United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Transcript


DoD News Briefing - ASD Clarke and Rear Adm. Gove

Presenters: Victoria Clarke, ASD PA
November 08, 2002 10:30 AM EDT

(Also participating was Navy Rear Adm. David A. Gove, deputy director for global operations, J-3, Joint Staff.)

Clarke: Good morning, everybody. We are going to try to keep this pretty brief because of what's going on at the U.N. So let me just say a few things about some of the activities of our soldiers and coalition forces in Afghanistan on the humanitarian front.

Within just the last few days, medical personnel from Combined Task Force 82 and Task Force 44 treated some 1,400 Afghans in Kandahar -- nearly half of them were children. In the town of Sayed in northeast Afghanistan, doctors in Task Force Dragon treated 900 patients for minor medical conditions. And veterinarians treated some 700 sheep for general check-ups and vaccinations.

Also, soldiers from Joint Task Force 180 recently repaired the offices of the Afghan Women's Organization, which provides business opportunities and assistance to Afghan women. We are repairing 11 girls' schools, a nursing school and a women's hospital. And our Civil Affairs team Khowst recently repaired an Afghan government warehouse that stores food for Afghan refugees in the Paktia area.

And I think it's a good part of the week to talk about the observations of Ramadan. And we think, from the Pentagon's perspective, it is worth repeating what the president has said, including this week; that the global war on terror is not a war against any people or any religion; it is a struggle between the forces of freedom and those who seek to spread hatred and fear here and in the Muslim world.

If you stop to think about it, almost every major military effort the United States has undertaken since the end of the Cold War has bettered the lives of Muslim people suffering oppression, aggression and occupation. Coalition forces helped free Muslim Kuwait from Iraqi aggression and stopped Iraq's plans to march on Saudi Arabia. We helped stop the genocide of the Bosnian Muslims, and went to war to stop the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Kosovo. We helped liberate the Afghan people from the oppression of the Taliban and their al Qaeda terrorist allies.

The United States is a friend of the Muslim people and, indeed, all people of every race and every religion who seek freedom from tyranny and oppression.

Admiral Gove is going to give you some details, the latest details on the no-fly zone activity. But I would just say -- remind everybody that those no-fly zones were created by the United Nations to protect the Iraqi people and neighboring countries from being attacked. To attack the coalition aircraft enforcing these no-fly zones is like attacking a policeman who is patrolling a neighborhood. And they continue these acts of aggression.

One housekeeping matter. At 11:00 this morning, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz will present the 2002 Secretary of Defense Freedom Awards to five organizations from across the country. This award recognizes the significant contributions and sacrifices made by employers of people serving in the National Guard and Reserve. Hardly a day goes by that we don't talk about the amazing contribution of the Guard and Reserve to the global war on terror. And so we are very, very pleased that they're getting this recognition today.

And with that, I will turn it over to you, sir.

Gove: Good morning. Thank you, Ms. Clarke.

Since September 18th, when Saddam Hussein sent a letter to the U.N. offering to allow weapons inspectors back into Iraq, the Iraqis have fired at ONW aircraft 52 times and OSW aircraft 107 times. In the past week alone, the Iraqi air defense system has fired on our OSW coalition aircraft seven times, and ONW aircraft three times.

Now we're going to show you a video clip of an Iraqi firing on a coalition aircraft, taken on the 14th of October. Here you see an Iraqi Roland air defense system firing once on a coalition aircraft near An Nasiriyah. You can see the missile spiraling up towards the aircraft.

And with that, we'll take your questions.

Clarke: Charlie?

Q: Two quick ones, if I could, please. Number one, realizing the president has made no decision on Iraq yet, might -- (laughter) --

Clarke: I like the way everybody starts every question --

Q: Well. Will this resolution in any way accelerate the United States military preparations for a possible conflict in Iraq, if it happens?

Clarke: The president hasn't made any decisions. But I'll repeat what we've said all along. If the president decides that military action is an appropriate course of action, then the U.S. military will be prepared to move and to move quickly.

