DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers
(Also participating was Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.)
Rumsfeld: In the aftermath of the attacks on September 11th, when Americans were still coming to grips with what had happened, one anguished mother, whose son died in the World Trade Center Tower said, "I didn't send my son to war, I sent him to work." And I think that sums up the distinctive aspects of terrorism and what it's about.
At some level we can understand soldiers dying in the service of their country; policemen, firefighters, whose work is inherently dangerous, dying in their line of duty. But terrorists, who deliberately target innocent human beings, that is so different, so unacceptable that it cannot be condoned or accepted.
Last October 7th, on behalf of that mother and other mothers and fathers, and sisters and brothers, and sons and daughters, and friends, the United States responded to the murder of those thousands of innocent people from some 80 countries, and yesterday was the sixth-month anniversary of that response on October 7th.
In six months, with our coalition partners, the Taliban has been driven from power. We've disrupted al Qaeda's ability to use Afghanistan as a sanctuary and as a training ground for terrorists they send around the world. The Afghan people have been freed of a brutal regime. And a humanitarian crisis of significant proportions has been averted. The people of Afghanistan today are receiving food and other -- medical attention and other humanitarian assistance, which they could not during the prior period.
Coalition partners are rebuilding critical infrastructure and helping the Afghan people to establish an interim government. Together, these coalition nations from all over the globe have gathered a great amount of intelligence information that's yielded the kind of knowledge that enables us to deal with terrorist organizations and thwart their plans. Indeed, I should point out that just over this past weekend, a number of pieces of intelligence were gathered in Afghanistan that are already proving to be valuable.
Hundreds of terrorists have been captured around the world, including some high-level al Qaeda operators like Abu Zubaydah, who trained many of the murderers who are still at large in the world. We're working with many nations to freeze financial assets and to limit the reach and the power of these terrorists
Most important, we've made known to all nations that countries that facilitate and finance and shelter terrorists or that indeed fail to condemn terrorist acts are, in effect, supporting terrorism and are on the wrong side. And we pledge to continue our efforts until sanctuaries are gone, until networks with global reach are found and stopped and destroyed, and until our people can enjoy freedom without fear.
The founding fathers understood the value of freedom and the importance of defending it, as has every generation of Americans since. And we are no different today, except that we understand that not only our freedom but the freedom of the civilized world is at stake in the war against terrorism. And like our forefathers, we call not on this state or that state but on every state to help us.
Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And good afternoon.
Rumsfeld: We're glad you could drop by. (laughter) I should add that.
Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Always good to be here with you.
As many of you know, yesterday was the six-month anniversary of the U.S. military -- start of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. And while we have achieved significant success there, as the secretary said, there still remains much work to be done. Our surveillance and reconnaissance operations are continuing throughout Afghanistan, looking for pockets of al Qaeda and the Taliban.
But this is not just a war we're fighting on one front, in Afghanistan. This is a global war on terrorism that, as we've said many times -- and we are assisting nations that want help in this effort. We have military forces in the Philippines, assisting and training their military, and we have announced our intentions to send military forces to Yemen to assist with the training of their counterterrorist forces, as well.
We are also intercepting ships at sea, looking for people and materiel, intelligence and equipment that support terrorists in these efforts. Our men and women in uniform, I think you'll agree, are performing superbly, risking their safety to protect ours. The American people should be proud of the job their military is doing, but we should also be -- remember that we have a long path ahead of us. Yet we're well positioned to continue to bring the fight to the terrorists, wherever they try to hide.
With that, we'll take your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: Are you the next-senior person?
Q: Sure. (laughter)
Rumsfeld: Is that right?
Q: You bet!
Rumsfeld: I was looking for the junior-most person. (laughter)
Q: General Myers mentioned Yemen. Could you tell us where you are with your thinking on resuming the use of Aden as a refueling stop, and also, when you're going to actually begin the full-scale training there?
Rumsfeld: There are no current plans that I know of with respect to Aden.
Myers: I'm not aware of any, either.
Rumsfeld: I don't know even quite how to describe full- scale training. In the -- at the peak, it's going to be a relatively small number of American forces that are going to be in the country. They are going to be working closely with the Yemeni forces and cooperating in a variety of different ways. In some instances, they're going to be cooperating with respect to training for various types of direct action. In other instances, they may be assisting with airports and ports and techniques and ways that that country can do what it wants to do, which is to try to see that that does not become a haven for terrorists.
