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DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Pace

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 04, 2002 1:00 PM EDT

(Also participating was Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff)

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon.

I plan to depart for Europe this evening, stopping first in London, where I'll meet General Myers. And we will have an opportunity to thank the folks at the defense ministry for Britain's strong support in the war on terrorism and discuss with them the way ahead with respect to the global war on terrorism. I'll then go to Brussels for the biannual meeting of NATO defense ministers.

From the very first day after the September 11th attacks, NATO nations have played a critical role in the global war on terrorism. They've contributed air and sea and ground forces, as well as intelligence, humanitarian assistance, ships, planes, aerial surveillance, leadership interdiction, maritime interception operations, combat air patrols, airlift, basing, refueling, overflight, mine clearing and special operations, as you know, because there are currently some activities of that type going on. Their contributions have not been without cost; allied troops have been killed and wounded in the war on terror, and we're very grateful for their support and their sacrifice.

During our meetings at NATO, we will discuss the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorist movements and terrorist states and how the alliance has to transform to deal with those threats. I'll have a number of bilateral meetings on the edges of the NATO meetings, including a meeting with the minister of defense of Russia, Sergei Ivanvov, to discuss a range of issues, including South Asia.

After Brussels, I'll stop in Germany to visit with some NATO AWACS crews who patrolled U.S. skies, helping to protect our country in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. Some 830 crewmembers from 13 NATO countries flew nearly 4,300 hours and over 360 operational sorties over the United States before returning home on May 15th. I look forward to meeting some of them and having a chance to thank them personally for helping to defend our country.

I then will stop in Estonia for the annual meeting of the Nordic-Baltic defense ministers. Each of those countries is making helpful contributions to the war on terrorism. We'll discuss ways we can improve our defense cooperation in the period ahead, and I'll have some bilateral meetings there, as well.

I also hope to visit several Persian Gulf states, important U.S. friends and allies who are helping in the war effort. The last time I was in the Gulf region, I was not able to get around to as many countries as I had hoped. And needless to say, we have a long-standing interest in the security and stability of that region. I will certainly reaffirm our country's commitment to the region and visit with some of the troops that are stationed there as well.

I also hope to stop in India and Pakistan before returning home. The U.S. has a growing defense and security relationship with each of those countries. We've been actively working to strengthen our military-to-military relationships with these important South Asian nations. Each is important to us. I look forward to again meeting with their senior leadership.

And we'd be happy to respond to questions. Yes, Charlie?

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said you hoped to stop in India and Pakistan. I assume you plan to stop there.

Rumsfeld: I do plan. That's a better word.

Q: And --

Rumsfeld: We're working out dates and times because the schedule's been in a state of some flux, and folks in those countries have travels as well. So we're trying to mesh schedules.

Q: I see. Do you see any easing of the tension in that area? And might you offer some plan or some road map for the two countries, perhaps, to ease the tensions now, given the nuclear danger in that area?

Rumsfeld: You know, commenting on the first part of your question, as to whether or not you see some easing, I'm -- suspect General Pace feels the same way -- we see several times a day reports on various aspects of the situation in -- between India and Pakistan. And it's quite true that at various times during the day, you might say, "My goodness, that's a good sign," or "My goodness, that's not such a good sign." And it happens that from day to day it shifts and changes somewhat. So I don't know that trying to reach in and comment on the situation at any given moment necessarily, absent a trend -- if there's a trend, it's worth commenting on it. If it's simply a daily or hourly fluctuation, it probably isn't.

In terms of our country's role there, needless to say, the president of the United States and Secretary Powell and the -- our ambassadors and leaders from other countries have all had a very active interest and involvement. Deputy Secretary Armitage will be going in sometime in the latter portion of this week. And I think that very likely what we'll do is I'll have a chance to meet with him or talk with him after he has completed his visits. And we'll see what happens.

Q: Mr. Secretary, may I do a follow-up on that, please? As you probably know, both sides are refusing to meet with Russian President Putin face to face, so apparently he's going to have to meet with them individually.

Rumsfeld: I don't know that that's true.

