Friday, August 2, 2002 - 10 a.m. EDT
(Also participating was Air Force Brig. Gen. John W. Rosa, Jr., deputy director for current operations, Operations Directorate, the Joint Staff.)
Clarke: You don't have any opening statement, do you?
Rosa: No, ma'am.
Clarke: I do not either. Charlie gets to start things off.
Q: Torie, is the U.S. military questioning this man who was arrested in Singapore -- arrested in Oman--in connection with plots in Singapore to bomb embassies?
Clarke: The person you're referring to -- you should talk to the Department of Justice.
Q: So the United -- the military is not holding him or questioning --
Clarke: We do not have responsibility for him.
Q: Well, has he been held at a U.S. military base?
Clarke: You should talk to the Department of Justice.
Q: Do you have any reaction to Iraq's surprise invitation to talk about weapons inspections?
Clarke: No, not really. I understand they have said that they'd like someone to come back and have some talks with them, but that's all we know about it thus far.
Ivan -- (inaudible).
Q: Torie and General, published reports say that Secretary Rumsfeld is dissatisfied with the pace of the war and he wants to use U.S. Special Forces more in covert operations to hunt down the al Qaeda and the Taliban. One, is this true? And two, has the secretary lost confidence in General Franks?
Clarke: On the second part, the secretary has full and total confidence in General Franks. He has done an extraordinary job of prosecuting what has been a very unconventional war and remains - the Secretary's very confident that the performance will be terrific going forward.
Without commenting on any specific reports, it is no secret to you all, to all of us, the Secretary wants everyone to understand the sense of urgency about what we're doing here, that the threats out there are very, very real. Despite the success thus far in Afghanistan, we have a long way to go. So he is always communicating to everyone and to the senior military and civilian leadership the sense of urgency with which they should address all these matters.
Q: Are efforts to pursue the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan being intensified, especially with the use of Special Forces?
Clarke: Every single day, we look at ways to improve what we're doing. We've said all along, the hunt for these people would get harder the further along we went. It would be harder and harder to find them -- to find the dead-enders. So every single day, hopefully, we're learning lessons; every single day, hopefully, we're improving the way we prosecute this war.
Do you want to add something, General?
Rosa: Charlie, you know our Special Forces have been key to this operation from day one. Special Forces have very special missions, and to sit and talk about what we are talking about -- planning in the future to use them -- I think would be inappropriate. I mean, they are going to continue to be a part of that -- very much a part of that plan.
Q: Well, but -- this is not a difficult question to answer: Is the United States intensifying efforts suddenly in Afghanistan to go after al Qaeda and the Taliban? Are you intensifying those efforts?
Clarke: We --
Q: Are you denying it or --
Clarke: No! We pursue aggressive efforts every single day in Afghanistan and beyond.
Q: Are they -- (inaudible).
Clarke: We continue to go after -- we are -- we've got aggressive efforts underway all the time. But we are constantly looking at ways to improve our capabilities, to make better use of our resources. And if you step back from the day-to-day matters, Secretary Rumsfeld's direction all along, in terms of the military, is, we're in a very different world. We face very different kinds of threats. And it means we need a faster, more adaptive, more flexible, more lethal force. We're always looking at ways to make that happen.
Q: For both of you, but could I start with General Rosa? On Iraq, can we ask you sort of a reality-check question here? The Secretary had recently talked down in Norfolk about Iraq having again fiber-optic capability for their air defense system. The chairman a couple of weeks ago back had talked about a spate of Iraqi activity in the north. When you step back and look at it, what is your overall assessment right now of the Iraqi air defense system, their efforts to improve it, what they're doing, where it all stands, both in terms of their efforts to improve it and their efforts to target coalition aircraft?
Rosa: The Iraqi air defense system is one of the toughest, most complex systems that we see in the world.
It's very capable. They're constantly working to improve it, and they have been. I don't think that's any surprise. Whether they've made progress or not, I think we'd keep that off this podium.
When you look at the overall -- the last three or four years, when you look back, I think that the frequency of them shooting at us in the southern and the northern no-fly zones is about the same-- when you look at the sheer numbers. I think the awareness over what's happened over the last year, the awareness of the American people and of you is up. That awareness is up. But the numbers -- I think we counted the numbers last week. In the south, there's been 16 reactions. Sixteen responses this year. And in the north, there's been eight. And those really kind of parallel with what we've done over the last few years.
