to be done with respect to the senior people in that situation that was inconsistent with what I've said.

Q: Sir, can you give us an idea what you mean by --

Q: Mr. Secretary, it might not be inconsistent, but with all due respect, sir, it seems now you're putting a little wiggle room in what you have been saying as late as a few days ago.

Rumsfeld: I don't mean to be.

Q: All right. But then we need -- I need to press you on this; Charlie tried. There are reports out of the region now that a deal has actually been cut; that Omar will be allowed to live within his area there on the Pashtun, and live in so-called "dignity."

That does not mean, then, if we go along with the deal, that he would be turned over to you. Would you accept that kind of a situation?

Rumsfeld: If you're asking would an arrangement with Omar where he could, quote, "live in dignity" in the Kandahar area or some place in Afghanistan be consistent with what I have said, the answer is, no, it would not be consistent with what I have said.

Q: Could I ask you to define, if you don't mind, what you mean -- some idea of what you mean by the relationship would, quote, certainly go south?

Rumsfeld: Well, we obviously have a lot of things we have been doing to assist the opposition forces, and we are continuing to, and the president has indicated plans to be helpful to the country. And to the extent our goals are frustrated and opposed, obviously, we would prefer to work with other people, who would not oppose our goals. And so it shouldn't be complicated. I'm not suggesting that that is even going to happen. I've seen these reports. I've not seen anything that is authoritative that suggests that those reports are correct. Indeed, I have every reason to believe that -- at least I don't know of anything that's taking place that's inconsistent with our interests.

Q: Well, sir, if I could follow up, Commander Karzai, among others, has described the agreement -- emerging agreement that was just mentioned a moment ago, publicly now has described it. Are you suggesting the possibility that the United States participation in the financial help rebuilding Afghanistan might, in fact, not occur, or reduced if in fact these conditions are not met?

Rumsfeld: What I am saying is, our goals have been very clear. They have been publicly expressed. They have been privately expressed to the opposition leaders. There is no ambiguity about them. And, while you may have heard reports and seen reports in the press, I am saying that I have not seen authoritative reports that suggest that -- at least thus far -- that something is taking place that would be inconsistent with our interests.

Yes?

Q: What about the activity of U.S. bombing? For example, there are now beginning to be calls for a cease-fire so that some of this can be implemented. Can you give us some sense of your willingness to either slow, pause or stop the bombing in Kandahar to let this process proceed? What would be your conditions for doing so?

Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, there is nothing that I know of that has happened that is sufficiently mature that it would alter our general approach that has been taking place, and that has been to continue to put pressure on Kandahar, to be supportive of the forces that are opposing Kandahar, and to see that Kandahar is not reinforced, and to see that people who ought not to escape do not escape, and to encourage surrender.

To the extent that requires bombing, that's what we do. And to the extent it requires interdiction, that's what we do. So we have -- we do not have any pauses in effect at the moment.

The support to opposition forces has, throughout the country from the very beginning, been premised on the fact that the opposition forces were doing something. To the extent the opposition forces stop for some reason, whatever the reason may be, obviously you're not providing bombing support to those opposition forces at that moment. However, in other parts of the country, we certainly are. And I can't speak to whether we are at this very second, with respect to Kandahar.

Q: One would certainly expect there to come a time, if you're going to have some sort of negotiated agreement, which appears to have a Friday deadline in its current form, that the United States in Kandahar and around Kandahar would have to pause or stop the bombing to allow this to happen, as long as you are supportive of what this agreement is. And you seem to be, at least in principle, supportive of the direction that these talks are going.

Rumsfeld: Well, I'm not. I just don't know where these talks are going, and I think there's been a lot of speculation in the press and there have been a lot of musings by a lot of people. We've not been musing. And I am not happy or unhappy. I am from Missouri on this one. I want to see what happens. (Laughter.) And I like to deal with a little more factual material than speculation and press reports, and therefore, I am without an opinion and will remain without one until we get something substantively.

Q: Mr. Secretary, has the U.S. government in these talks with the opposition leaders, specifically Hamid Karzai -- has the U.S. government received any assurances from Karzai that in whatever deal may ultimately be struck, that Taliban leader Mullah Omar will not be granted amnesty nor freedom?

Rumsfeld: I don't think want to characterize the private conversations that have been taking place between the various opposition leaders and our folks. But they -- there's no confusion on anyone's part on these issues.

Q: And if I could follow up, since just yesterday Hamid Karzai was named interim prime minister for Afghanistan, if he in fact decides to strike a deal, wouldn't it be difficult for the U.S. to oppose that deal with whomever he strikes it and under what conditions, because after all, he's now recognized as the interim leader of Afghanistan?

