Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2002 - 12:29 p.m. EDT
Rumsfeld: I must say that I continue to be impressed by the job that our U.S. troops and the coalition forces are doing every day in locating pockets of al Qaeda and Taliban and hidden caches of weapons and other intelligence items.
Over the weekend, U.S. Special Forces took three more suspected al Qaeda fighters into custody and transported them to Bagram, where they're being questioned and evaluated at the present time. Interesting, in this action alone, they recovered 10 high-explosive charges, 100 firing devices, 200 feet of detonation cord, five hand grenades, 82 mortar rounds. This was in addition to a cache of some 50 rocket-propelled grenades discovered near Malaksay. And all of this was in addition to the mountain of arms and munitions that have been rounded up the preceding several weeks.
It may not make headlines, but it has to be done and it's being done, and by doing it, the coalition forces are certainly giving the new government of Afghanistan the opportunity to develop, and the people of Afghanistan the security environment that they need to be able to return to a somewhat more normal life.
The overall security situation in Afghanistan is essentially sound. We keep reading things that it's a concern. It seems to me that it is uneven. The difficulties, to the extent they exist, are in the area southeast of Kabul. The situation there is that the regional powers are not in agreement. That is to say, there's two warlords that are still contesting.
In the rest of the country, the circumstance is relatively settled. And when it is relatively settled, it does not mean it's perfectly peaceful, but it means that there is at least a reasonable security environment so that refugees can return and humanitarian workers can do their work.
I would suspect that at some point, the situation in the southeast will be settled down. We currently have forces in that area, which has tended to help, forces embedded in the regional armies, as well as forces conducting sweeps and being tipped off to caches of weapons on a regular basis.
The conflicts among regional commanders have diminished. Together with our coalition partners, we're certainly doing all the things we can think of to help the transitional government. The work is certainly not complete. Taliban and al Qaeda are still at large. They pose a threat to the coalition forces and the Afghan transitional authority. But the country of Afghanistan is certainly a much better place today than it was 10 months ago.
One final note, I do want to extend my profound condolences, and that of the American people, to the wife and the family of Army Sergeant First Class Christopher James Speer, who died on August 7th of injuries that he received in a firefight that took place near Khost on July 27th. Sergeant Speer died defending all of our right to live in peace and freedom, and we're grateful for his service and we mourn his loss and extend our sympathies to his family.
And absent Charlie, what I would like to do first is apologize to you. I have checked all over the place, and the list I had had seven different groups of Afghan (sic) opposition. The overwhelming preponderance of the evidence today is that you were correct; there were six.
Q: (Off mike) -- have a specific question on the subject.
Rumsfeld: I'll come to you. (Laughter.) I'll come to you.
You're first. Charlie. (Laughter.)
Q: Often imitated and never duplicated. (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: There you go.
Q: What can you tell us about any high-level meetings with Iraqi opposition?
Rumsfeld: Well, they were in town for several days and may still be. They had meetings with the State Department, with Marc Grossman, Doug Feith and others -- Secretary Powell. And they had apparently a videoconference with Vice President Cheney. And Dick Myers and I visited with them; I think it was Saturday morning. They had views to express and had questions to ask. They were, I thought, really useful and constructive meetings. They've, of course, been involved in various activities for a good many years now. And it was interesting for me for the first time to meet many of them; I'd met several but not all.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: Yeah, Bob?
Q: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you about Iran. You, from time to time, have described the Iranian government as being unhelpful in terms of stabilizing Afghanistan after the demise of the Taliban. I'm wondering what you make of recent developments including the fact that they've turned over apparently 16 al Qaeda suspects to Saudi Arabia. And President Khatami said today in Kabul that they have turned over other suspected terrorists to other countries and are talking about ways in which they can help Afghanistan recover.
Rumsfeld: Well, obviously they're a big, important neighboring country to Afghanistan, and it's important that Afghanistan have a relationship with all its neighbors so that the government is able to go forward and strengthen itself and function as a government and a country. That's much easier to do if you have neighbors that are not unfriendly. And so I think their meeting is probably a useful thing.
