(Media availability at Kuwait City International Airport, Kuwait City, Kuwait.)
Rumsfeld: Good morning. It is a pleasure for me to be back in Kuwait after a good number of years and to have an opportunity to thank His Highness the Amir and the national security team, the Minister of Defense, for Kuwait's friendship and very strong support in so many ways.
Our relationship, of course, from a military to military stand point dates back to the Gulf War conflict and in more recent times, obviously, with respect to Operation Enduring Freedom. Kuwait has provided strong support for coalition forces involved in the war on terrorism. It's helping us in a variety of other ways as well, including the support for the UN resolutions with respect to Iraq. The American people appreciate the strong support as well as the wonderfully cooperative relationships between our two countries.
It's now been over a decade since the Gulf War, when a broad coalition came together to repel Iraqi aggression against Kuwait and to defeat the forces that occupied this country and visited such terrible destruction upon it. Today, the United States has suffered acts of aggression, and again a broad coalition has come together, including the State of Kuwait, to defeat that aggression.
In my meetings, we had good discussions about the way ahead with respect to the global war on terrorism. We discussed the stability in the Gulf region and certainly, the continuing violations of U.N. resolutions by Iraq. But I am very pleased to be here and to have had this chance to discuss so many matters of mutual interest, and I would be happy to respond to questions.
Q: What do you make of the statement made by the Iraqi government yesterday that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction and is not developing any?
Rumsfeld: They are lying. Next.
Q: There was a sort of a draw down during the war in Afghanistan on some of the stocks you had in the region, especially cruise missiles. Have you replenished most of your stocks back in the region, the stuff you have stored for the deterrence against Iraq? When are you supposed to complete such an operation?
Rumsfeld: Two things happen when you have an engagement such as Afghanistan. Before you go in you have stocks that you believe are appropriate for what you might need in the region, and then you actually engage in the campaign and you find that the usage is different than you had anticipated.
So when you replenish, you replenish to fill not the old requirements but the new ones that you've learned you very likely will have to have. It may be less of some things and more of other things, but the short answer to your question is yes; as the conflict began in October in Afghanistan, we began monitoring those things and seeing that we began the process of replenishing stocks in ways that would be appropriate, including here, and we're very much in that mode right now.
We have two ways we can do that. One way is to actually see that production lines are open and new stocks, new munitions, are being manufactured. The other way to do it is on an interim basis to level out across the world. We can take from one region and move to another region depending on what our assessment is and then replenish that region with stocks as the manufacturing line produces them.
Q: Did you get commitments from Kuwait that they would take part in any new effort to contain Iraq if it comes to military might?
Rumsfeld: I wouldn't put it that way. Kuwait has been obviously very cooperative in all aspects of supporting the UN resolutions and the world community's effort to see that Iraq does not develop weapons of mass destruction, and that it does not entertain acts of aggression against its neighbors. We had a variety of discussions along that line.
Q: What is your current assessment about the tensions between India and Pakistan just ahead of your trip to that region? Has each of those countries taken any concrete steps to diffuse the tensions there?
Rumsfeld: It is still a tense situation with respect to India and Pakistan. There are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of armed troops on each side that are opposing each other. There continues to be some level of artillery fire in various places.
On the other hand, President Musharraf has taken steps to stop infiltration across the line of control and at the moment the situation seems to me to be in a -- I'm trying to figure the right word that would be appropriate -- I would not say it is continuing to escalate in terms of the risks. But I'm going to be going in there in a few days, and I look forward to having discussions with the leadership both in India and Pakistan. The United States has very good relationships with each of those countries, relationships that have been longstanding but have been developing and maturing in recent months and years, and relationships that we value.
Q: A lot of people in this country say that they're tired of the Iraqi threats toward their country. Would it mean any military might in the near future that will end up in toppling the regime in Iraq, and would you increase your troops in the region?
Rumsfeld: The United States government, for a number of years now, has believed that the solution in Iraq would be regime change. That is to say that their current regime has, by its behavior, its repression of its own people, by its invasion of Kuwait, by its development of weapons of mass destruction, by its continued violations of the no-fly zones, by its unwillingness to release prisoners from Kuwait, by its unwillingness to return archives and records that were stolen, by a whole host of acts and indications of behavior that are harmful to the region.