Q: Has that begun, or do you know when it will begin?
Myers: We are -- we have some people there that are doing the assessment, and it will start soon.
Q: So you're not aware of any agreement with the Yemeni government about security or use of Aden?
Rumsfeld: I'm not. No.
Myers: Not at this point.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Q: Mr. Secretary, could I ask you a question on an entirely different topic? Do you feel that environmental restrictions have impacted military readiness and training? And will you be seeking legislation to give you waiver power for those regulations?
Rumsfeld: I am really not the person to ask about that. I know that subject is coming up. And clearly anyone or any organization that functions in our society, in this country and in many countries, is faced with environmental laws, rules, regulations, requirements, preferences, and so, as a citizen, the Department of Defense lives with those things and deals with them. From time to time, as we do in other areas, we make recommendations for adjustments, and I've heard that there's some discussion taking place within the administration on that subject. Whether something will ultimately be proposed I simply don't know yet.
Q: Well, do you have any feeling that this is a greater problem since September 11th, or is it irrelevant?
Rumsfeld: I don't know the answer to the question, as to how it might have changed in the last period of months. It has been a problem for the department over decades. How it might have -- do you have any reason to believe it's been altered?
Myers: No, I can't, sir.
Rumsfeld: No. You just can't.
Q: Mr. Secretary, a question for General Myers, but as always, feel free to jump in if you so desire.
General, with all the intelligence that has been gathered, Operation Anaconda, over the past six months, without getting into how you've got it, specifically have there been any instances where planned terrorist attacks have been averted, absolutely disrupted, because of the intelligence that U.S. forces have gathered?
Myers: Well, I think we've mentioned some of those before. We clearly mentioned the one in Singapore, where we feel fairly certain we disrupted an operation -- Italy as well, perhaps in the Balkans.
Q: I was really referring to CONUS, but I mean the rest of them --
Myers: Well, I think, you know, again, it's very, very difficult to say. But I personally feel that we've probably had some impact there by either capturing or killing key al Qaeda leadership, by getting information that leads us down the road to other--either personalities or capabilities that we've been able to disrupt. You can't discount what we've done in the financial front. I say "we" broadly -- what the U.S. government and other governments have done in that regard, the civil law enforcement actions that have taken place. So I'm not -- I can't speak -- I can only speak for the military. But I think, across that broad front, that we've done a lot of things that have probably disrupted activities.
In some cases, you'll never know for sure, because the planning is so compartmented that it's -- you know, it's not well-known even throughout the al Qaeda organization. So to know specifically that you've disrupted something -- except for the cases I cited, I'd leave the rest to the law enforcement people to tell you.
Q: Can you help us understand what exactly is Operation Mountain Lion? What is its scope? Why is it that you haven't exactly run into any al Qaeda, apparently, in weeks and weeks now? And you mentioned at the beginning that this weekend you had gathered a number of pieces of intelligence that have proved to be valuable. Can you help us understand what that's all about?
Rumsfeld: Well, with respect to the latter piece, I could, but I won't. We have in fact in recent days gathered intelligence information in locations that had been not available to us previously that are now being examined and accessed in ways that will be -- have been already helpful and will be helpful.
(To General Myers) Mountain Lion, do you want to --
Myers: Barbara, Mountain Lion is a -- I would say a continuation of Operation Anaconda in the sense that it looks at other territory in the same general region of Afghanistan, looking for remaining pockets of al Qaeda and Taliban, often being helped by Afghans in the region. We're looking at -- we're getting clues from the Afghans in the area on where there might be caves, and so forth, or other compounds that are used, and so we go after those caves and compounds and gather the intelligence that the secretary --
Q: I guess my question is, you just --
Rumsfeld: There are a number of those going on at any given time.
Q: But Mountain Lion is in now a broad term applying to all this?
Myers: Right. Right.
Q: What I don't understand is, since Anaconda, it seems like you -- we don't -- haven't seen you run into al Qaeda. Where are they?