With respect to the terrorists that they say they've turned in, they've turned none in to us. There is no question but that they have permitted al Qaeda to enter their country. They are permitting al Qaeda to be present in their country today, and it may very well be that they, for whatever reason, have turned over some people to other countries. But they've not turned any to us.
Yes, you have a question?
Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary, according to Insight magazine, dated July 22, officials from (Skopje ?) -- (inaudible) -- provided to the mission -- (to the consul ?) of the White House a 79-page report on the al Qaeda activity in that area. The report, which was prepared by the minister of Interior of that country, lists the names of al Qaeda fighters and outlines the roles of two units, one numbering 120, and the other 250 -- (inaudible). I'm wondering, Mr. Secretary, if you aware about that, and if you could comment?
Rumsfeld: I have not seen the actual document, if it exists. I am certainly aware that there have been and undoubtedly still are al Qaeda in that part of the world.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Q: Mr. Secretary, yesterday, Iraq's information minister said that U.N. weapons inspectors' job inside that country is finished and they should not come back. I'm wondering --
Rumsfeld: Who said that?
Q: Iraq's information minister. Wondering what your perception is about --
Rumsfeld: I'm glad you didn't say "reliable sources." (Laughter.)
Q: What is your perception of this back-and-forth about weapons inspectors and the statements coming out of Baghdad about them?
Rumsfeld: Well, what's my view of that? I really don't have one. It seems to be it's like a broken record. It's been -- they agreed to have inspectors. They threw the inspectors out. The inspectors are still out, now for a period of years. And they're still not allowed back in. What else can one say? They're in violation of the U.N. resolutions.
Q: Do you still believe that even a vigorous weapons inspection program would not be able to find the weapons Saddam Hussein has had four years to hide?
Rumsfeld: The -- it seems to me, and I'm no weapons inspector, so I'm no expert on the subject, but the biggest successes that were achieved by inspectors when inspectors were permitted in were achieved as a result of information that came from defectors. And they were then able to use that information, go into areas and find some things. And when they found some things, Iraq admitted that they were the things that they said they were: chemical, biological weapons of various types.
It is a big country. They've had years to do what they want to do. They have done a great deal of underground tunneling. They have things that are mobile. It makes it very difficult for inspectors under the best of circumstances to find things.
And I just think that a regime -- an inspection regime would have to be so intrusive; it'd have to be any time, any place. You'd have to be undoubtedly able to talk to anyone. You'd have to be able to sometimes talk to people outside of the country, with their families with them, because, as you may recall, the defector who went out, when he returned to Iraq, was killed by Saddam Hussein -- two of them. I believe they were sons-in-laws of Saddam Hussein.
So if you can't get access to people to get information and access on a basis that they feel safe and that their families feel safe, it would seem to me it would be very difficult.
But we're not anywhere near close that -- close to that. I mean, they haven't agreed to any inspectors on any basis, let alone on a basis that would be sufficiently intrusive that reasonable people could expect to learn what they might need to learn.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I wanted to get back to the Iraqi opposition groups, if I could. Through the Clinton administration --
Rumsfeld: We are going to ask something other than Iraq here today, aren't we? Just for the fun of it. Okay, there's one, there's one, there's one, there's one. Good. There's one. (Scattered laughter.)
Q: But the Iraqi opposition groups, during the Clinton administration, were denied so-called lethal training, paramilitary training, and also any sort of U.S. arms. And I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on that? Should they be given paramilitary training and U.S. arms? The Iraq Liberation Act calls for education and training and drawdown of defense stocks, but it's pretty vague as far as what that means. And some of the opposition groups have been pressing for this kind of aid for some time. What are your thoughts on that?
Rumsfeld: Well, I don't have well-developed thoughts on it, and I don't know what the Department of State, who's been handling most of that, has done thus far. So I'm really not in a position to respond, other than I guess the act is what it is. And my impression is that there are Iraq opposition groups in the form of Kurdish organizations that are quite heavily armed already. So -- yes?