So the U.S. policy favoring regime change is something that for a number of years has been the policy and the conviction of successive governments in our country. Towards that end, obviously, we have been participating with coalition forces in attempting to enforce the no-fly zone. We have been working with Kuwait and other countries, with respect to other aspects of the U.N. resolutions, sanctions and so forth. What might take place prospectively is not something that is for me to be talking about. But clearly, if you want the policy of our country, it is that the regime of Saddam Hussein is a destabilizing factor of the region.
Q: When you say that Iraq is lying. That story mentioned having weapons --
Rumsfeld: Sometimes I understate for emphasis.
Q: I don't think I missed the point. But it was a two part thing, that were not developing and that they did not have any. Were they lying about one, or both?
Rumsfeld: No. They have them and they continue to develop them and they have weaponized chemical weapons, we know that. They've had an active program to develop nuclear weapons. It's also clear that they are actively developing biological weapons. I don't know what other kinds of weapons would fall under the rubric of weapons of mass destruction, but if there are more, I suspect they're working on them as well, even though I don't happen to know what they are. It is just false, not true, inaccurate and typical.
Q: During your tenure do you expect to see regime change in Iraq?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I would certainly hope so. I would think most of the people in the region and in the world recognize that the world would be a better place without that regime. That regime threatens its neighbors repeatedly; it is listed on the terrorist list for the world that every one knows. They are not a model of good behavior.
Q: I want to ask about the Kuwaiti detainees in Guantanamo Bay and what's coming up concerning them? Did you discuss this issue with the Kuwaitis you met here?
Rumsfeld: We did indeed. It came up on several occasions. We have invited representatives from the Kuwaiti government to visit and to meet with the individuals who we captured in Afghanistan during the conflict. The purpose of the visit clearly would be to assist in intelligence gathering and second, to determine the extent to which there may be any law enforcement interests with respect to those individuals.
What we are doing in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is we have taken there a number of people from Afghanistan that were captured from a variety of different nationalities, and have people from our country and from other countries meeting with them and asking questions to try to gather intelligence so that we can prevent additional attacks on our country, our forces, and our friends and our allies. To the extent that when we gather that intelligence, we then provide it to the countries involved so that they too can have foreknowledge, to the extent possible, of attacks that were being planned.
We take that information from these hundreds of people and mesh it with the information we get when we capture a safe house for example, and take it from a computer, or a pager, or a cell phone, and papers, materials, and go through all of that and try to fit together a picture of what the plans are and who the other people may be who might be connected, and who is providing the money for them and who is helping them, who's facilitating their movement between countries with illegal passports and how they operate. We have found training manuals that show that they are very skillful in denying and deceiving interrogators as to who they are, and they constantly change their stories.
So it is a process that takes some time, and it's moving along, it's moving along well and we know of certain knowledge that by virtue of the coalition forces' efforts in capturing people and then interrogating them, by virtue of the materials that have been captured in caves and tunnels, and safe houses and compounds, by virtue of the people who have been arrested in other countries and interrogated, that is all that information comes together and the world that is together in trying to stop global terrorism is better informed, better able to stop those types of things.
Now, what we do with the detainees in the Guantanamo Bay is recognize that because of their skill in avoiding interrogation and how well they've been trained to do that, that it takes some months, and takes time and we have to be patient and wait until they decide that suddenly it is in their interest to talk. We've had some people who have been captured for a different purpose, and for a whole year they wouldn't say much, and after a year they would. With respect to the specifics of the Kuwaiti detainees, I think there is twelve or thirteen, I can't remember. Twelve? The representatives of the government will be meeting with them and we'll be discussing their disposition with them.
Q: Could I have a follow up on that please? When you said that members of the Kuwaiti government will be meeting with them. Will Kuwaiti government officials be interrogating these detainees? Will they have any access to lawyers that have been retained for them? Has the Kuwaiti government made a request for access that you denied?
Rumsfeld: That is not one follow-up. Goodness gracious.
There were no explicit requests made other than access and there were no requests denied. The word "lawyer" never came up in our discussions as such.
Rumsfeld: I have no idea what they intend. Other countries have brought people that interrogated detainees. Whether the Kuwaitis will or not, I do not know. They are certainly welcome to.
Q: The Indian military has reported that two suspected al Qaeda were killed yesterday in a gunfight in Kashmir.
Q: Does the United States have any corroborating evidence of that?
Rumsfeld: I haven't checked this morning.
Q: No corroborating evidence that al Qaeda is active in Kashmir?