Q: Okay, well, given that your knowledge is certainly better than mine, but it's just what I hear. But even if they do, and with the full-court international press to try and resolve the issue between India and Pakistan, with Dick Armitage going and then you going, one would have to ask, are you being thrown into the breach? I mean, we know you're a bright, resourceful guy, but what do you really hope to accomplish here? What can you do that the rest of them are not or have not done?

Rumsfeld: Well, no, I'm not being thrown into any breach. We have a -- I have been to those countries previously. I have met with their leadership there and in this country, as have other senior officials of our government. It is a continuing process. They're important countries in the world, and we have relationships with each that we value and that have been strengthening over the past year-plus. And we value them. They're -- the visits that -- and phone conversations and meetings that take place are all part of a continuum.

Q: One would have to ask why now, sir? I mean, what do you hope to accomplish as far as, you know, preventing war between those two nations?

Rumsfeld: They are two sovereign nations that are going to make their own decisions. They're going to do it based on their best information. And they are, as is not surprising, taking their own counsel and visiting with people from other countries, multiple countries, on a continuing basis.

Q: What's your point in going to Pakistan? You talked a little bit about efforts to root out al Qaeda in the northwest areas. General Hagenbeck said, I think, there are roughly 1,000 al Qaeda up there as well as Taliban and al Qaeda leadership. Can you talk about what's going on to get to those people? Is Pakistan doing the job, and do you hope to get more U.S. support in there to --

Rumsfeld: Pakistan still has their divisions along the border. And for that, we're pleased. Pakistan, as you know, we've announced on several occasions -- one notable one where some 11 different sites were hit by the Pakistan government officials, as well as with some U.S. cooperation. There were, I believe, over 50 people captured during that period and a large number of items which add to the intelligence knowledge of those who are involved in this coalition.

There have been other such activities of a smaller size, and those types of things have been continuing. I don't intend to talk about any current ones or prospective ones, but I think it's obvious that Pakistan has been quite cooperative.

Q: Sir, since Pakistan has moved some of its assets away from the border, are you seeing that the India-Pakistan problem has begun at all to affect the fight against al Qaeda or Pakistan's contributions to the fight against al Qaeda?

Rumsfeld: The elements that have moved away from the Afghan border area have, as I said, been relatively small, modest elements and not larger units. The larger units are still there. And -- is the tension between Pakistan and India a distraction from the efforts against the global war on terrorism? Why, I would say yeah. Has it specifically damaged in -- oh, precise ways what we're trying to do? Not that I know of.

Yes.

Q: Have you seen any evidence or do you have any concern that elements of al Qaeda may be trying to exploit that tension, perhaps by creating some incidents in that area or even in Kashmir, itself, in order to bring about precisely that diversion that you say has not been -- (inaudible)?

Rumsfeld: Let me think if I can -- (to General Pace) -- I couldn't specifically identify anything, could you?

Pace: No, sir. I -- nothing specific, but it would be certainly reasonable to expect that they would try to exploit this.

Rumsfeld: It would be, you know, most unfortunate if someone saw it in their interest to create incidents on either side of the LOC or the border in the hope that those incidents would be judged to be by the other party and thereby incite people to activities they would otherwise avoid. But I don't know of any instances of that happening.

Yes.

Q: What are your recent thoughts about expanding or extending a mission in the Philippines? And what is your thought generally about the mission in the Philippines?

Rumsfeld: Well, Pete, you may want to jump in, but thus far, the mission in the Philippines has proceeded in precisely the way it was intended. It has gone well. The reception on the part of the Filipino people, from everything I can tell, has been very positive. The attitude of the Philippine government has been very positive, from everything I can tell. You may recall in the early days there had been some -- oh, public debate among various elements of the Philippine government as to what ought to be done or how much ought to be done or in what way things ought to be done. And that, to my knowledge, has been -- completely disappeared. And from everything I can tell, there is a very positive attitude about the activities of U.S. troops there, both from the standpoint of the training and also from the standpoint of the civil affairs.

With respect to what the next step might be -- as everyone has read in the paper for weeks now, various people have proposed that there be some sort of a follow-on step -- that is under consideration.