Q: If you look at the fact that I guess the last substantial U.S. bombing was February of 2001 when you went after some of those command and control nodes, what's your perception on how far they have come along now, since February, 2001, in re-establishing, rebuilding the capability they had at that time?
Rosa: I know that answer, but I don't really want to share it with you.
Q: Can you give us any -- without being specific, can you give us any broad assessment? In other words, do you feel they have made efforts to re-establish --
Rosa: Right. I said a few minutes ago they have made efforts to re-establish that. But the capability, what we see, I would rather not talk about.
Q: And if I could just follow up very, very briefly. The Secretary at one point had raised the question when asked -- I guess for either of you -- when asked if the Chinese were still there, he sort of looked at the camera, smiled and said, "Did they ever leave?" What is your assessment on whether the Chinese are still in Iraq assisting them? Do you agree with --
Clarke: Well, I -- I tred very -- cautiously there just because it starts to involve intel matters, which I don't think we should do.
Q: But why wouldn't you want to -- why would you keep it off of the podium, as you say? I mean, the Secretary himself appeared at this podium early last year, after the Iraqis almost shot down a U-2 and said that they had significantly, significantly, improved their air defenses. Why wouldn't you say now whether the air defenses have been improved since then?
Rosa: I can't emphatically tell you that they have been improved, they've stayed the same. It's my gut feeling that they've improved, but I'm not going to tell you because I don't really know how much they've improved. But they are attempting to make improvements.
Q: To go back to the issue of the pursuit of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, in particular, just to kind of maybe come at this issue of intensifying aggressive pursuit. In the past week -- that is, since last Sunday -- I think it was last weekend we had that incident in which U.S. troops were wounded, but since then, have there been any clashes with suspected al Qaeda or Taliban or have there been any new detentions made over the course of the past week?
Clarke: Nothing of real significance that I know of.
Rosa: We took -- we had the compound in the Khost area on the 27th, and that's when we brought in the A-10s, the Apaches and the F-18s. There was another case where I don't think any gunfire was exchanged, but we did detain five folks.
Q: Paktia Province.
Rosa: Right, in Paktia Province. But we detained those five folks and they're still with us.
There was another case of a foreigner, they described a foreigner throwing a hand grenade in the Orgun Province area, injuring four policemen. I think he was killed during the attack, from the grenade. But those are the ones that come to mind. Am I missing any?
Q: Weapons caches in the past week?
Rosa: None significant that come to mind.
Clarke: Yes, sir?
Q: The U.N., Chairman Karzai, and now the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked for an extension of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) support, an extension of ISAF. What's your reaction to that?
Clarke: There are so many different countries working on what we're really working on, which is helping Afghanistan achieve long-term stability and security, so we'll continue to work with the Afghan government to see what we can do. I mean, if participants are willing and people can pitch in and help make it happen, that's a good thing.
Q: How much would the vote of this Senate committee be important for the Pentagon?
Clarke: Oh, everyone's views are important. It's one of the reasons we spend so much time at the Hill. The Secretary spent about -- and General Franks spent about four and a half hours up there the other day meeting with the Senate Armed Services Committee.
So their views on this are very, very important and will be taken under consideration.
Q: Torie, is General Franks going to brief the Secretary and the President on the so-called latest operational plan for Iraq, if the U.S. decides to go in there? There are reports that that briefing will take place in the next few days.
Clarke: General Franks is up here a lot. As I said, there are so many things going on, and it's absolutely appropriate that the Secretary and General Franks and the President have a lot of meetings on our activities in the global war on terrorism. I'm sure he will be back soon. And what the White House decides to talk about, they can talk about.
Q: A follow-up. So he is not here now? Can you tell me that?
Clarke: He is not here today.
Q: Is there at the moment -- the Secretary talked about many plans on the shelf, contingency plans, war plans -- is there an up-to- date war plan for Iraq, if anyone should decide to use that plan or use a plan?
Clarke: Just -- I'm not going to talk about any specific plans. As we've said before, we've got contingency plans for places all over the world. We constantly update them, as we should.
Q: I'm sorry to come back to this one more time, but is it correct that Secretary Rumsfeld has asked General Holland, the head of Special Operations Command, and the Chairman for a plan or ideas or concepts or whatever for capturing and killing top al Qaeda leaders? And what will be the topic of General Holland's, the Chairman's and the Secretary's meeting today here in the Pentagon?
