(Also participating was Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.)
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon.
It was a year ago today that the global war on terrorism began, when U.S. and coalition forces commenced military operations in and over Afghanistan. Our coalition now comprises some 90 nations -- nearly half of the world's countries. I'm told it's the largest military coalition ever assembled in human history.
Looking back one year on what that coalition has achieved is remarkable. As we stated last October 7th -- and I'm told that the transcript of that press briefing is available -- U.S. military objectives in Afghanistan were to drive the Taliban from power; to capture, kill or disrupt al Qaeda; provide humanitarian relief to the Afghan people; and begin the process of creating conditions that will eventually make Afghanistan inhospitable to terrorist networks.
We've made good progress. By October 7th of last year, less than four weeks after the September 11th attacks, we had developed and were implementing our plan to defeat the attackers. Working with local Afghan forces opposed to the Taliban, coalition forces used an imaginative combination of 21st-century technology and 19th-century military tactics, teaming airpower, advanced communications, precision-guided munitions with thousands of Afghan warriors on foot, and some on horseback, to overwhelm the adversary.
And it worked. On November 7th, just one month into the military campaign, the first Afghan city, Mazar-e Sharif, was liberated from Taliban control. With each successive day and week, additional territory was reclaimed for the Afghan people -- Taloquan, Herat, Jalalabad, Konduz, Bagram, Kabul, and finally, on December 7th, two months into Operation Enduring Freedom, Kandahar, the Taliban stronghold, was liberated.
The Afghan people promptly exercised their right of self- determination through the Loya Jirga process and selected their transitional government which, of course, is now getting on its feet. With coalition partners, we're helping to train [the] Afghan national army so that Afghans can once again provide for their own security and the stability of the country. U.S. Army Civil Affairs teams and coalition countries are helping Afghans rebuild their country after decades of occupation and devastation, providing water, sanitation, shelter, health care, and assistance to returning refugees. Schools have been rebuilt, teachers trained, textbooks supplied. Young girls are back in classrooms. Women are working. Land mines are being cleared. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have returned -- a very strong vote of confidence in coalition efforts and in the future of that country.
But sadly, success on the global war on terror has not been without cost. Fifty-three Americans have died in the war thus far. Their names appear on the screen. And many others have been injured. Our coalition partners have also suffered casualties as well. We remember them with gratitude. We remember also the many Afghans who were -- fought for the liberation of their country and were wounded or died in battle.
The sacrifice of all of those who died is a reminder that we are engaged in a difficult and dangerous undertaking, but it is an effort that is vital to the security of our people.
I believe the names that are listed are all military except for the CIA, Mr. Spann.
The United States is committed to the long-term stability and security of Afghanistan. I said here a year ago that while the raids that day focused on the Taliban and the foreign terrorists in Afghanistan, our aims remain broader. "Our objective is to defeat those who use terrorism and those who house or support terrorists. The campaign will be broad, sustained, and we will use every element of American power," I said one year ago.
Today, Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for terrorists, but there's no question but that free nations are still under threat. Thousands of terrorists remain at large in dozens of countries. They're seeking weapons of mass destruction that would allow them to kill not only thousands but tens of thousands of innocent people. Our objective in the global war on terror is to prevent another September 11th, or an attack that is far worse, before it happens.
It's worth noting that before hostilities in Afghanistan began, there were ominous warnings. One newspaper warned, before October 7th, "As an environment for military conflict, Afghanistan is virtually impervious to American power." Another declared that "Afghanistan has been bombed for over two decades by the Soviet Union and every conceivable band of local marauders, to little avail." "U.S. high-tech equipment will not provide a decisive advantage against people who can stay holed up in remote caves." Others issued similar warnings.
Fortunately, those predictions, for the most part, have not come to pass. Coalition forces did succeed and have been welcomed by the Afghan people because we came not as a force of occupation, but as forces of liberation. We face many challenges beyond Afghanistan in the global war on terror. Certainly no two countries are alike. But the dangers remain, as does our resolve to deal with them.