Rumsfeld: I could fashion a thousand hypothetical situations that you could ask, and then I would be asked to try to say how would we react in the event this conceivably happened. It hasn't happened.

I don't believe it will happen. If it does happen, I suppose, as Adlai Stevens said, "We'll jump off that bridge when we get to it." (Laughter.)

Do I think it will happen? No. So --

Q: You don't think there will be a negotiated end to the situation --

Rumsfeld: I don't not think there will be a negotiated end to the situation that's unacceptable to the United States.

Q: Oh, that's unacceptable. Okay. That's --

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: When you do achieve your goal, however you get to it in Kandahar, but once you've achieved your goal in Kandahar, could you describe how that advances the final -- the next push in the northeastern part of Afghanistan? You've then narrowed it down to one area; would that be correct?

Rumsfeld: No, I don't think it would be. If you look about the country and the map of the country, there are still pockets of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in non-trivial numbers that exist in that country. They are not necessarily in cities. Indeed, they tend to be out -- the visible ones tend to be out of cities. That remains a problem for security in that country, and it's not over.

Second, there is no question but that there are considerable areas where there are not opposition forces or U.S. forces, and one needs to be aware of the dangers that those areas can pose in terms of people moving in or out of the country. So I would think it would be premature to suggest that once Kandahar surrenders that, therefore, we kind of relax and say, "Well, that takes care of that," because it doesn't. There are still a lot of senior al Qaeda and senior Taliban people left. We went in there to root out the terrorists, to find them where they are. Our job has got a long way to go, and anything that gets in the way of us completing that job would be most unfortunate.

Q: Doesn't that, though, give you some additional ability to concentrate more on one main area, being the White Mountains area?

Rumsfeld: Every time you successfully deal with one piece of the puzzle, obviously you're able to focus a bit more on the remaining pieces of the puzzle. But -- yes, Jamie?

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, can you give us -- or maybe even General Pace -- can you give us any idea of what's happening --

Rumsfeld: What do you mean "even General Pace"? (Laughter.)

(To the general) You don't have to take that from him!

Q: If for some reason, this were to fall out of your area of expertise -- (laughter) -- (inaudible) -- the general. Can both of you -- (laughter) -- give us an idea of what's going on in the Tora Bora cave complex?

Is there any part of that which is now in opposition control? Can you give us any idea of what's happening in that part of the country, where the U.S. is assisting some of the local villagers or fighters there?

Rumsfeld: You want to go ahead?

Pace: Sure, I'll give it a shot. Thank you.

In the Tora Bora cave complex, just like everywhere else that we've assisted the opposition groups in Afghanistan, we have begun to provide support to the opposition groups that are moving through the valleys in the Tora Bora complex. As you know, up until this time, until just recently, we haven't been, in fact, attacking the caves from the air. Now, as the opposition groups move their troops through that complex, we're able to provide them the air support that they can help direct, because they're able to see the caves that are active, they can see the caves that are not, and we're able to provide much more direct support for them.

So it's unfolding in the Tora Bora area as it has in Kunduz, as it did in Mazar-e Sharif, as it continues to in Kandahar.

Q: General, you said the opposition forces are actually moving through some of the caves -- they're actually going through the cave complexes, seeing what's there. Can you give us any idea of do they control part of the complex or anything like that?

Pace: They have moved up the Tora Bora Valley in that cave complex area. As is the battlefield elsewhere, it's very fluid, but they have, in fact, been directing their ground attacks against facilities, and we've been assisting them with our air support.

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you think that's where bin Laden is?

Rumsfeld: (Chuckles.) Goodness gracious.

Q: (Off mike) -- the barnyard?

Rumsfeld: Where's the barnyard? (Laughter.)

I see literally dozens and dozens and dozens of pieces of intelligence every day. And if you took all of those scraps and looked at them, the first conclusion you would reach is that they don't agree. And therefore, one can't know with precision until the chase around the yard is over. And --

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, in the past, you've said you want to take senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders into custody. I'd like to clarify --

Rumsfeld: I don't know that that word would be right. We are interested in seeing that they be punished and that they stop doing what they have been doing. And they have done some perfectly terrible things on this earth. And -- and -- "custody" has a legal implication. If I said that, I probably shouldn't.

I would like to see us take control or know that the control is in the hands of people who will handle the conclusion in a way similar to what we would do. Now, how that might be, I don't know.