Q: And have you made a decision about extending it past the July deadline? And also, during Wolfowitz's trip they were saying that they hoped that the military might be able to go out with the Filipino forces and have trainers with the Filipino forces.

Rumsfeld: I've read all of that. And no, I've not made a decision on it.

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, while we're on the subject of your thoughts, I'm just curious as to what your thoughts are at this point regarding what members of Congress are investigating regarding the intelligence, communications, et cetera, pre-September 11th. And the reason I ask you this is because there were 189 people who died in this building, and I'm just wondering what your thoughts are about the communications between the FBI, the CIA and those kinds of things?

Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know that I can add anything to it, really. I, like everyone else, have been reading various things in the newspapers. But my impression is that the congressional committees -- or I guess it's a single committee -- (Aside) -- Is it a joint committee?

Pace: Sir, I'm not sure.

Q: Joint.

Q: Joint.

Rumsfeld: It is a joint committee? Is -- is -- has been gathering mountains of information, which they have been analyzing and considering, and that they're now at the beginning stage, I believe, of starting to call people forward to discuss it with them, which, as a former member of Congress, I must say, I think that's a perfectly orderly process and a proper thing to do.

Q: Well, do you see any -- did you see any lapses, do you think, in this? (Off mike) -- bluntly.

Rumsfeld: Well, I haven't -- you know, to comment on that, one would hope that the people commenting would have invested the kind of time so that they could comment knowledgeably, and I haven't. In other words, I just haven't had the time to sit down and go through this mountain of material that apparently is being gathered together to -- from all across the government, so that people can analyze it. There's dozens and dozens of people poring over all this, trying to learn what happened and what took place. Clearly everyone has an interest in knowing what took place, and -- as do I. But in terms of feeling that I'm in a position to comment authoritatively, I'm simply not.

Q: Mr. Secretary, does the United States have a good feel in India and Pakistan for the command and control mechanisms in both countries that are in place and would presumably be exercised if those two countries were to ever go nuclear? In other words, do you have a sense of how the nuclear weapons are controlled and how they would be released if it were ever to come to that? Do you have some confidence in those mechanisms?

Rumsfeld: I guess what I would say is, if the import of that question is, do we have confidence that they have procedures and that they understand their procedures, and that they recognize the power of those weapons and the importance of them being managed and controlled, I would say yes, I do have confidence that the leadership in those two countries are fully respectful of the power of the weapons and the importance of their being managed and controlled in a way that reflects that fact.

If you're asking, does the United States have detailed knowledge of all of that -- but clearly, countries properly maintain a reasonable degree of security and secrecy about how they manage things, and that is not surprising -- that each of those countries do that. So I am sure there's a great deal that nobody knows, except the individual country.

(To the general.) Is that what your estimate would be, Pete?

Pace: Yes, sir. It sure is.

Q: The confidence issue goes to whether or not you have confidence that these governments, these militaries have full control over the mechanisms for release of these small nuclear -- small but deadly nuclear arsenals.

Rumsfeld: And I think I answered that rather well. I did.

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Rumsfeld: Do I have a vote on it? No. (Laughter.)

Pace: I think you did great, sir.

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.)

Q: Can we go back to the Philippines for one second?

Rumsfeld: Why don't we let a few of the other folks here have a question?

Q: Yeah, Mr. Secretary. Do you -- are you worried that the -- a possible war in India -- between India and Pakistan could threaten the U.S. troops in Afghanistan, even their very presence there?

Rumsfeld: I think that -- how do I say this? -- clearly no one wants a conflict between those two countries, of any type, in any location. It -- they -- that thought is something that is what a great many people in this government and other governments and, I'm sure, in those two governments are hoping will not happen. And I don't know that elaborating more than I have adds anything to the discussion.

Yes?

Q: Sir, when you said small and modest elements of Pakistani troops have been moved away from the Afghan border, are you talking squad-level companies --

Rumsfeld: Oh, handfuls of people -- some reconnaissance people or some communication elements, but nothing like large elements of troops.

Okay.