Rumsfeld: Well, they're where we said they have been. In Anaconda they congregated, and we then paid attention to them, and they decided to not congregate. A number of them were killed, a number of them left. And my guess is that, as I've said repeatedly, that we'll -- that they are in caves and tunnels, they're in villages, they're across borders all around 360 degrees of that country, and they're looking for an opportunity to reassemble and do damage. And if they can't do damage by reassemblying, I don't have a doubt in my mind but that they'll do damage in smaller units -- onesies and twosies -- and they'll be looking for opportunities to kill people. And we'll just have to keep putting pressure on them and find ways to keep them from doing that.
Q: I wanted to ask about the second American-born Taliban sitting in the brig in Norfolk.
Q: Apparently Justice is not interested in prosecuting him, so what will you do with him? Will you just keep him indefinitely in Norfolk, or do you have any plans about him?
Rumsfeld: I would not say that Justice is not interested in prosecuting him. I think that's the kind of thing that, as you detain a person and gather more knowledge about that person, and from that person or from other people, then judgments may change and you may make a decision as to how you want to handle somebody. And I think it's a little early to be concluding that any judgment like that would be conclusive. In the meantime, he's a guest of the united States government in the brig in Norfolk. It's where he belongs.
Q: As an American citizen, can you --
Rumsfeld: We think he is an American citizen. He probably is a dual citizen. He apparently did -- may have been born in Louisiana, and there appears to be a birth certificate that may relate to him.
Q: And can the U.S. military hold him indefinitely, like any other foreign combatant?
Rumsfeld: I'm going to let the lawyers worry about all of that.
Q: And in your opening remarks, you mentioned Abu Zubaydah. Last week you said one of the primary concerns was keeping him alive, because of the wounds suffered when he was captured.
Rumsfeld: He's alive.
Q: Can you tell us what kind of shape he's in today? And is he cooperating with U.S. investigators.
Rumsfeld: He is alive and he's being treated.
Q: Is he cooperating? Is he --
Rumsfeld: I don't know that I want to give a day-to-day report on his -- how enthusiastic he is about his situation. He is not well. He's got several bullet holes in him, that may very likely have been fired by some of the people with him. And how fast he'll recover and when he'll start cooperating, time will tell.
Q: You said --
Rumsfeld: I'm not going to be giving daily reports on --
Q: You said the bullet wounds could have been suffered from people who he was aligned with. Does that mean there was some kind of suicide pact, or they tried to kill him so he wouldn't be taken prisoner? What do you mean by that?
Rumsfeld: There was gunfire on both sides when they were captured. And it is not clear exactly where the bullets came from. Not that it matters much.
Q: But do you mean to imply that perhaps he was to be killed by his own people if it looked like he was going to be taken into custody?
Rumsfeld: No. No, I don't think I do mean that. I just mean it's not clear -- I mean exactly what I said. It's not clear where the bullets came from. It could be -- I was thinking of it not as an intentional act but as an unintentional act in a confused gunfight.
Q: Well, we assume the worst, so -- (laughter) -- we start from that premise.
Q: Will he be sent to Guantanamo Bay at some point, do you think? Zubaydah?
Rumsfeld: Oh, Zubaydah?
Rumsfeld: I have no idea. Time will tell. He's high enough up that he merits some very special attention.
Q: Where is he now?
Q: Also, have any Arab countries at this point, because of the Israeli and Palestinian situation, warned about reduced cooperation with the U.S. military?
Rumsfeld: Not to my knowledge.
Q: Mr. Secretary, in recent days you've talked about Saddam Hussein and his actions possibly funding suicide bombers or the families of them. Can we get your reaction to --
Rumsfeld: I don't think that's a "possible" -- I think he's announced that. It's a matter of public record. I think it's $10,000 that Saddam Hussein is offering of the Iraq people's money for people who are killed in the intifada, and $25,000 -- it's, you know, two and a half times as much -- for those who are going to strap bombs on themselves and be suicide bombers and, in the process, kill themselves as well as a lot of other innocent people.
Q: And your reaction, today there was an announcement that he's going to suspend Iraqi oil exports in protest of the situation in Israel.
Rumsfeld: I don't have any reaction. He's done that before, as I recall.
Q: Mr. Secretary, on the efforts to help other nations, what is the latest on the Philippines? Have the number of U.S. troops there been increased, and what's happening there?