Q: And on the meeting with the German defense minister tonight --

Clarke: See you at 6:30.

Q: Why is the secretary meeting with the minister? Are our relations now improving between Germany and the United States after this very difficult, chilly period over the German elections? And is the United States pushing the Germans and Dutch to go beyond six months on the ISAF?

Clarke: Germany is an important country, obviously. It's an important ally, with whom we have a lot of -- we share a lot of concerns and we have a lot of activity. I really will leave most of it for the secretary and his counterpart to talk about when they come down this evening, but I'm sure they will talk about the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, including the ISAF, ongoing cooperation on the global war on terrorism -- but I'll leave it up to them to give you some details.

Q: Are relations, have relations improved since that very chilly period? Is this a signal that relations are improving, that both sides want to improve relations --

Clarke: I'm really not good on those sorts of characterizations and signals. So we'll have them come down at 6:30 and you can judge for yourself.

Bob?

Q: Speaking of Afghanistan, does the secretary agree with General Myers that the U.S. is losing momentum in the war there?

Clarke: I'm tempted to say, "Admiral Gove?"

I took a quick look at what Chairman Myers said over at Brookings the other night, and he talked at length and gave some really, really wonderful articulation to what a different world we live in and how the circumstances are different, that's why we have a different strategy, and he covered a lot of, lot of topics very, very well.

I see Chairman Myers several times a day, I hear him speak privately, publicly, and I know he believes what we've all said many, many times from this podium and elsewhere: We've made an incredible amount of progress in Afghanistan; significantly disrupting and disabling the al Qaeda and Taliban -- there continue to be pockets of them left who clearly want to do harm to us and to our friends, who clearly would like to get Afghanistan back. As those remaining pockets change their tactics, we change our tactics, too. And we've got to be really, really aggressive about that. And I know the secretary, and the chairman, and the president and everyone works for the Department of Defense believes that.

Q: His point seemed to be that they're changing, they're adapting to U.S. tactics faster than the U.S. is adapting to their changes. Does the secretary agree with that?

Clarke: I don't want to get into parsing his words from those remarks. I haven't looked at them very carefully; I just looked at it very, very quickly. But I know what I've seen dozens and dozens of times hearing him talk about this; I know what the secretary believes; I know what everybody who has got close intimate knowledge of what is going on in Afghanistan believes, which is we've made significant progress.

As those remaining al Qaeda and Taliban change their tactics, we've got to change our tactics as well. And we're doing that. We're being very aggressive about it.

Q: His comments seemed to reflect the fact that there have been no -- you haven't captured or killed any al Qaeda in Afghanistan in some time. Isn't that the case? And is that a reflection of losing momentum?

Clarke: Actually, I -- again, I gave a quick look at his comments, but I think he said what we've said many, many times, which there are some remaining pockets there. It is hard to find needles in haystacks. We've said that many, many times. But as they change their tactics, we're changing ours, too.

One of the other things we've said is, from the very beginning, it's not just about Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has cells, has people in 50 or 60 different countries around the world. You see higher and lower levels of activity, and we have to adapt accordingly, and we're doing that. And you just look at what happens every single day. I cannot even stay -- keep track of it, how many times different countries, different entities around the world are arresting and picking up al Qaeda from different places and dragging them off the streets. So I'd say we continue to make very good progress. But it's hard.

Q: Along those same lines, could you talk about the progress in creating an Afghan national army? I think some time back, the secretary said you'd redouble your efforts along those lines. Could you just talk about the progress there?

Clarke: Boy, just in the broadest of details. And we can try to get you more of an update on that and actual details. I know it continues. I know they're making good progress. I know there are several different countries involved in the creation of the Afghan National Army, helping to train and equip the Afghan National Army. I'd have to -- we'd have to do a little bit more work to get you more specific details. You know, it's hard. It's different. A country that's been in turmoil for 20 or 30 years, it's hard to have a national force. But they're making good progress.

Pam?