Q: Mr. Secretary, I want to follow up on Tom's question about this notion that remnants of al Qaeda could be in Pakistan or Kashmir helping the Islamic militants foment violence over there. Are you saying you don't -- you have not seen any intelligence to indicate that fact, to corroborate all these reports that have been floating around, or you just haven't looked, or it hasn't been brought to your attention?

Rumsfeld: I can't remember. I've seen speculation that there are -- oh, we're reasonably confident that there are al Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan.

Q: Right.

Rumsfeld: We -- as I'm sure they are in Iran and other neighboring countries -- that had been in Afghanistan and have been driven out.

To what extent they're involved in the Kashmir situation precisely -- you've seen pictures of that area. It is a tough area. And it's 15 to 20,000 feet high, and it's mountainous, and it's hard to know what's going on up there.

Q: Because the intelligence is unclear or fuzzy in terms of the action, then --

Rumsfeld: Well, people make -- there's a lot of misinformation that flies around. People suggest that, you know, Joe did it. So there's that type of thing. I just don't know. (To the general.) Do you have better knowledge of that?

Pace: I do not, sir.

Rumsfeld: That's a relief. We must be reading the same things.

Q: The intelligence you're getting, General Pace, doesn't verify one -- it doesn't add -- shed light one way or the other?

Pace: I get the same intelligence the secretary does. And as in any situation, there is things that you know and things that you know you don't know, and then there's a pile of things that you don't know what you don't know, and it's hard to know at any point in time where you are in that -- on that complete spectrum.

Regardless, it would be prudent to assume that there are al Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan and that we should be trying to find ways that they may or may not be trying to influence and exploiting this particular problem.

Q: Prudent to assume, but not proven to any great depth by intelligence. Is that --

Pace: I have not seen anything that would lead me to believe one or the other, black or white, that that -- that there's a truth to be had at this moment about that, that we know about.

Rumsfeld: Way in the back.

Q: Neither India or Pakistan, for political -- for domestic reasons, can be seen to withdrawn or step back first, before the other, which would suggest -- it seems to suggest that anything has to be done simultaneously or in parallel tracks, as far as any progress. How do you try to synchronize what they do? And is that complicated if you can't meet with both countries together?

Rumsfeld: Well, look: I'm not going out there as some sort of a mediator, if that's the implication of your question. Secretary Armitage -- Deputy Secretary Armitage is going to be there. There are lots of people -- Mr. Putin's been meeting with them -- other -- Prime Minister Blair has met with each of the individuals. It is not possible to know how things will play out. But my guess is, and certainly my hope is, that two countries as important as they are will figure out ways to get from where they are to where the world would like them to be, which is in a less-tense situation.

Yes.

Q: But could you articulate for us what your message to these two nuclear powers will be?

Rumsfeld: Well, I could; it's not clear to me that that's a useful thing to do -- to -- if I'm going to meet with them, one would think you would want to tell them what you had on your mind, and it partly will depend on how things play out between now and then and what comes out of the Armitage meetings.

And it is -- let me just re-emphasize what's important: We have a relationship that has been developing well with Pakistan. We have a relationship that has been developing well with India. We put value in those relationships. We think they're important for our country. We also believe they're important for their countries. And our hope is that those relationships will be useful in having those two countries find their way to right decisions with respect to the tension that exists.

Yes.

Q: Mr. Secretary, this morning you're reported in The Washington Post as saying that al Qaeda appears to be active but that is not apparently being led by Osama bin Laden. Could you elaborate on that, and --

Rumsfeld: (Inaudible) -- elaborate on something I haven't seen? There's no question but that intelligence suggests that al Qaeda is active. That is to say that people are doing things who are connected to that global terrorist network. They're doing a range of things, like moving from place to place and moving money around and talking to each other and planning things and that type of thing. Now there's nothing new. There's no change there. If you get asked that question, you answer that question.

Then you had a piece of it regarding Osama bin Laden?

Q: (Off mike) -- the command structure.

Rumsfeld: The command structure?

Q: If Osama bin Laden is not running it, who is?