Rumsfeld: No, they haven't; the troops have not been increased. What's happening is what was happening. And there are some proposals being discussed internally as to what in addition might be done, if anything. But they're in the thinking stage and they have not been brought to me in a final form, nor have I made any recommendation to the president.
Q: Would it be in the number of 200, if it would be -- if it were to be increased?
Rumsfeld: We haven't decided. Yeah, it just isn't -- it isn't; it doesn't exist. There isn't an "it".
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: Mr. Secretary, in marking the six months of the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan, can you say today that you have achieved what you wanted to achieve in Afghanistan, what many Americans and people across the globe are asking. That the major players are still at large, they have not been captured; you have only small ones, which are not -- (inaudible) -- people, especially suffering from the 9/11 in New York. And many of them also believe that al Qaeda and Talibans are not -- many in Afghanistan, but across the border in Pakistan. So what are we going to do? And what message do you have for those who are still fearing terrorism?
Rumsfeld: Well, you're right, we have captured some of the senior people -- al Qaeda and Taliban. We have killed some of the senior people -- al Qaeda and Taliban. And some of the senior people -- al Qaeda and Taliban -- are still at large. And we're still looking for them.
It is interesting to me that Osama bin Laden doesn't seem to be putting out any videotapes lately.
Q: He did a letter --
Rumsfeld: Well, he may or may not have. I don't know that he did, but the reason I mention it is because the goal -- our goal was to try to stop terrorism, to the extent we could. And that means putting pressure on them, and to the extent enough pressure is applied that they have to stay so busy surviving, moving from place to place, trying to raise money, trying to raise recruits, trying to move weapons and capabilities from one place to another. That is not your preferred outcome, but it is a better outcome than nothing. If you put enough pressure on it so that it makes their lives more difficult, you have, indeed, accomplished something, it seems to me.
Q: Mr. Secretary, to get you back for a moment --
Myers: Excuse me. Let me just add, just to put this in a little bit more context, if I might, Mr. Secretary: We've always said, standing up here, the secretary has said, and I've said, and, more importantly, the president has said that we expect this to be a very, very long process. We've been at this for six months. We've talked about this in terms of years. And so we've got to remember that. We've never said Afghanistan would be the last part of our war on terrorism. All we said was it would be the beginning and certainly not the finish. And the goal there was never after specific individuals; it was to disrupt the terrorists, return Afghanistan to the people of Afghanistan and continue this fight. And I think that's --
Rumsfeld: Exactly right.
Q: If I could go back for a moment to the question of the second American Taliban: I gather from your remarks a moment ago that there's no present plan to transfer him to the Department of Justice. If that's so, why was it necessary to bring him to this country? Are there others from Guantanamo that perhaps have also been brought to this country quietly and were housed in other military facilities?
Rumsfeld: You thought that that fellow was brought in quietly? (laughter) You better get a dictionary.
Q: (off mike) -- for him that allowed you to do it more quietly, in other words. (laughter)
Rumsfeld: Have others been brought in from Gitmo? I can't recall any. Might others be? I suppose others might be. We don't have any plans to bring any others in.
Q: And how about the part of the question, since apparently there is no present plan to turn him over to Justice, why did you bring him?
Rumsfeld: Well, he has apparently reasonable claim to American citizenship. The others do not. Therefore, I -- bringing him to a more permanent facility here that exists where, if, in fact, he is an American, he can be dealt with under laws that would be appropriate for an American. I don't know. The lawyers think about all those niceties --
Q: Do you have a time line for that?
Rumsfeld: Pardon me?
Q: Do you have a time line for that, as to how long that'll take?
Rumsfeld: How long what will take?
Q: How long it'll take to determine whether or not he is -- he can be held here or maybe moved back to -- moved to Guantanamo or --
Rumsfeld: I doubt if he'll be moved back to Guantanamo. I think he'll be held here, and at some point the lawyers will decide what they want to do with him, and they'll either keep him and try to get information from him, or they'll send him back home because he's not interesting, or they'll try him under one of the alternative opportunities we have (under) the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the criminal justice system, or a military commission.
Q: And what was the reason for the stopover in Dulles on Friday? Was that just lawyers again?