Q: We haven't really talked about the Yemen strike that much. And I understand it was not a DOD operation, but it does herald a new front in this war on terrorism. It's the first time that the U.S. has used lethal force against an al Qaeda member outside the boundaries of Afghanistan, if I'm correct. Could you discuss, even in the broadest of terms, what the philosophy is in doing that, and perhaps why he wasn't arrested? Because I assume that he would have been an interesting interrogation subject.

Clarke: I'm not going to talk about Yemen at all, about that.

Q: Okay, then just the philosophy. When can you use lethal force in countries that are governed -- areas, you know, not like Afghanistan or, say, parts of the Horn of Africa.

Clarke: There are -- different circumstances that require different actions. And it also depends on who is doing the actions, whether it is this department or someone else. We can talk about Department of Defense, can't talk about others. But there are guidelines and policies, which guide how we approach this. We've made it very, very clear that we will go after the al Qaeda wherever we can. And -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

Q: What we saw last week in Yemen, is that something that's within the scope of what DOD can do, what rules govern you-all, or is there -- DOD can't participate in an operation like that because it's not a declared battlefield, like Afghanistan is? I'm trying to understand what constraints are on you guys.

Clarke: It makes me nervous to make any comparisons or draw conclusions from that, so I'd rather not do it.

Yeah, Mark?

Q: Could we just follow up on that? I mean, the Marines are standing up the task force in Djibouti, and so presumably they are looking into activities in that region where they could conduct raids, things like that. I mean, can you talk about the boundaries, legal boundaries there in terms of what they can and can't do, in terms of going into sovereign countries and perhaps capturing or killing al Qaeda members?

Clarke: Well, I'll say a couple things. The admiral might want to weigh in on this. But as Chairman Myers said here the other day, and I think General Franks talked about it, that is a real area of interest. We have seen and are aware of a lot of activity in the area, a lot of people of interest, if you will, moving in and out. To what I said before, al Qaeda is in a lot of different places, including that part of the world. So we are working with a lot of different countries around the world, different ways, but we're working with a lot of different countries in trying to figure out the appropriate ways to root out al Qaeda in their backyards. It's having a presence, it's finding ways, via exercises like these, to increase the confidence that we have.

And you go back to pre-9/11, we had next to no footprint, very little by way of any kind of relationships with a lot of the countries in that region. One of the best things that has come about as a result of 9/11 is we've established new relationships with a lot of different countries, and the activity that we've been engaged in and shared with them over the last year-plus has done a lot to increase the confidence and the willingness to work together. So it's a continued step in that direction.

(To Admiral Gove) I don't know if you wanted to add anything to that on Djibouti.

Gove: I would just keep the context of the global war on terrorism in mind. We'll move forces and headquarters staffs as necessary in order to optimize our operations and operational capability in that region and in other regions of the world. And I think we'll just leave it at that. I mean, they are optimizing the force structure in order to get the job done as effectively as possible wherever we take the global war on terrorism.

Q: Just a quick follow-up. So if we were to see or hear about Marines or Special Operations Forces acting in countries in that region, we could assume that they were doing so with the consent of that country?

Clarke: Repeat the question.

Q: If Marines or Special Operations Forces were going to be acting, you know, in regions -- sorry -- in countries in that region, they would be doing so with the consent of that sovereign country?

Clarke: I'll repeat one of our most valuable policies, which I know drives people crazy here, which is let countries talk about what goes on in their country.

But I think you can take some lessons or take some information by the success of working with some 90 different countries around the world, including some that are in very bad neighborhoods, in the global war on terrorism, to say we have been enormously successful in working with them in a very cooperative fashion.

Let me go over to George and then come back.

Q: Is the U.S. military committed to, or willing to help the interim government if there are problems with the officials that Karzai recently fired, or to take military action against warlords who may be opposing the interim -- the government?

Clarke: Well, it's a big hypothetical -- the question is a big hypothetical because it anticipates something that, to my knowledge, hasn't happened yet.

Q: Well, there has been trouble with warlords, and they have said that if -- that they're at a fairly critical time that they need to make considerable advances in order to keep going.