Rumsfeld: Well, as I think I probably said to The Washington Post, although I don't recall precisely what I said, but I'm sure it's roughly what I say all the time. And that is that there are clearly any number of people in that apparatus who are perfectly capable of knowing roughly where those bank accounts are; roughly who are the people that are trained; roughly where were they sent; and roughly what their skills and talents, if you want to call them skills and talents, are to kill innocent men, women and children. And it -- I have always believed that absent UBL there are probably a couple of handfuls of people who are perfectly capable of picking it up and going on. No one is indispensable.

Our task is to find the networks, wherever they are, and do everything to put pressure on them and to capture or kill them. And our assignment further is to try to put pressure on those countries that harbor them and provide safe haven so it won't happen. But in terms of any greater detail than that, I'd be surprised if I had some sort of magical insights beyond what I've just said.

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, back on the Philippines.

Rumsfeld: Ask Pete Pace a couple.

Q: Well, let me ask you both. The Filipino army commanders say that the mere presence of the United States on Basilan Island has done a great deal to quell Abu Sayyaf's activity there. Is that part of the reason why we're considering extending our stay there and possibly increasing the intensity of the U.S. soldiers' operations, allowing them to operate on a company basis instead of a battalion basis?

Pace: Want me to start?

Rumsfeld: Sure.

Pace: I think it's great that our counterparts in the Philippines are saying that our presence there has helped them. That's exactly what we hoped to do in going out to train alongside of them. The kinds of training we're doing, like the engineers, are honing skills that they would need anywhere in the world, but they're building roads and they're digging wells. So, as they hone their skills, they're also making life better for the people in the Philippines. The fact that that then assists in the quality of life on that island and reinforces the democracy that exists in that country is very good. And it would certainly be a reason for us to continue to look at the way ahead. But, as the secretary said, Admiral Fargo who is the commander in the Pacific, is looking at the situation, and he is going to come in to the secretary with his recommendation for the secretary to look at and make a decision.

Rumsfeld: I would agree with everything General Pace said, except I'd throw in one cautionary footnote. And that is that what the people in the Philippines are saying is undoubtedly exactly correct, that it has improved the circumstance on that island. However, the presence of U.S. forces there in improving the circumstances on that island may very well be a contributing factor to providing incentives for the terrorists that were on that island to leave that island and to go somewhere else.

So -- so my point being that you can improve the situation in one place by your presence, but unless you get the terrorists, you have not improved the situation net in the world. And there has been very little of getting terrorists in the Philippines thus far.

A parallel to that is that we've been told by folks that the small U.S. training presence in Georgia has led some folks to think, "Well, maybe Georgia isn't the best place to be, and maybe we'll go somewhere else and make mischief."

So you can't be everywhere in the world. And I don't deny for a minute that U.S. presence can be helpful in calming an area and dissuading people from thinking it's free play and easy to use that area as a terrorist training area. But unless you get them, unless you find them, unless you capture them, unless you stop them, they are still out there and they are going to move to a place that is a bit more hospitable than in this instance was the Philippines or another instance might be Georgia.

Q: If I could follow up, is this a model that has been successful enough so far that we would consider extending it to other areas in Southeast Asia?

Rumsfeld: I think the president talked a bit about that in his recent speech. What we have to do is a series of things. We have to, wherever we can find them, stop them. And to the extent there are countries like the Philippines and Georgia, as examples -- Yemen -- where they want to help and they want to be cooperative, and they would like some assistance and some training and ways to improve their skills in tracking down terrorists or defending their country against terrorist presence, then to the extent we can, we and other countries want to do that.

The same thing in Afghanistan. I mean, the French are helping train the Afghan army with us; the Germans are helping train the Afghan police forces. It's a similar thing.

Q: Is it possible, Mr. Secretary, under the expanded role that's under consideration, that U.S. troops could get involved in actual direct combat with some of the terrorist forces there in the Philippines?