Rumsfeld: I suppose. (laughter) It wasn't to save money on gas, I don't -- (laughter) --
Q: It now appears that the government of Saudi Arabia, as well as Iraq, has been making payments to the families of the suicide bombers. Given what you've said about what you think about the Iraqi policy, I'm wondering what's your reaction to that.
Rumsfeld: I have no information whatsoever that suggests that the government of Saudi Arabia is doing what Iraq is.
Q: There's apparently some item on their website where they say that they have set up a fund for martyrs.
Rumsfeld: No information on that.
Q: General Myers, a readiness question. Six months into the fight here, one of the key vulnerabilities of the U.S. military is the tanker fleet. The Air Force has said everything brought into Afghanistan is going by tanker. It's been pretty well known that the tanker fleet was having a lot of problems early on in terms of readiness over the last year. Can you give us a snapshot look in terms of the readiness of the tanker fleet? And are you crafting new basing methods to reduce wear and tear on the fleet?
The reason I ask is the Pentagon wants to buy -- lease a hundred of these things from Boeing -- new ones.
Rumsfeld: "The Pentagon wants"?
Q: The Air Force --
Rumsfeld: Buildings don't want. (scattered laughter)
Q: People in the Pentagon want. We need some more tankers. It's a problem --
(cross talk, scattered laughter.)
Rumsfeld: People in the Pentagon. Where? Who?
Q: Air Force Secretary James Roche, and I think your own staff wants to.
Rumsfeld: We want to lease air --
Q: Air tankers --
Q: -- to alleviate the pressure on the old fleet we have now. I just want a snapshot on readiness of the fleet at the moment.
Myers: Well, first of all, you're -- the fact is that tankers are very, very important to us in our ability to mobilize and deploy long distances.
The fleet is relatively healthy. These are older aircraft, but the have lots of flying hours left on them. I'm talking about the 135s now. As you know, they've been re-engined. We're putting new avionics in the cockpit. There's been a lot of work done on those particular aircraft to keep them modern and an ability to fly in our air traffic control system both in the Pacific and across the Atlantic to Europe. Having said that, there is a fairly high percentage of these tankers that are in depot maintenance for corrosion control; higher than you would want, but that goes back to the design of the aircraft, and that's just the way it is. And we'll work our way through that.
And part of the last question -- the last part of the question, where we're talking about lease, that is an Air Force issue. The Air Force is looking at that, and they have not brought that to me or to the secretary.
Q: On the joint perspective, do you think that you can manage the issues where you have many tankers in for depot maintenance and yet have a viable number to fly to the Philippines and to Yemen and to Afghanistan?
Myers: Right. And we're managing that. And there's lots of things -- there's lots of techniques we can use, that I'd prefer not to go into right now, that we can use to manage our strategic lift capability.
QMr. Secretary, in your discussion today with Alan Greenspan, did he express concern that --
Rumsfeld: How did you know I had lunch with Alan Greenspan?! (laughter)
Q: Oh, we didn't.
Q: Now we know! (laughter)
Q: Did he express concern that events in the Middle East and military action is driving up the price of oil and --
Q: -- possibly might hurt the economic expansion?
Rumsfeld: That's wonderful. Everyone hangs on every one of Alan's words, and you expect me to have lunch with him and come down here and speak for him? Not a chance. (laughter)
He's a friend from back in the 1960s, when I was on the Joint Economic Committee and he was in private business. He was an adviser to the committee. And he's a friend today and we had a very good talk about a whole lot of things, and it was a private meeting. And the subject you raised did not come up in that context.
Q: Are you concerned about --
Q: As you have already acknowledged, after six months of a military campaign, the U.S. has been unable to apprehend either the head of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, or the head of the Taliban government. One of the president's stated goals down the road is to change the government in Iraq. Any lessons that you have learned from the experience in Afghanistan that might be applied to future activities about the difficulty of going after individuals and removing them from power?
Rumsfeld: There are undoubtedly going to be a lot of lessons. I hope there are. I hope we learn every single day. Indeed, we've had a group of outside experts as well as some inside folks looking at lessons learned, and we have been doing that since the first three months after September 11th. And we have already taken a number of things that they suggested and have thought about them, discussed them with General -- General Franks and OSD and the Joint Staff jointly sponsored these "lesson learned" activities, and a number of them are already being cranked into Tom Franks' efforts and being made aware to the other CINCs around the world.