Rumsfeld: There are scraps of information that suggest that al Qaeda is active in that area. We are concerned about it because it is rather clear that quite apart from what may evolve as India and Pakistan's interest in lessening tensions, you could imagine that al Qaeda might have an interest in increasing tensions in the region. So the issue as to whether or not they are there, and if so where, and what may be done about it is of interest to all parties. Certainly, if they're found they'll be visited.
Q: Is the proper time for the Kuwaiti Committee to go to the base in Guantanamo fixed or not yet?
Rumsfeld: I don't know. I heard about it yesterday for the first time that we had approved the visit, but the date had not been set. (to staff) I don't know. Has a date has been set? It has not been set. But the Ambassador has suggested that we set a date, and I suspect that we will find our way to do that.
Q: And was the approval of the sale of AMRAMM missiles to Kuwait, as well as the Iraqi situation, discussed with Kuwaiti officials during your visit?
Rumsfeld: It did not come up in my visit. At least at my level, it may have with others in the delegation.
Q: What is your view on the agreement reached by Kuwait and Iraq at the Beirut Summit and how seriously do you think Kuwait ought to take that, and is it worth building on?
Rumsfeld: Between Kuwait and Iraq?
Q: Yeah. And if Iraq were to show a positive sign that it is genuinely interested in reconciliation with Kuwait, how would the U.S. regard that?
Rumsfeld: First, the truth is, that is for Kuwait to make a judgment about. If I were asked for my advice, it would be like the lion inviting the chicken into an embrace. I mean, what good in the past have Iraqi representations of good will to their neighbors been? Precious little. Should hope spring eternal? Maybe, maybe not. I think it depends on the risks. How much does one want to bet on that?
Q: When Vice President Cheney came to the region several months ago, we heard from many Arab leaders that no action against Iraq should be taken until the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians had calmed down somewhat. Did you get a similar message from the Kuwaiti officials that you met?
Rumsfeld: First of all, I don't want to, by answering, agree with the premise of your question that that is what happened during Vice President Cheney's visit.
Q: But there were many public statements made.
Rumsfeld: Well, I've set it aside. So in my answer I will not indicate that I think that that's an accurate representation of his trip. Second I would say, I am trying to think if it has come up at all in that context, in this visit. If it did, and I don't recall it, it must have been off to the side as an issue. I guess I don't think it did come up that way. But in answering it that way, I'm kind of saying what the representatives of Kuwait have said, and it's not my business to do that. But it certainly was not a subject of considerable discussion. Third, I would point out that the Arab and Israeli issues, the Palestinian issues with Israel, have been going on all of my adult life.
It is a very complicated set of issues between Israel and the Palestinians, and it is important that the international community work with both sides to try to solve it. Goodness knows President Bush and Secretary Powell, as well as leaders from other countries -- Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and President Mubarak, who is in the United States at the present time, King Abdullah of Jordan, so many world leaders -- have been making efforts to assist with that problem. But if anyone thinks that it is going to, within some near time frame, be resolved, I think that is high hopes.
We ought to work on it, we've got to find first a way to get a more secure situation so that the conditions for a peace process would be improved, but I think that the cast of your question is something that is unrealistic.
Q: You said that President Musharraf has taken some steps to stop the infiltration across that border. Have you seen any steps taken yet by India to de-escalate, perhaps moving some troops back?
Rumsfeld: You know, with instant news and things flashing off on television and radio and the press every five minutes, if I were to answer that question I think people would think I was speaking from a pinnacle of near perfect knowledge, and I'm not. Things are happening all the time. Precisely what has happened since last evening, when I went to bed at twelve o'clock, I don't know. I've heard few things and I've seen a couple of cables, but for me to say no, and find that something has in fact happened, but has not yet been reported, would be unhelpful to you and to your viewers. So I think what I'll do is leave it to India and Pakistan to opine on what steps they're taking.
Q: Are there scraps of information that al Qaeda may be operating in Kashmir? Do you have anything on that?
Rumsfeld: I could but it wouldn't be useful. They literally are intelligence pieces that someone says this and someone speculates about that, and then you have to try to run them down and determine their accuracy. And if I had an aggregation of those scraps that persuaded me that I knew something, I would then assert it as a fact. I do not. I know some have asserted that as a fact, and they may very well be correct.
Q: You're visiting Kuwait and some regional countries. Do you feel a sense of support for any military action to be taken against Iraq in the future?
Rumsfeld: Oh I wouldn't want to get into that subject. You're asking have I received that kind of musings from my interlocutors in these visits and the short answer is, I let them speak for themselves.
Thank you very much.