Rumsfeld: Well sure. I mean, you -- anyone who would suggest that that couldn't happen I think would just not understand how confused life can be. If a terrorist decides they want to attack our folks, and they've indicated repeatedly in the intelligence that we gather that they'd like to, not just in the Philippines but anywhere on the face of the earth, and if you put your forces in locations other than right here in the United States, clearly, they're possible targets. We know that. And if they're targets, they could end up in combat. So that's the risk we take.

Q: And back to what the U.S. intelligence community may have known or didn't know before 9/11, based on what you know, do you believe there was a serious intelligence lapse leading up to 9/11? And do you think that if that information had been better handled, that the attacks on 9/11 could have been averted?

Rumsfeld: I've already answered that question. I would want to have invested an appropriate amount of time poring through literally thousands of documents and pieces of information to develop conviction about what I think on that. I'm interested. And I think it's perfectly appropriate that the government and that the Congress are interesting themselves in those questions. But for me to opine on that, having not invested the time necessary to have any conviction at all about it, would be a disservice, it seems.

Q: Question for General Pace.

Rumsfeld: Terrific! (Laughter.)

Q: General, you may have heard of this, but during Operation Anaconda, six Canadian snipers were very helpful to our troops, who at one point early on in the conflict were hunkered as the unfriendlies had the high ground and were lobbing mortars and RPGs down. And these snipers managed to help a great deal. In fact, one of them, using a 50-caliber sniper rifle, took out an unfriendly at a distance of what he says is 1,430 meters, about a mile and a half, which is an incredible shot. And these guys apparently did a great deal to allow our troops to advance and eventually get back to the conflict. And there has been a recommendation over there to award these Canadians some sort of recognition, some sort of U.S. medal. Are you aware of that? And will that be done as far as you know?

Pace: I'm not aware of it yet, but clearly the coalition effort over there has been very solid. I can give you an example of the AWACS crews that were flying here in the United States -- I know the secretary mentioned that earlier on in his comments -- looking at the appropriate way to recognize the great service they did to our country. It is well within the prerogatives of U.S. commanders on the ground to recommend troops from other countries for U.S. awards. And if they do that, I think that would be a great thing and it would come up the chain of command for the secretary's approval.

Rumsfeld: Yeah.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned a few moments ago that folks in the Philippines might want to leave, terrorists in the Philippines might want to leave. To the extent that they would do so, one way might be over water. Are you establishing any kind of quarantine or blockade similar to what you did off the coast of Pakistan earlier, to try and look for folks who might be leaving by water? And if not, why not?

Rumsfeld: When I said "leave," I didn't mean necessarily leave the Philippines; they could leave that island and relocate elsewhere in the Philippines or elsewhere. You're quite right.

There have been Navy ships in the region -- U.S. ships. If your question is, has there been something that one would characterize as a full-time quarantine around -- sealing that island from water escape, the answer is, not to my knowledge.

Pace: That's correct.

Rumsfeld: And it would be a sizable task, and it hasn't happened.

Q: A question for General Pace?

Rumsfeld: Sure.

Q: Marine Corps Times had an interesting story this week about U.S. military advisers looking at the Israeli incursion in Jenin for tips on urban warfare techniques. Are you familiar with that? And if so, what lessons have you drawn from it?

Pace: I am not familiar with the article. I do know that the Marine Corps specifically is very interested in honing its skills on combat in the urban terrain, has been doing so for many years and consistently and routinely goes out for lessons learned worldwide to help hone our skills.

Q: You don't know anything about -- pointing to the Jenin scene in particular for that?

Pace: Not particularly, but it wouldn't surprise me to be able to -- that the Marine Corps would be looking for lessons learned, because that is part of what they do routinely.

Q: Sir, can I clarify something on the Philippines issue? Are you saying that you have concluded that the terrorists have left Basilan Island and moved elsewhere and you have evidence to that effect? Or is that just a supposition based on the lack of captures or attacks, for instance?

Rumsfeld: No, I'm only saying that -- when one puts pressure in one location, one finds that a couple of things happen: People in that location feel the pressure and want to move, and they either do that successfully or unsuccessfully. And people thinking of using that area for terrorism tend to be dissuaded and go somewhere else. I didn't get into the question of where we think anybody is at any given time.