Pace: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
We'd certainly like to join the Secretary in thanking the thousands of dedicated men and women who serve in our armed forces to safeguard our nation and our freedom. I've had the great pleasure of visiting these folks in the field, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. They look me in the eye and they do not ask, "When can we go home?" They simply ask, "What else can we do?" And it's heartwarming and truly an honor to just be with them where they're doing this great work for our nation.
Their families, too, deserve our thanks. It takes a great deal of courage to fight our country's wars; it takes an equal measure of courage to send our loved ones off into battle. So for all of our families who have loved ones serving now, thank you for what you're doing for your country.
And to the American people. This is a difficult war on terrorism. We have a long way to go. Thank you for your amazing, sustained support of your military. We promise you we will stay the course, and we thank you for making that possible.
With that, we'll answer your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, is there any indication whether the apparent explosion and fire aboard the French-flagged tanker in the Gulf of Aden was caused by a terrorist attack? And have the French asked the United States, with considerable military assets in the region, for help in investigating?
Rumsfeld: We have no information as to the cause of that damaged ship. And I have no information that would indicate that the French have asked for assistance. I just don't know.
Q: Mr. Secretary, in this press briefing last year, you were asked about Osama bin Laden. You said, "This is not about a single individual, it's about a terrorist network." And that's what you've said many times. You've also said that there's no hard evidence that bin Laden is still alive or that he's dead. Has that changed?
Rumsfeld: I said that a year ago?
Q: Since then. You've said --
Rumsfeld: Oh, since then I've said that. Okay. [Inaudible.] I said that on September -- October -- September 11th -- or October 7th, a year ago?
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: Interesting. I was right. (Laughter.)
Q: Has that changed since then? And could I get you to comment --
Q: -- on the audiotape broadcast this weekend by Al-Jazeera, and whether there's any indication that -- either way -- whether that's bin Laden.
Rumsfeld: I have really nothing I can add to anything I've said on the subject. I have read only press reports of the tape -- the radio tape, as I recall. I've not heard it. I know that there are people looking at it. I'm told there's no way to know when it was made.
Obviously, there would be many ways that one could easily -- were one alive, one could easily indicate that they were alive, and that the tape had been made recently. And I'm told that it does not indicate that.
So, I have still to this moment not seen anything since last December that one can with certainty say that he's alive or functioning. So he's therefore either alive and well, or alive and not too well, or not alive.
Q: Do you have any better indication on Mullah Omar, Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: I don't. I hear scraps that he's probably still alive, but I just -- we haven't -- I haven't seen or heard anything hard.
Q: Mr. Secretary, Mr. Secretary, it seems that the Congress is not going to give the President the blank-check resolution he might have wanted. It also seems that getting a strong resolution through the Security Council is going to be probably an exercise in futility, as we now see it.
Also, there are some who claim --
Rumsfeld: My goodness, you're in a morose mood today. (Laughter.) Are there any other adjectives you could wrap around those two resolutions to make them sound --
Q: (Off mike) -- second. Bear with me. There are some who say that Saddam Hussein is playing us like a Stradivarius, with his United Nations ambassador now saying that the palaces are not off-limits. Is the administration now getting frustrated? It's said many times that time is of the essence. When is somebody going to do something tangible against the so-called, you know, man in Iraq who threatens Americans?
Rumsfeld: I wish I had written all of that down.
But first of all, I don't believe the President ever asked for a blank check of Congress. Second, I am not as close to the congressional resolution as I possibly wish I were. But I just haven't had the moment in the last period of hours to check anything. But to my knowledge, everyone seems to think that there will be a resolution, and it'll pass overwhelmingly by the Congress. So your characterization, I think, is probably -- misses the mark.
With respect to the U.N., it seems to me that's still quite open as to what's going to happen, but my impression is that they're -- that Colin Powell and his team are working hard with the folks at the U.N. And I haven't seen anything that strikes me as suggesting that it's a bleak, gloomy prospect for the U.N. resolution.