For example, it may be that you could find, for example, a senior al Qaeda leader who was a national of some country, obviously, other than Afghanistan. And it may be that there's already paper out on that individual in another country, and it may be that that country would like to have that person, and it may be that the opposition forces and/or the U.S. had control over that person's person for a period. And to the extent that it made sense to have that individual end up going to another country -- his country of origin, say, for the sake of argument -- that might make sense.

I think it's a mistake to think that there's only one way that these things might be handled. We're dealing with Afghans and non- Afghans. We're dealing with countries that have sponsored terrorists and countries that are against terrorists. And I think that what's going to -- what you have to do is to get what you can get, chase them down, find them, look at them, perform a sort on them, and then make judgments about how they best ought to be handled so that terrorism stops.

Q: What's your preferred solution for Mullah Omar?

Rumsfeld: I'm not going to get into an answer with respect to one individual. Obviously, he has been the principal person who has been harboring the al Qaeda network in that country. He does not deserve the Medal of Freedom.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said that there might be a deal, a surrender deal for Kandahar that would be acceptable to the U.S., or that you thought that.

Rumsfeld: Okay. Anywhere people can surrender. That's what we've been trying to get them to do.

Q: Right.

Rumsfeld: Stop fighting. Surrender.

Q: Could we clarify what would be acceptable to the U.S. in the Kandahar situation?

Rumsfeld: Surrender.

Q: And as far as Omar?

Rumsfeld: I don't know quite what the question is, but --

Q: Well, what are you going to do with him?

Rumsfeld: Take --

Q: You say he's not allowed to live with dignity. He's not allowed in the city of Kandahar. What are you going to do with him?

Rumsfeld: It depends on the situation, but presumably what would happen is that individuals who fit the categories that I've described and the ones the president has described and the one the secretary of State has described -- what we would do is, depending on who they are and what their situation is, make a judgment as to how they should be dealt with. And there are a host of options and opportunities and possibilities.

Now, does it make sense to immediately start performing that sort before we have them? I think not.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: Mr. Secretary, I'm very sorry, but I am really confused.

Rumsfeld: Don't be sorry.

Q: I am really, really confused here.

Q: Yeah.

Rumsfeld: Don't be. (Laughter.) We will help you. We are here to help you.

Q: Well, then, good. Explain. Because I am genuinely confused. It seems to me since September 11th, this administration has repeatedly said it wants Omar and bin Laden brought to justice or justice brought to them.

Rumsfeld: Exactly.

That's where we are.

Q: All right. What does that mean today? Because you have opened the door to something other than American justice being brought to this situation, do you today still want Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden in American hands?

Rumsfeld: We want exactly what you said -- that we want either to bring justice to them or bring them to justice. And as I have said, there are a variety of different ways that that can occur, and it will depend on the individual, and it will depend on whether or not we get them, and when we get them and what the circumstances are. And all I can say is that there are a whole set of questions, depending on nationality, depending on circumstance, and those issues will be resolved.

But we want control over -- we want these people to be dealt with in the manner that I've characterized.

Q: But sir, non-hypothetical, Omar and bin Laden -- is there any solution, non-hypothetical, other than U.S. justice?

Rumsfeld: Is there any conceivable situation where -- gosh, I am so -- I try to not rule things out, because I know I can't look around all the corners. Is --

Q: Or a bullet in the head, or U.S. justice --

Rumsfeld: Well, no, I wasn't thinking of that. Now, now. (Subdued laughter.)

Q: It's a solution, through, right?

Rumsfeld: If I said that there is another alternative to that, and yet I couldn't say what it might be, then I would feel that you would be -- feel unfulfilled again and -- (laughter) -- and that would bother me deeply. (Laughter continues.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you agree, though --

Rumsfeld: But I would not rule it out.

Pardon me?

Q: You're not ruling that out. So is that not a change in U.S. --

Rumsfeld: I just can't imagine what it is.

Q: Is that not a change in U.S. policy?

Rumsfeld: No, not at all.

Yes?

Q: There is one new development which is not hypothetical, and that's that Afghanistan now has a designated provisional government with Mr. Karzai designated as its head. To what extent does that fact constrain the United States more today -- leave the United States more constrained today than it was previously?

Rumsfeld: I guess time will tell. It's not clear to me that it necessarily will. My impression is that the people in Bonn who have been fashioning this interim solution have views that are not terribly dissimilar to ours. I don't think they've been enamored of having the al Qaeda in their country. I don't think they've been enamored of the Taliban leadership. I don't think they like having their country be a haven for terrorists. I think that they -- our goals are probably not inconsistent. If you dropped a plumb line through all of those folks from Bonn and said, "Gee, what's the aggregation of their thinking," I would think that it is reasonably proximate to ours.