Clarke: I don't want to speak for Chairman Karzai. But again, I don't know if I agree with the premise of your question. You make a general statement: They've had problems with the warlords.

What I've seen is there's been some pretty good cooperation from the regional commanders, as some call them, including some of them contributing forces for the Afghan national army. What we have seen is uneven, yet general security in a big part of the country, including where a lot of the regional commanders are. There's still a lot of instability and activity in that southeastern part of it. So I don't know that I agree with your assessment, and I'm certainly not going to talk about hypotheticals, other than to say we're very engaged with the Afghan government, with Karzai's government, and trying to help the country get to some real stable, secure footing of its own.

Q: Just to follow up quickly on the last question; to reverse the question: Would -- not what other governments might say about what we're doing -- is the U.S. military prepared to take military action against al Qaeda in countries without the permission of those countries?

Clarke: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

Q: Is the U.S. military prepared to take military action against suspected al Qaeda in countries without prior consent from those countries?

Clarke: You get into hypotheticals again, which makes me very nervous. But to repeat what I said before -- and then I'll invoke something the secretary has said -- we have had enormous, enormous success. I know it's hard to lose -- it is easy to lose sight of, and people in this town don't like to focus on the positive. But we've had enormous success with some 90 different countries around the world, working together on various aspects of the global war on terrorism, including working with them in their countries, whether you're talking about Georgia or Yemen, several other places. Enormous success working with Pakistan to try and root out the al Qaeda and the Taliban presence there.

So we make every, every effort to work with countries, most of whom are very eager to get rid of the al Qaeda and the Taliban, for instance, in Afghanistan, because the secretary has said before there may be -- without speculating where -- there may be circumstances where we go into an ungoverned area in pursuit of al Qaeda.

And I'll just leave it at that.

Q: Can you give us an update on the numbers of troops still working in Yemen with the forces there?

Clarke: I can't, but I bet we can try to get that for you.

Q: You defer to local governments to say where U.S. -- to explain what involvement U.S. forces are having. In an ungoverned area where U.S. forces are taking part, would anyone ever discuss what happened there?

Clarke: I think it depends on the circumstances. I mean, it's awfully broad.

Q: So I mean, there could be secret U.S. operations in ungoverned areas --

Clarke: There are differences between what the Department of Defense does and what other parts of the United States government do.

Q: A question for each of you, on two different topics. Torie, can you offer us, first, any guidance on the detainee photos that have been e-mailed to a number of news organizations; whether they were taken as part of official documentation or you have a sense that they were taken completely, you know, in an unauthorized fashion; anything you can tell us about that?

And Admiral Gove, I want to go back to Bob Burns's question, because I think people might really be interested in your view about the chairman's comments, since you're a senior officer on the Joint Staff. Does -- do you think, in fact, as the chairman very specifically said, there is some concern about a potential loss of momentum in the worldwide war on terrorism?

Clarke: Sure. Let me do the photos first. Central Command and the Air Force are looking into the circumstances of the photos. So we just don't have any details about that right now.

As you all know, we have very, very tight restrictions on any images of the detainees, for security purposes and because we have no interest in potentially holding detainess up for any kind of public ridicule. So we have very tight restrictions on that.

As people also know, we take great care to make sure the detainees have absolutely appropriate behavior from when they are taken off the battlefield, in the course of transport, when they are kept at Guantanamo. People also know but should be reminded we have the International Red Cross. We have -- I think it is probably dozens now of coalition representatives have been to Guantanamo to ensure that the treatment of the detainees is absolutely appropriate.

Gove: I haven't spoken to the chairman regarding his remarks on Monday. I think it's important to take the remarks in the context of the full remarks rather than sound bites that were pulled out of it.

That said, I think the chairman has been very consistent about the nature of war; whether it's a global war on terrorism or any other war, there's ebbs and flows, and we need -- it's going to be a long, difficult road. We need to make sure that we change and adapt in order to overcome new obstacles that might be presented. And I think that he is solid in his conviction that we're going to get this done, as is the rest of the military. And I think I'll leave it at that.