Last, the answer to your question is yes. There's no question but that Saddam Hussein has in the past and is now attempting to manage that whole process, and he's very good at it. He leans forward when he has to, and he leans back when he can get away with it. And it is -- he's very skillful at disinformation and not telling the truth. He is very skillful at timing things in a way that causes the interaction at the United Nations to do things that favor him. How it will all come out, I don't know. It seems to me one would -- at least one would think that after 11 years of doing it, pretty soon people would wake up and say, "A-ha! That's what he's doing." And we'll see.
Q: Mr. Secretary, we've had some concerns raised. Leo Mullin of [inaudible] airlines has said the airline industry already lost $7 billion last year, it'll lose another $7 billion this year, and if we have a long war in Iraq, with high jet-fuel prices, it would be very damaging. We've had economists saying that a long war over there with the uncertainty it would generate, would damage the fragile U.S. economic expansion. We've had others say --
Rumsfeld: My goodness. You -- you should've been sitting right next to -- (inaudible) -- (laughter).
Q: It gets --
Rumsfeld: Should we all lay our hands together here for this?
Q: (Off mike) -- it gets better with me. (Laughter.) If you - if the President requests you to initiate a strike on Iraq, would it be done, as General Shalikashvili said, with overwhelming force? Would it be prosecuted in a very rapid manner, so that you would have a decisive outcome quickly? Does the Powell Doctrine still prevail?
Rumsfeld: My goodness gracious. That is something. (Laughs) -- just -- he says, "Just say yes or no." (Laughter.)
First of all, there's been no decision on Iraq. So we have to begin with that. Second, were there to be such a decision, I don't know why one would assume that it would necessarily last forever. I think what you said -- "Would it be a long, terrible, drawn-out thing?" --
Q: Or short?
Rumsfeld: And I saw Leo Mullin down in Atlanta and had lunch with him the other day. I think that -- I don't want to correct your question, but he had much more to say than just what you said, as I recall. And I don't know that worrying that through, given the fact that the President hasn't made a decision on the subject -- and it has an assumption that he does and an assumption that it's long. And I don't know that either assumption will prove to be correct. So I don't know that I can answer your question.
Q: Well, the question was, would you put in enough troops -- General Shalikashvili said don't wage war on the cheap -- put in enough so that we can have a decisive action that will be over quickly?
Rumsfeld: It is always nice to receive advice from people who have served in this department. But if I were to comment on the advice that's received from every person who served in this department, we wouldn't have much else to do -- we wouldn't have time to do anything else.
So -- the last part of your question on the so-called Powell doctrine, my impression is that it was actually the Weinberger doctrine, I think, technically. I could -- wasn't it? (Laughter.)
Q: It was, yes.
Rumsfeld: I don't want to get picky but -- (laughter) -- but that was a couple of Presidents ago, and the times were different. This is now post-September 11th, and the world has changed significantly since President Reagan was elected in 1980, when those thoughts were uttered. And it strikes me that even the people involved then would probably have, today, somewhat -- some amendments that they would probably make, or elaborations. So I don't know that it's useful for me to comment on that.
Q: You can get our advice, if you like, Mr. Secretary! (Laughter.)
Q: Could you tell us what amendments you'd be talking about? What would be this new document --
Rumsfeld: No, I haven't read this document that you're talking about for 15 years, I don't suppose. And I have my own thoughts, you can be sure of that and --
Q: We're so interested in them.
Rumsfeld: And I have -- you can be also certain that I've communicated them to the President, and that there have been discussions about what are the kinds of things one ought to think about prior to making a commitment of U.S. lives to a conflict. And --
Q: I take that as a "no comment?"
Rumsfeld: Well no, it's a comment. I mean, I have thought a great deal about this. In fact, I wrote down my thoughts when I first came into office some 20 months ago, and have discussed them extensively with the President and with General Pace and with General Myers and with others in the department.
Q: And us?
Rumsfeld: Well, not yet.
Q: Now would be an excellent opportunity. (Scattered laughter.)