In addition, they're being -- undoubtedly will be reflected in the Defense Planning Guidance, which will be coming out sometime soon, one would think. So, yeah, within a month or so or two or --
Myers: I think even -- maybe even less than that, sir.
Rumsfeld: Maybe even less.
I don't know that I would go to the point that you narrowed it down to (but that it does) teach you about the difficulty of finding an individual. I don't know that anyone can be taught much on that, except everyone knows it's hard, otherwise there wouldn't be a 10 Most Wanted List in the FBI, where people are on there for 20 and 30 years. It's hard to find an individual.
That's why when we began this thing I did not personalize it into UBL or Omar. We said our task is to do what we said it was. We're working on that. We're having good success. And there are people who are still -- you know, some of the Nazi war criminals weren't caught for years afterwards, years. They found them in South America. So does that mean that we didn't win World War II? No.
Q: But you're not daunted --
Rumsfeld: Not even slightly --
Q: -- if Saddam Hussein, if you go after him, you are not daunted by the fact that he may be another needle in a haystack by the time you actually try to unseat his government?
Rumsfeld: It's not going to be a very pretty haystack, if it ever happened. And the task -- the discussions that have taken place about that have been in Congress on regime change, and there's lots of ways for that to occur. There have been a lot of people who have discussed it and -- in this country and other countries. What will eventually happen, I'm not going to say or even speculate.
But the task in Afghanistan was to get the al Qaeda and the Taliban out of there and have the interim authority take over. They've done that. And to have it not be a haven for terrorists, and it is not a haven for terrorists at the present time.
Q: Mr. Secretary, CIA Director Tenet is currently reviewing how to streamline and improve the intelligence flow in the government. One of the things he's looking at is having all of the agencies report to the CIA director instead of some of them reporting -- some of the Defense intelligence agencies reporting to you. Are you comfortable with that notion of having everything go channeled through the CIA, all the intelligence?
Rumsfeld: Well, we've -- Brent Scowcroft had a report that had some -- a number of -- what would you call them? -- descriptives, concerns, about intelligence gathering that properly raised some issues about various activities and how they're working and how they might work better, that were quite useful. He also had some proposals how you would move boxes and change lines, and both have been discussed in the government. Nothing has been decided with respect to it. And indeed, I don't believe that it's correct to say, as you say, that George Tenet has landed on any of those specifically, because I had lunch with him Friday, and he seemed to feel that he had not.
Q: You don't think anybody -- they're not impinging on your turf?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I really don't look at it that way. I look at it, what's the best way to do it? And I've always felt that in intelligence gathering, as in research and development, what you need is multiple sources of information. And it is -- those types of things are the few things where you may lose more by going for efficiency, by centralization, than you gain. You lose more than you get in -- often, if you do that.
For example, pharmaceutical companies make a practice of having research and development activities in different countries and different states, recognizing that may cost a little more, may be a little less efficient, but in fact, you're not looking for efficiency, you're looking for creativity, you're looking for innovation, you're looking for information, in the case of intelligence gathering. And to be dependent upon a single source or a single line or a single viewpoint is probably not a great idea. I doubt if it will happen. Don't know. We'll see.
Q: So six months and a day after the war began, can you look out for us over the next six months or a year? What you said earlier, in characterizing what's been going on now, is that al Qaeda and the Taliban, they're not clumping up into large sort of easily militarily manageable groups. So if they continue to stay separate and the U.S. is there as kind of a harassing force to keep them separate and to keep sort of a lid on things, keep the pressure on, as you said, how do you see that ending? Is it a question of, if that's how this is going to be for the rest of the time, if there's not going to be some big group, do you just wait until the Afghan national army can take over that sort of pressure perspective, or the pressure role that the U.S. is playing now?
Rumsfeld: I think that that's a likely --
Q: You think that's a likely --
Rumsfeld: -- outcome; that you would certainly want to have the government and its various assets -- border patrols, local police, military -- capable of providing a reasonably stable environment so that the Taliban and al Qaeda didn't come back in and seize control or start training terrorists again or doing things that we went in to stop them from doing. And my guess is that would probably be what would ultimately occur.
Q: Would you agree that it's probably unreasonable to expect that every single al Qaeda member and every single Taliban member can be eradicated, given the porous border and --
Rumsfeld: I think that's reasonable. Yeah.