Q: Mr. Secretary, may I preface my question by saying that I've long had the greatest respect for you. When you speak from that podium, it's like speaking ex cathedra, and here you led us down the primrose path over those numbers, and I'm terribly crushed. But anyway.
Rumsfeld: Well, I wanted to come in -- confession is good for the soul. (Laughter.) And I do believe it was six and not seven. So --
Q: The question, sir: There are repeated published reports, almost persistent published reports, that you are frustrated or impatient with the war in Afghanistan; that you have asked the commander-in-chief of our Special Forces Command to get more involved worldwide to do some clandestine operations in other countries. Can you tell me if that's true? And also, would you be kind enough to name some of the countries where you're going in?
Rumsfeld: (Chuckles.) Well, I don't really feel that I get frustrated. I don't. I'm certainly one that is -- as I look out and see the risk to our country of a potential attack by terrorist organizations using weapons more powerful than those that were used on September 11th, it does focus my mind. And I do ask myself: What is it that we ought to be doing now, on an urgent basis, to try to avoid such an attack, to try to delay such attack, to try to reduce the numbers of such attacks, to try to mitigate the effects of such attacks? And I get up in the morning and feel a responsibility, as the secretary of Defense of the United States, to do everything humanly possible to see that this department and the people here do what can be done to protect the American people. I don't take that as frustration. I don't take it as a disappointment. I take it as just purposefulness.
And there's no question but that I have met with every CINC, every combatant commander, not just the one you mentioned, but all of them, and do, on the phone -- in fact, they're going to be in town, and I'll talk to them again in a week or two -- about my sense of urgency, about their responsibilities, about thinking fresh about what might be done, what they might be able to do, how they can better contribute.
You have to appreciate that the people in this department grew up in the 20th century with a security environment that's notably different than that exists today. They organized, trained and equipped to deal with armies, navies and air forces. And today we're faced with a variety of asymmetrical threats that are serious, they're lethal, and we have to do everything we can to adjust our thinking to focus on the 21st century security environment.
So true, I talk to all the combatant commanders. I talk to them frequently. I talked to two yesterday on a secure video for 45 minutes or an hour. I do it regularly. I spoke to Tom Franks again this morning. And I do it all the time.
But the implication that they're not doing a good job or that I'm frustrated with him is just utter nonsense. And I understand that it's -- sells newspapers to personalize things, and people like to dramatize it -- that there's a division here or somebody's unhappy with this, and "Oh, my goodness, they should have done that!" It's nonsense. This is an iterative process. We're working together on these things -- the military in this building, the military in the areas of responsibility and the civilian leadership -- and it is a healthy, constructive set of give-and-take that I find interesting and worthwhile and, I must say, productive.
Q: As a follow-up, if I may, does that involve all this? Does it involve or could it involve clandestine operations in other countries outside of Afghanistan -- countries such as Pakistan, Iran, et cetera, et cetera?
Rumsfeld: Well, the articles that have been written about my meeting with General Holland are to some extent flights of fancy. I did speak with General Holland some weeks ago, and I talked to him about his responsibilities and how they might be expanded or altered or refined or focused. And General Myers and General Pace and I met with him and asked him to come back and give some ideas as to what he thinks might be done to better focus and strengthen his efforts in the global war on terrorism. He came back, and we had a discussion. And we all commented, and he's gone back to think through some more questions that we asked and some aspects of it.
And that is where it stands. Nothing has happened other than he is doing precisely what we requested -- not through frustration but through thoughtfulness, leadership -- there are all kinds of words that are more appropriate. And he at some point will come back in a relatively short period of time, and we'll have another discussion. And we may decide something; we may not. He may go back and do some more work on it. And that's the way this place works.
Q: Mr. Secretary, speaking of the way this place works, your Defense Policy Board recently achieved some unwanted notoriety
Rumsfeld: That is true. (Laughter.)