Q: To follow up on that: Sir, since two of your combatant commanders successively have suggested training at the company level and the possibility is foreseen in the agreement that was signed with the Philippine government, what would be your reason for not wanting to go ahead into that phase now? Do you feel it's not needed or haven't gotten around to it, or do you have major misgivings about it?

Rumsfeld: I just haven't had it presented to me in a way that I felt sufficiently comfortable that I understood what was involved, what the cost would be, what the numbers of people would be, what the benefit might be. And therefore, I'm kind of -- the kind of person who says, "Well, come back and come at me again with that."

Q: So it wasn't that on the other side there were really big concerns outweighing or anything --

Rumsfeld: No, it's not a matter of this or that, where you just have to decide it; it was a matter that I needed a greater -- I need a greater comfort level that I understand what I am recommending to the president this country get involved in, in terms of people, in terms of dollars, and in terms of potential benefit. I do that with a lot of things.

Q: From what arises your discomfort?

Rumsfeld: Just lack of sufficient knowledge on my part as to what people think they think.

Q: Would it be fair to say that General Pace would recommend that the mission be expanded, but you have not actually agreed to that, then?

Rumsfeld: That happens to be pretty close to true, but it wouldn't be fair to say it. (Laughter.)

Q: General Pace?

Pace: I will answer that. Remember, the chain of command for this country and its military goes from the secretary of Defense to his commander in the Pacific and the --

Rumsfeld: Actually it goes from the president --

Pace: Yes, sir.

Rumsfeld: -- to the secretary of Defense --

Pace: From the president to the secretary to -- so that, what I'm trying to get to, is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the vice chairman are not in that chain of command. And we are here to give our best military advice. And we listen to the data that comes in from the commanders in the field and we digest that based on our experience, and we make our recommendations to the secretary and he takes that and puts that into his body of knowledge and makes his own decision of what's going to happen.

Q: And your recommendation was?

Pace: Great -- it was a great recommendation. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: And I -- I do what I do. I ask a lot of questions and probe and push and try to satisfy myself that the people making recommendations have thought things through and understand the implications and have, to the extent possible, nailed down precisely what the benefit is to the country and what the burden is and what the time frames would be.

And then I have to take into account not just that issue in isolation, but then weigh that issue against other uses for money, other uses for people, talents, men and women in uniform, and compare those benefits against it. So you could end up agreeing completely with the people recommending something in a given instance and saying, in their shoes, you would do exactly the same thing and recommend the same thing, and still deciding no, not based on the fact that their judgment's wrong or bad, but when you've balanced it against other things that you have to take into account, which they don't. And so it's -- it is that type of a thing that I have -- that's my -- responsible to do -- my responsibility.

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Rumsfeld: It's different from the combatant commander. So the fact that two combatant commanders recommend something -- I forget who said that -- is fair enough. The predecessor and the current combatant commander in that region have recommended something. It's slightly different, but in the ballpark. And the fact that they each recommend it and one doesn't immediately say, "Terrific, let's do it," is not unreasonable.

Q: That presence ends in a little over six weeks, I think. Wouldn't preparations have to be made now to extend it?

Rumsfeld: We'll get it done in time.

Q: Could you say anything more about Georgia and terrorists leaving there -- any more information, give us numbers --

Rumsfeld: No. No, no, not at all. What you get is -- almost even before we went in, when we were talking about sending a modest number of people in, which is very recent, as you know, although the talks started months before, you begin to get little information that people are thinking that, well, hmm, the United States is going to have some folks in there; obviously, they're going to be a little more helpful to Georgia than they were before, and Georgia's part of the NATO Partnership for Peace, and they're going to have some trainers in there. And if you're looking -- you know, people look for the most hospitable place to be. And if at the margin that makes Georgia modestly less hospitable to terrorists, one ought not to be surprised that that happens because of that presence -- just that presence.

Q: Can you enlarge the little information?

Rumsfeld: I could, but I'm not going to.

Thank you very much, folks. Good to see you.

Q: (Off mike.)

Q: Again, have a safe trip.

Rumsfeld: Thank you. Thank you.

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