Q: Can I follow up on that?
Rumsfeld: I mean, that's like suggesting, "Is all crime in America going to end?" The answer --
Q: But at the end of this, the U.S. is just going to have to be satisfied that some are left and Afghanistan can take care of them and keep it from --
Rumsfeld: You'd want to have an environment that was reasonably hospitable to the government people going about their business, going to school, trade with other countries and -- and that's -- that'll take a little time, I would think.
We'll take one last question.
Q: Can I follow up on that?
Rumsfeld: You don't even have to do it quickly. (Laughter.) You can do it any way you want.
Q: Well, let me ask it another way: Six months --
Rumsfeld: Ask Dick Myers. He came in last; he ought to get the last one.
Q: Well, I'd like you both to comment on it.
Six months into this, you could argue that the measure of stability that has been brought to Afghanistan is unraveling. Just in recent days, the assassination attempt, evidence of some plot to, quote-unquote, "overthrow" this government -- have recent events in any way changed your outlook on what the U.S. needs to do between now and when that date does arrive, when government can handle this, itself? And have you changed your strategy at all? Because obviously, you can't hunt these guys down if there's no central government -- or not a stable one that is supported by the people.
Rumsfeld: In Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld: Well, there are degrees of stability, and they run across that the spectrum. And if you're looking for a Western European stability of their government, why, you're probably right that that is a likelihood in the next 15 minutes that's not -- that's rather modest. For that part of the world -- (chuckles) -- can you get relative stability? Sure. Is it likely that this government -- interim government will be succeeded by something other than an interim government? Yes, I think it will be. Will it -- does it mean that there'll be the end of highway robbery in that country? No. Will there still be people moving across borders and doing bad things? Sure. But the world's not a perfectly tidy place. And I think your characterization of "unraveling" is misplaced. It reminded me of "quagmire," almost. (Murmurs, soft laughter.)
Q: There's a growing list of verboten words.
Q: "Iron maiden."
Q: I guess the question is, if you --
Rumsfeld: Just a minute. Let me -- I pause to smile but not to take a breath. (laughter) The -- it isn't unraveling at all. Indeed, it's really been kind of impressive that -- what's taken place. If you're going to try to hold Afghanistan to a standard of tidiness and stability that you're going to find in the United States, you're not going to find it. Does that mean something's unraveling? No. Indeed, it is that the environment there, compared to six months ago, is so much better than it was that the very thought -- I don't know how your mind even found that word to characterize what's taking place; it's such a stretch. (scattered laughter)
(chuckles) I mean, it seems to me that the humanitarian workers are moving around, and people are doing things. Their hospitals are treating patients. Schools are open. People are going to school. Food's being distributed. An army's being trained. I mean, I don't want to overstate it, but goodness gracious, let's not think we're going to -- we're pulling a thread on a cable-knit sweater and it's going to unravel before our eyes. It's just not happening.
Q: Do you think the fact that they've busted up that group is an indication that the government is strong or is an indication of weakness?
Rumsfeld: Busted up what group?
Q: Last week they arrested 300 folks that they thought were plotting some kind of action against the government --
Rumsfeld: Oh, the government action.
Rumsfeld: I see.
Q: Is that an indication of strength, because they were able to do it, or an indication of weakness, because that group existed in the first place?
Rumsfeld: Well, I would not call it weakness. I would not call it weakness because it existed, because everyone knows those things exist. And there was an attack on Fahim Khan recently. But I mean, we have -- there isn't a country in that region that doesn't have attacks from time to time. We've had things happen in the United States where government officials have been attacked. And so I don't think that it is a sign of weakness or strength. I think it's just a sign of the times.
What you have is a government that is going to field problems as they occur. It's going to successfully stop some. It's going to capture people after the fact in the case of others. And life will bump along in an imperfect, somewhat untidy way, and the country will be vastly better off than it was six months ago; let there be no doubt.
Thank you very much. Good to see you all.
Q: Come back and see us.
Rumsfeld: All right.
Q: I'm sorry, sir. We have no more questions. We really don't have time. (laughter)
Q: We'd like to ask a few more, but we're --
Q: Sir, we'd like to ask you stay, but --
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