Q: -- for a briefing that they received. I'm wondering -- for the public, it doesn't pay a lot of attention to these internal organs of the Defense Department -- if you can take a step back and assess for us the value of an entity like the Defense Policy Board. What does a fellow like you get from their deliberations?
Rumsfeld: A lot. It is comprised of people who have served in this department and served in other national security departments of the government in dozens of administrations dating back into the -- oh, goodness -- probably all the way back to the Johnson administration, is my guess. We have former secretaries of Defense and State, national security advisers. We have people who are very thoughtful and knowledgeable; former speakers of the House of Representatives -- a couple of 'em. We have academics, people who think about these things full-time. And I have always benefited from a competition of ideas. I very much enjoy talking to them. I respect them. I've worked with many of them over the decades. And it is a -- so, too, of the Defense Science Board, where there a whole lot of people who spend their lives doing things that I haven't and who have knowledge that I don't. And it is just a big help for me.
And I think what needs to be understood about 'em -- none of them serve in the government. They are free, and they can have their own opinions, and they do. And they go off and give speeches and write articles and say things that differ from my views or the president's views or someone else's views. And that's fine. It doesn't bother me. We live in a society where we're used to that.
The other thing I would say is that sometimes they have briefings, as with the case in this instance. And the briefing was not the view of the Rand Corporation. It was the view of an individual. The individual gave the briefing. He had every right to do that. He was invited to do that. He did.
And the press carried it as though, A, it was Rand analytical work, in some instances, which it was not. It did not represent the views of Rand. It was not a Rand study. And second, they presented it as though it was the view of the -- some did -- of the -- I want to be fair, I want to be balanced, I want to be measured -- some carried it as though it was the view of the Defense Policy Board, which it was not. It was a briefing, a person's views. And others made it sound as though it was the view of the Department of Defense, which of course it was not. And that's unfortunate. It makes it hard to do things if everything anyone does, anyone says in ear shot is immediately interpreted as being the view of the president or the secretary of Defense or the Department of Defense. It would mean we could never listen to people who had different views. That would be terrible, just terrible. We have to be able to do that.
Q: Could I ask you to go back and just expand a little bit on some of what you said about the opposition meeting on two points. The people who participated, the Iraqis who participated in the opposition meeting have come out and said that the United States, the Pentagon, or the Bush administration promised them, the Kurds, protection if -- military protection -- if Saddam Hussein began to move against them as this opposition builds. Is that accurate? Did the Bush administration make any promises of military protection? And conversely, did the Kurds agree to give the U.S. access to potential airfields in Northern Iraq?
Rumsfeld: I can't speak for the numerous meetings that the opposition groups had while they were in town. I can only speak for mine, and those subjects didn't come up in that context.
Q: So you have not been asked for any promise of military protection?
Rumsfeld: First of all, I don't want to get into details about what took place in a private meeting. But I think I answered that pretty well. I said those subjects did not come up in the meeting I was in. There was -- the United States did not do either of the things you mentioned.
Q: Sir, an Afghan question. I wanted to go back to your notion of talking to the military about thinking afresh about how to approach the war on terrorism. As we approach the September 11th anniversary, there are going to be a number of stories about what the Pentagon learned from Afghanistan. Can you give us some insight in terms of all these broad -- the broad lessons you're picking up from these "lessons learned" briefings that have applicability to other conflicts besides just the tactical situation in Afghanistan? Has it turned into a proving ground for transformation and for testing out fresh ideas that you didn't have on September 9th?
Rumsfeld: There is no question but that General Franks has been very receptive to the services and the other CINCs and the department's thoughts about things that might be tested or demonstrated or used that had not previously been a part of the normal quiver of arrows. And in some instances, it has been -- it has informed us in a useful way.
I have received a first-cut preliminary briefing on lessons learned. I have got, I believe, a more recent one and a more finished product which I have not yet read.
But I do think it's safe to say that if we're not learning, we're in trouble. And we have to be learning every day in every -- all these experiences. And I have no doubt at all but that the folks in CENTCOM have been benefiting from the efforts that have been put into developing lessons learned during this first period, and I have no doubt but that those lessons learned are being moved throughout the department so that the other combatant commanders can also benefit from it.