Clarke: I have a slight update for Tom on the Afghan national army training. Over 900 graduated thus far; more than 900 in training right now, and another 400 prepared to begin training.

Q: Two questions on the resolution at the U.N. First, is there anything in that resolution that gives the United States additional power or authority to act -- to move troops, to act in a more aggressive manner toward Iraq in controlling the no-fly zones or anything like that? Is there anything contained in there that allows us to do something today that we weren't able to do yesterday?

Clarke: I'll leave it to the experts over at State and elsewhere to talk about the resolution, but to my knowledge, not.

Q: Okay. And the second question is, there's been some reporting in town about the time line contained in the resolution, which I guess if you sort of add up all the different deadlines -- 30 days here, 60 days here -- you can get to about February 21st; some suggestion that -- that short of a pretty major provocation, that the United States at this point is inclined to wait out those deadlines and let the process sort of play itself out, potentially pushing off whatever action we might take until the February-March time frame. Can you shed any light on that?

Clarke: It's just -- in just a few minutes, somebody -- other people at a far higher pay grade than mine will shed a lot of light on the resolution.

But I think it is so clear how hard people like Secretary Powell and his team, and folks in this building, including Secretary Rumsfeld, how hard they have worked on this resolution, how seriously they take it, how important they think that process is. So we are absolutely committed to that process.

Q: But, I mean, does that commitment to that process include the possibility of holding off a potential invasion until the end of those time lines, till the end of the -- till all of those processes and time lines work themselves out to -- potentially to the end of February, early March?

Clarke: It's not useful to talk about time lines because the president hasn't made any decisions about military action. But I think you just cannot have any doubt about how committed the United States is to the process and to the importance this resolution coming out of the United States (sic).

It's now been seven, eight weeks, I think, and they have worked 24/7 trying to get to a place where they believe they have very -- they will have a very robust inspection program, with consequences.

Let's make Jim the last question.

Q: Will the U.S. military have any role in supporting the inspections, in terms of surveillance, you know, use of spy planes, that kind of thing?

Clarke: If UNMOVIC -- if they have requests for us, we'll take them under consideration and do what we think is appropriate. We will do everything that we think is appropriate to help them have very, very robust and effective inspections.

Q: What about protecting the inspectors?

Clarke: I'm just going to leave it right there for now.

Q: Torie, can I just ask one quick one?

Clarke: Sure.

Q: Given the sentiments on budget preparations now, is the secretary concerned that the Air Force is reporting a $690 million cost overrun on the F-22? And could this put the program in danger of either cutbacks or cancellation?

Clarke: Oh, it's too soon to say any of that. Many of you are aware the Air Force late yesterday brought to the attention the fact that there had been a potential overrun of $690 million related -- it has something to do with -- in a development stage. And it is the -- I'm trying to find his name -- Sambur, S-A-M-B-U-R, who has put together a team of technical people, financial people, both inside the Air Force and out, to take a look at what has happened. And they are expected to report back in a few weeks.

Q: Has the secretary been appraised (sic) of this --

Clarke: He was informed of it. I think it was about 24 hours ago. Don't have the exact time, but he told about it by Pete Aldridge, and Pete had a plan in place already, saying, "This is what we've heard. This is what we know at this point, which is not much, and we're going to put a team on it and get to the bottom of it."

Q: Has he expressed concern over it or is he concerned over the cost overrun?

Clarke: Well, we don't know the circumstances of what happened yet. I think he was pleased that Pete Aldridge jumped on top of it right away -- Pete Aldridge and General Jumper and others -- and that they're going to get to the bottom of it.

Q: Thanks.

Clarke: Great. Thanks, you guys.

"THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS PREPARED BY THE FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE INC., WASHINGTON, D.C. FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE IS A PRIVATE COMPANY. FOR OTHER DEFENSE RELATED TRANSCRIPTS NOT AVAILABLE THROUGH THIS SITE, CONTACT FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE AT (202) 347-1400."