Clarke: Without going into details of the meetings, General Holland will be up here today, if he's not here already. And the Secretary meets with the commanders a lot. There are so many different activities in the global war on terrorism, including, as General Rosa said, there has been a very important role for the Special Forces. Without going into any details, we're always looking for ways to be more adaptive, to be more flexible, to be faster, to be more lethal, to go after what is a very unconventional enemy. And so a lot of people, including General Holland and Secretary Rumsfeld, the senior civilian and military leadership, will continue to try to produce exactly those sorts of plans.
Q: Has the Secretary made any progress in his investigation into who leaked the war plan to the New York Times for their July 1st edition?
Clarke: I don't have a status report on that.
Q: Anything on the AC-130 investigation, how close they are on that?
Clarke: Not a date. But they finished -- to my knowledge, they have finished the interviews, the site checks, and are beginning to compile the report, which will go to General McNeill and then to General Franks.
Q: Have you had any early out-brief on that?
Does it differ significantly from anything you've told us so far?
Clarke: I have not heard anything. They're putting the report together.
Q: Torie --
Q: Because there was a flap with the U.N. report a couple of -- I guess about a week ago, suggesting that there were more casualties. And I know the U.N. has backed off a bit, but is there anything in that that you believe will come out that will be different from what we reported so far?
Clarke: I just don't know. I know the U.N. -- the group within the U.N. that had been in the area has shared some of that information with our folks who are putting together the investigatory report.
Q: Torie, there's a report in a North Carolina newspaper of Special Forces soldiers saying that troops -- U.S. troops had Osama bin Laden in their sights, knew exactly the cave he was in, but could not get their orders fast enough to go in and get him. Do you have any response to that?
Clarke: If we knew exactly where he was and when he was there, we would have gotten him.
Q: Torie, there was kind of a cryptic e-mail in our baskets yesterday -- I assume everybody else -- about a joint statement of the United States, Egypt and, I believe, Israel about the MFO (Multinational Force and Observers). Doug Feith apparently held some talks on the MFO that --
Clarke: We were just going back and forth with Doug Feith's office about possibly getting him to come down and brief some people on that.
Q: I mean, I guess what my question is -- is the United States now going to just withdraw U.S. troops from the MFO? Is it saying --- as the Secretary's been saying?
Clarke: Not wanting to step on anybody's toes, at about 10:45 -- we'll give you a more exact time -- we will have a senior defense official come down to background you on exactly that topic.
Q: There were reports in Afghanistan of foreign troops coming with helicopters and killing at least one villager in one village. Do you have any reaction?
Rosa: We saw that report, and we've chased it down. We've gone through Central Command. And we don't -- we even sent a Special Ops team to that area and found nothing.
Q: Can I go into administrative planning? We are now in the summer solstice. Congress is all but out. The Senate goes out today. Will there be briefings during the rest of this month, or are we going to be on a stand-down basis?
Clarke: We haven't really thought it through. I mean, we'll -- you know, it depends on the level of activity. There are still things going on. So I think we'll just work our way through it day by day, week by week, see how it goes.
Thanks, everybody. I'm sorry. One more.
Q: Secretary Powell in Indonesia was talking about a $15 million counterterror program that he said would sort of start moving us back to better mil-to-mil relations with them. Can you talk about that package and how it does relate to that? I know it's police, but --
Clarke: I cannot talk much about the specific package.
Q: How does that -- (off mike)?
Clarke: Well, we -- the administration's made it clear they'd like to find ways to improve and increase the mil-to-mil relationships with Indonesia, working closely with Congress to make sure that works through those channels up there.
The specifics on that package, I don't know.
Q: What --
Q: (Off mike) -- sort of anything to do with what you're looking forward to doing in the future with the (inaudible)?
Clarke: I just don't know enough about that specific package. We can -- I can try to find out.
Q: So will our U.S. military be doing this? Or will --
Clarke: I don't know enough about the specific package he's asking. But we can find out.
Q: "Police training," but it didn't say who would do it.
Clarke: Yeah. We'll try to find out. (Available information is contained in a State Department fact sheet available at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2002/12411.htm)
Q: Have a nice weekend.
Q: Nice weekend!
Clarke: You, too.
Rosa: Thanks, Ivan.
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