Q: Can you share a couple of sort of broad lessons that would apply to a conflict in any part of the world, even the moon, as General Myers said last week?
Rumsfeld: Well, I can give you one precise example. We have a funny thing that we call requirements in the military. And of course they aren't really requirements generally, they tend to be appetites or desires. (Laughter.) And the word has a kind of bias contained right in it; just the very word sounds like it must be met. And there are those that must be and those that need not be.
But, for example, if you went back and looked at the, quote, "requirements," you would find that there was a requirement to -- if something's going to last so many days, there's a requirement to have so many dumb bombs and so many smart bombs. And it turns out if you finish an exercise, like Afghanistan, and you say, oh, my goodness, the requirement for dumb bombs was about 10 times more than we thought we needed, and the requirement for smart bombs was some multiple of what we actually thought we would need, more, we needed more than we thought, then what you learn from that is you learn to go back and change the, quote, "requirement," and you drop one and increase one. And it is those types of things that can be helpful. There are any number of other things that have been accomplished as well. Obviously, the discussions on unmanned aerial vehicles, those types of things.
Q: The proposal to create an undersecretary for intelligence, you talked about it last week a couple of times --
Rumsfeld: Imperfectly, apparently.
Q: Well, I would say evocatively, and I wonder if I could -- if you could make it a little more concrete. In the town hall meeting, you said, "What's the advantage of having a more senior person here in the building? Focus a bit more laser-like and the interaction with the DCI, more effective, more responsive, more constructive." I mean, could you just make it a little more concrete? And have there been --
Q: Have there been events that -- in which the department's performance in the intelligence area has been less than it might have been, and you looked at it, and you said, "Jeez, we've got to tighten this up," -- precipitating events that led to this proposal?
Rumsfeld: No, I wouldn't say there's a specific event. I came in, having been through the Ballistic Missile Commission and the Space Commission, with a concern about intelligence sufficient that when I was asked in my confirmation hearing what was the single thing that worried me the most, my answer was a single word: intelligence. And that was in January of '01, well before September 11.
We have been -- I have not done the -- I have not addressed with the effort and thought and concentration that I would have wished the subject of intelligence in the department, but I think it's readily apparent to people that we have a number of intelligence-gathering entities, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force; we've got the DIA; we've got the NRO; we've got the NSA; we've got all kinds of pieces floating around. There's not a single person that is over those except me.
And I do not spend as much time working with them and coordinating with them and giving them positive feedback as to what they're doing, and to what the senior-level combatant commanders feel they need and what the senior political level leaders believe they need. And it is a -- it is a misservice to them to not have that process continuously going on so that they are constantly calibrated as to what they ought to be focusing on, what those priorities ought to be. And that's a default not on their part, but on our part.
And it seems to me what I feel the need for is, given the span of control in this department and the size of it, that I think the department will benefit enormously by having a senior-level person -- and I've talked about this at great length with George Tenet as well, and he agrees, that it -- he has a similar issue. He has to deal with all of these entities as the director of Central Intelligence, as opposed to being the director of Central Intelligence Agency. And he has to deal with them all. And having that kind of senior-level leadership, he and I both believe, will enable us to do a better job in providing leadership to all of these entities on a continuing basis. As a matter of fact, I'm going to be meeting with some of those folks -- all of those folks that I just described, I think this week or next, and begin to talk through some of these things.
Q: The concern that some raise is -- you know, some of the stories a couple of weeks ago were couched in terms of strengthening your hand, and you sort of bristled at that. But the concern more generally is --
Rumsfeld: I was dismissive.
Q: Well, all right. It's a good word -- good word. The --
Rumsfeld: Properly dismissive.
Q: That's your word. The published figures are 85 percent of the intelligence community budget is within this building, and the argument is that if you sort of centralize at a senior level the oversight of that 85 percent, the sheer gravitational pull within the community means that the DCI, who has a broader range of concerns -- there are intelligence concerns broader than the day-to-day concerns of this department -- and if you pull all that --
Rumsfeld: And different -- not just broader, but different, to some extent.