Rumsfeld: I didn't bring my guidelines down, but I'll consider that.
Q: Despite all the successes in the war in Afghanistan, how much of a disappointment is it that coalition forces were not either able to capture Osama bin Laden, or at least definitively determine his fate, whether he's dead?
Rumsfeld: If you go back to what was read about a year ago today, what I said, I said what I believed then and I believe today. This is not about him. It is a problem that's much bigger than one individual. It was that day. I said so. I tried to dissuade people from personalizing this global war on terrorism into the face or name of a single individual; that that would be unwise and misguided, misdirected. I did my best. I failed. There's a fixation on him, and I suppose we'll just all have to work our way through it.
Q: Nevertheless, whether it's about one individual or not, how much of a disappointment is it that coalition forces --
Rumsfeld: For me or for the press corps?
Q: Well, for you.
Rumsfeld: I'm not -- "frustrated," I think, was the word you used -- at all about it. I -- needless to say, we would like to locate him and determine what his circumstance is. But that's true of 15 or 20 people that we've got high on the list of Taliban and al Qaeda that are -- have thus far not been -- we don't know precisely what's happened to them. There are a category that we know are dead. There's a category that we know are alive. And there's a fairly large category that we don't know if they're dead or alive.
And the communications management and the way they manage their lives have, have gotten -- they've gotten quite skillful. Because of all the leaks in the press about how we do things and what we do and how we find out things, they have managed to change their behavior patterns in ways that it makes it very difficult to find them. And I'm -- I -- that's just a fact. The leaks in the press have been damaging to the way we have to do things.
And when will we find some of these people? I just don't know. We do know that we're putting pressure on them. We do know that their lives are more difficult. We knew -- do know that it takes them longer to do everything.
And we do know that if they are alive and well, that we'll eventually find them.
Q: General Pace, can you help us with the environment since the USS Cole was hit out in Yemen two years ago? Have there been continuing indications that al Qaeda or other terrorist groups have been plotting, going after maritime shipping? Is that a priority as you talk to detainees, as you continue to gather this body of evidence? Can you give us some feeling for where that threat matrix, to use the Secretary's word, is?
Pace: Periodically, we receive intelligence reports that do say, that not only U.S., but other coalition vessels would be subject to attack, as we do reports about embassies around the world and about other assets around the world. We take them all very seriously. The U.S. Navy, for its part, is very sensitive to and attentive to, the requirement to safeguard our capital ships, our warships. They do that in various ways. We share intelligence amongst navies and amongst intelligence organizations about the threats to shipping. But I should not get into the specifics of how many threats and when we get them. But we do receive threats and we do take precautions against it.
Q: Is there an indication that al Qaeda or other terrorist groups might be shifting to softer targets, which would be civilian tankers, civilian merchant vessels, or is that just out there in the noise?
Pace: Not an indication per se, but... but it's a logical place to go that if in fact you are protecting one type of facility or one type of effort, that terrorists who prefer to not have to attack hard targets would go after something else, whether that's a ship or a building or something; there's no fidelity to that. But clearly, the better defended a particular thing is, the less likely it is to be targeted.
Rumsfeld: It's also been the pattern. We've seen people migrate and go to school on what people do, and make judgments that that becomes more difficult, therefore we'll do this for a while.
Q: Are you seeing a pattern change, I guess is what my --
Rumsfeld: Of actual events --
Rumsfeld: -- or intel?
Q: Of intelligence that --
Rumsfeld: We don't talk about intel.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: Could you elaborate on what means, if any, are being made to provide anti-missile defenses to countries that may find themselves in the path of an Iraqi Scud attack -- beyond Israel, either by Patriot or one of the competitors?
Rumsfeld: There are missile -- anti-missile missile -- defense against missiles located in a number of countries in the region, and have been for some time. And we don't discuss which countries they're in. Israel has discussed what they have, obviously, and everyone knows they've been working on the Arrow system. But, it's up to those countries to discuss any defenses they have, if they decide that's in their own interest.