Q: But the United States will presumably recognize this government and will then -- you need to defer to their sovereign rights.

Rumsfeld: There certainly would come a time when that would be the case.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said repeatedly, and with good reason, that the Taliban repeatedly lie, that they're not to be believed. To what degree does that factor into your skepticism now about any promises that they may make at this stage about a surrender?

Rumsfeld: Well -- (chuckles) -- I guess, you know, if you're dealing with folks like that, you'd want to watch them pretty careful. They've had a pattern of saying things that aren't so. And the folks who surrendered up in Mazar surrendered with hand grenades and weapons on them, and blew up people and killed people. I think anyone dealing with those folks would want to be pretty careful.

Q: Is that, then, a great concern, as we hear these reports that starting tomorrow, they're supposed to start surrendering all of their arms, that that's something to be watched?

Rumsfeld: I would think that anyone dealing with anyone surrendering would want to make darn sure that they are unarmed, or put their lives at risk and the lives of other people at risk for their inattentiveness.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Yes?

Just a second.

Yes?

Q: The relief groups in the north are complaining that the aid is not getting to the people that need it, and one of the reasons is the lack of a security force up there. Reportedly, General Franks has said he doesn't want a security force in the region until the military situation is under control. Is that still the case? Or is now the time to get some sort of a force up there to help the aid?

Rumsfeld: First of all, it's true that there are humanitarian needs that are not being met in the country, and it tends to be not because a shortage of things -- food, medicine, clothing -- but because of distribution out from central points. So there is a sizable amount of humanitarian assistance getting in the country. But it is clearly not because of the dangers in the country it's not moving out as rapidly as one would hope to the needy people, unless they happen to be nearby these centers.

The people on the ground are doing, in many cases, the best they can. They're trying to provide a stable, security situation. There are criminals, there is disorder, there has been war, there are pockets of Taliban, there are pockets of al Qaeda, there are people coming in from other countries on occasion and making mischief.

Now, is it possible in one fell swoop to create a stable, peaceful situation where all good things can happen and distribution can take place in a safe, hospitable environment? I think not.

It's going to take a little bit of time.

The people on the ground have -- correction, the people in Bonn, if I'm not mistaken, indicated that they would prefer to have a security force of some kind in Kabul. They have not opined, to my knowledge, on security forces elsewhere. Therefore, the opposition forces, the forces that have control of whatever pieces of real estate they have control over, will be the ones that will provide that security.

I'm told -- but I've been told this before -- that there is at least a possibility that the bridge will be open in a period -- a relatively short period of time to Uzbekistan, that more flow will continue. As the airports get fixed, they also will serve as hubs. And as the pockets of Taliban get eliminated, one would think that the distribution could improve.

I do not think that the idea of security forces covering that entire country is probably a good idea. It is not for me to say whether it's a good idea, however. It's pretty clear that the opposition forces don't think it's a clear (sic) idea, and it's also pretty clear that the group that met in Bonn don't think it's a good idea, because all they considered was the idea of a force in Kabul.

Now, do I think it's going to get better every day? Yes, I do. And let's hope it does before the winter gets --

Q: Will the United States have to press those opposition groups to allow some sort of a security force in, or just wait for them to make -- (off mike)?

Rumsfeld: Well, I think what the United States has to keep trying to do is to keep encouraging them to provide the kind of stable situation. And they're doing it. They're moving after some of those Taliban pockets from time to time, and we're helpful from time to time. And we are encouraging everyone to see that the kind of humanitarian assistance that is so badly needed in that country in fact gets in.

Q: From a practical standpoint, if a number of al Qaeda or Taliban leaders and soldiers start surrendering in the next day or two, what can the U.S. do to stop them from dispersing throughout the country? You've got a thousand Marines and Special Ops teams spread around the nation. Would you have to surge more troops in quickly? Or practically, what would you have to do?

Rumsfeld: Well, we don't have enough troops on the ground to control the country, so we have to control it indirectly and attempt to affect it indirectly by working with the opposition forces. And that's what we do. Every day, they're in close discussion with the U.S. soldiers and with various other people on the ground embedded in their units and operating under directions from General Tom Franks, that we're aware of what those guidance are and what our preferences are. And it frequently results in a discussion, and then a -- often understandings as to what will take place next. That is what happens.

Let's now disaggregate those folks. Let's say that there's -- there's Afghan Taliban below the senior level. Those folks very likely are going to drift back into the community unless -- as they're interrogated and looked at, people are going to try to sift and sort and say here's some bad ones, and these folks are just going to go off into the mountains or off into their villages. Then the senior ones, that you're going to have to keep your eyes on. And how that would be done, I don't know.