Q: Right. Right. But if you pull together that huge block of money and people, put it under a senior guy like an undersecretary, it's just going to skew the emphasis within the community, the investment strategies --
Rumsfeld: Not a chance. Not a chance. Look, the director of Central Intelligence has the responsibility to be the director of Central Intelligence, over the entire community. That includes these pieces. He meets with the president regularly, frequently, daily, almost, except when he's vacationing or in the Middle East or somewhere else. And he has enormous authority and responsibility, and properly so. And it is a misunderstanding -- the kind of comments that you're reflecting, you've seen and heard, are fairly typical of people who like to personalize things, as opposed to understand them substantively. And it's nonsense.
Q: Mr. Secretary, last week Undersecretary Aldridge had some things to say about the V-22 program. I think it's fair to say he still has doubts about its viability. And that's one of several programs that your office has been reviewing in terms of their future -- CVNX, F-22. Can you tell us, do you share his continuing concerns about the V-22 in particular? And from what you're learning over the summer about the other programs, are there any that are in perhaps less danger now or more danger than they were a few months ago?
Rumsfeld: Oh, my goodness, you are a mischief-maker! (Soft laughter.) I have not started that process. Most of these studies are due -- the beginnings of them are due to come out the end of this month, and I have not engaged them. They may have had -- the people who do these things may very well have had some meetings with Dr. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of Defense, but I have not had any meetings yet on those subjects and, therefore, I'm not sufficiently informed to respond.
Q: Given your assessment of the difficulty of locating weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, could an invading force take adequate steps to prevent them from being utilized or unleashed or surreptitiously taken out of the country?
Rumsfeld: I'd be happy to respond to that privately. I think by discussing it publicly it adds fuel to the fire and we get into this frenzy over Iraq again, which I'm disinclined to do.
Q: Secretary, I have two questions --
Rumsfeld: I'll do it right afterwards, if you really would like to know. I'd be happy to do it.
Q: And we all -- (laughter, cross talk.)
Q: It's a big group! (Laughter.)
Q: I have two questions. One by one. One, there was a report yesterday in the Washington Post, they are quoting Newsweek Magazine that two Afghanis told Newsweek Magazine that they have seen or found bin Laden in Afghanistan. And now, again, India's defense minister, Mr. Fernandes, also said that he is in Pakistan and ISI knows.
My question is really, are you being misled by -- or relying on foreign intelligence that we cannot find or pinpoint if he's alive and these -- according to all these reports, German, British and these Afghanis who come here, why we can't find him?
Rumsfeld: That is a vicious question. The facts are that we rely on every conceivable scrap of intelligence we can get, foreign and domestic. We don't know where he is. I don't know where he is. Is it possible someone else does know where he is? Yes. If -- they're all -- every country you mentioned is a part of the global war on terror. If they had hard information, if they had coordinates, I have every confidence they'd give them to us. And if they did in fact have coordinates and if they did give them to us, you can have every confidence that we'd go looking. Therefore, without being disparaging of any other suggestions, all I can say is they may know, I don't. I'd like to.
Q: My second question, sir, there have been so many visitors at high levels from India and Pakistan in this building, of military officials, discussing military-to-military to relations, and also both had interest to buy weapons or parts from the United States. And now, one, who bought what? And two, according to a report that -- you have authorized about $190 million worth of parts to Pakistan. So how --
Rumsfeld: You have to talk to someone in the Public Affairs office to get that level of detail as to which country is doing what. I just don't have it on the tip of my tongue.
Q: The Navy's in the process of chartering a couple of ships to move Bradley fighting vehicles and other military equipment to the CENTCOM area of responsibility. And that's being perceived internationally as a sort of a quiet buildup of U.S. forces in the Gulf in anticipation of an attack. Can you say what those shipments are all about?
Rumsfeld: I was told about those news articles coming down here. And the sum total of my knowledge is that I was advised that there's apparently an exercise taking place in Jordan that's been long-scheduled -- and that may be involved in that -- and that there are other -- that part of it has to do with pre-positioned stocks. And as you know, we have locations of pre-positioned stocks all around the world. In fact, I was -- when we were in Estonia, we looked out from the presidential palace, and there was apparently a U.S. ship that was a prepro location. And I had not -- needless to say, I don't know where they're all located. But the -- I was told that that is essentially what is taking place.
Q: Sir, could I ask -- could you confirm: Did President Bush send a direction to this department to resume the U.S.-China military exchange that -- to happen soon? And I have a second question.
Rumsfeld: Why don't we do one -- one at a time?
I don't know that I'd phrase it quite that way. But when the president met with Mr. Jiang Zemin, the subject was discussed. And when he returned, I discussed it with him. And we -- I have advised him as to what we currently have planned by way of military-to- military contacts and port visits and the like. I think to suggest that they are being restarted implies that they stopped, and they didn't. There continue to be various types of military-to-military contact over past months. What we now have is a series of things that are -- I'm trying to think, running down that list in my mind -- they're heavily educational. They involve exchanges of people for various types of exposure to different educational experiences in our country and in their country. As I recall, one of them may have had to do with the National Defense University. But there's a series of things in the normal order of life that are going to be going on.
Q: (Off mike) -- second question? We've heard there were 20- some U.S. experts in Taiwan last week to try to upgrade their military communications systems. And some Taiwanese officials said this is the first time in years for U.S.-Taiwan military exchange and cooperation. Do you agree with him?
Rumsfeld: Oh, my goodness, I don't know about the 20 people that you're referring to, and I'm not in a position to really go back and compare year to year in a way that would be effective. Under the Taiwan Act passed by Congress, obviously we have relationships with Taiwan, and we've had various military-to-military relationships with them, and I don't know that there's anything notably new about that.
Q: Back to the Iraqi opposition. Based on your meeting with Iraqi opposition leaders over the weekend, what is your assessment of their commitment to a democratic Iraq after Saddam Hussein? And how important is it for them to be committed to a democratic Iraq for them to receive U.S. support?
Rumsfeld: (Pauses.) I'm trying to think how to phrase this. Everyone in the room did not speak. I heard nothing from anyone who did speak that suggested anything other than their broad agreement with the following principles: one, that Iraq be a single country; that Iraq not have weapons of mass destruction; that Iraq not impose its will on its neighbors; that its -- that a post-Saddam-Hussein Iraq -- and I don't want to go too far, but be a country where there is respect for minorities, there is rule of law, where people have an opportunity to participate in their government and in their -- the way their government behaves and does things.
No one that I know of has come to the point where they've designed a specific template that they wish to impose. That's something that the Afghan people ultimately are going to have to do. But, clearly, one would not want to replace one vicious dictator that represses his people with another one.
And I think we're moving smartly towards a conclusion here. (Laughter.)
Q: In an interview today, Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader in the northern part of Iraq, has said that he has offered the United States use of airfields in northern Iraq for whatever needs the U.S. may have should it come to military action. Number one, are you aware of such an offer? Number two, is it helpful that Talabani has stated this in public?
Rumsfeld: I do not recall hearing that in the meeting I was in. And I would have to go see the article to know how I feel about what he said. But --
Q: Is it helpful to have it publicly offered by a Kurdish leader that the U.S. would be free to use bases that are under their control -- or airfields under their control in northern Kurdish-controlled Iraq?
Rumsfeld: Well, if I said, "My goodness, that's a big help," it would suggest that we planned to go use them. And that is a decision the president's not made. But -- I mean, I don't know quite how to answer it, is it helpful? It certainly is -- I felt that the meetings were constructive. I thought that the people were appropriately interested and willing to comment on their perspectives on things and willing to hear our perspectives. And I thought it was a useful meeting.
And I'm going to say thank you. Good afternoon.
Q: Thank you. Have a good day.
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