It could be any number of ways.

Third, with respect to al Qaeda of all levels, you don't want them milling around the country, and you don't want them leaving the country, because they're just going to go out and kill people in some other country. So they need to be stopped. And clearly, with respect to the senior people, they're going to get a great deal of attention.

Q: The foreign fighters you're most concerned about, how will you -- just

Rumsfeld: You may have to impound them.

Q: How would the U.S. do that, though, with the limited force you have there?

Rumsfeld: Well, you'd probably use the opposition forces and encourage them to do it and provide a proper place for them to imprison them and hold them for appropriate periods and -- so sorts can be made and then, ultimately, disposition can be made of them.

Q: Encourage them, but you can't direct them --

Rumsfeld: No. I mean, this is an unusual situation. People are looking for us -- you know, it's the old glass box at the -- at the gas station, where you're using those little things trying to pick up the prize, and you can't find it. (Laughter.) It's -- and it's all these arms are going down in there, and so you keep dropping it and picking it up again and moving it, but -- some of you are probably too young to remember those -- those glass boxes, but -- (laughter) --

Q: General Pace? General Pace?

Rumsfeld: -- but they used to have them at all the gas stations when I was a kid. (Laughter.)

Q: Mr. Secretary and General Pace, could I ask, are there U.S. Special Operations teams working with opposition troops in the mountains and around the caves around Jalalabad to call in airstrikes or otherwise?

Pace: There are Special Forces teams working with most of the major opposition groups, and there are Special Forces working with the opposition who are working the cave complex.

Q: Quick follow-up if I may, General. Can you describe for us the so-called "cave buster" weapon now that's being used or being dropped by strike aircraft, how it differs from the "bunker buster"?

Pace: To my mind, there is no difference. What you have -- what you have is 500-pound, 1,000-pound and 2,000-pound bombs that are being very precisely guided into the caves, into the openings. So if you want to call that a "cave buster" or a "bunker buster," that's what you can call it, but it's a 2,000-pound bomb.

Q: Mr. Secretary, does Mullah Omar qualify as one of those who could be brought before a U.S. military tribunal?

Rumsfeld: That decision is a presidential decision as to who, what categories and what specific individuals might or might not fit within the military order that he sent me with respect to military commissions.

Q: And what would your recommendation be?

Rumsfeld: I will receive warm bodies; I will not probably be making recommendations to the president as to who he should send me so that I can receive them.

Q: Sir --

Q: General --

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Rumsfeld: We're going to take two questions. You're number one.

Q: Mr. Secretary, were you -- sir, were you surprised when you came to know that there were thousands of non-Afghanis who were fighting against the United States in Afghanistan, especially from the allies like Pakistan, because Pakistan sent some airplanes to rescue them?

Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, with respect to the last comment, I do not know that you're correct. I have had no evidence that suggests you're correct either that there have been airplanes rescuing people or that had there been airplanes, that Pakistan had done it. So I would assume that I'm right. (Subdued laughter.)

Pace: I would, too.

Rumsfeld: Until you have better information, I would assume that.

Now with respect to whether or not I was surprised, the answer is no. We have known that you have a country with porous borders, where tribes and people have moved back and forth across those borders since the beginning of time. They have, they are today, and I am assured they will in the future. So it ought not to be any surprise at all that there are non-Afghans in Afghanistan. We knew this. That's what al Qaeda is. It's a group of foreigners. And they're -- they are there doing things that I think are enormously harmful to a peaceful and stable world.

And the last question is --

Q: I think that there should be another question after me, because this is very tiny. Can you give us -- (laughter) -- it's sort of a half-question -- some sense of the numbers of Special Forces that are around Tora Bora and also tell us if you're replacing the Special Forces that were hurt on Wednesday and then I --

Rumsfeld: We are replacing -- we are replacing the people that were killed and wounded and --

Q: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: We move people around. Sometimes the numbers go up. Sometime the numbers go down. But we clearly have every reason to have those people there. They were doing a great job, and they have been replaced.

Q: Are the numbers of folks at Tora Bora modest? Vulgar?

Rumsfeld: Well --

Q: Sufficient.

Rumsfeld: What was the second word?

Q: Vulgar -- (off mike). Right? (Laughter.)

Pace: Sufficient.

Rumsfeld: There is -- I like that; they're sufficient.

Q: Oh!

Rumsfeld: That's good. Thank you.

Q: (Off mike) -- for a whole question?

(Cross talk.)

Q: When will you stop calling the opposition forces "opposition" and call them "government forces" --

Rumsfeld: Maybe when they have a government. Hey, that's a good point.