Q: Including any increase, is there any change of --
Rumsfeld: We wouldn't announce changes.
Q: Mr. Secretary, how seriously [is] your Department of Defense is taking into consideration the part of the recent British report submitted to your government that Saddam Hussein is in a position to strike by his missiles even Greece and Cyprus, along with the State of Israel and Turkey?
Rumsfeld: Well, one --
Q: It is a big issue in the press.
Rumsfeld: It is a big issue where?
Q: In the press, about the citation of this report --
Rumsfeld: About what?
Q: The citation of British report --
Rumsfeld: Wait a second. I can't understand the word.
Q: The British report saying that Saddam Hussein is in a position to strike even Greece and to...Cyprus --
Rumsfeld: I see.
Q: -- along with the State of Israel and Turkey.
Rumsfeld: Right. Right. The British report and others have taken Iraq and then taken a radius around it to show what the range of their missiles are. And it, it's -- any country that happens to fall within the range of those missiles or those capabilities obviously has that circumstance. But they could be -- if Iraq were to decide to do something like that, they would have the capability of doing it within those ranges. That's true.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could you update us on your ongoing review of some of the major weapons systems -- the CVX, the DDX, the Raptor? Senator Warner sent you a letter last week underscoring the importance of the carrier program. Just wondering what --
Rumsfeld: It's amazing how the letters I get get to you before they get to me. I've not seen it.
But how is it going? Well, I had lunch today with the service secretaries that were in town and Paul Wolfowitz. And we had a good discussion and kind of got brought up to date that the various studies that are taking place or proceeding. And the Joint Staff and General Pace are all involved in this process.
It is now October, still early October. And the budget goes to -- from the Department of Defense, I believe, in December, over to OMB, and then it goes to the President in December and early January, and then it goes to the Congress in February. So between now and early December, we have to have completed the studies that are scheduled to be completed, had the necessary meetings and discussions, and considered all of the various options which those studies are designed to offer up, and come to some conclusions.
I guess I have not been in it -- involved in it intimately. I have -- I get brought up to date every few weeks by Dr. Wolfowitz and Steve Cambone and Dov Zakheim and General Pace and all of those who have been doing it. But they've not arrived at my desk yet with any recommendations, or even any final options.
Pace: And I have been involved with this almost daily. It is all being done below the Secretary's level right now. It's a very fixed process to make sure that all the options are looked at. Take any particular weapon system you care to choose; the service that is responsible for bringing that weapon system into the inventory is briefing us on where they are right now, how long it will take to get to where they believe we should be. We're looking at that with regard to budgets and also future concepts, and trying to determine -- to give recommendation to the Secretary -- how far down this road can we see, and is it prudent to go to expend resources to get to the next decision point, so that we don't take things off the table too soon, nor do we expend resources too fast on a particular concept. And then to take it in whole cloth, because if you take one system, you just can't make a decision on that and put it in your pocket, you have to make a tentative decision and then go to the other systems and see how they are all impacted, and then come back to the whole cloth. And when we get done with that, then we'll come forward to the Secretary with our recommendations.
Rumsfeld: That is a very important point. Understandably, a particular company gets interested in a particular system; a particular congressional district or a state gets interested in a particular system; a particular service gets interested in a particular system.
But what General Pace and Dr. Wolfowitz are trying to do is to look at the totality of these things, and see how they fit together in a joint war-fighting -- from a joint war-fighting standpoint.
Q: How much does the interest of particular members of Congress add to the difficulty of your decision-making?
Rumsfeld: Well, you know -- well, come on! (Laughter.)
Q: General? General Pace --
Rumsfeld: Decision-making's difficult in the best of circumstances. We all know that. These are complicated issues and tough ones. And it's been thus far a very healthy process. So I'm pleased with them.
Q: Well, I guess what I'm trying to get at -- will you be adding to the levels of U.S. forces in the Gulf, sir? Will you be moving to do that soon, before -- I know the President hasn't made a decision, but at some point you have to start moving forces to the region, and have you come to a decision on that?
Rumsfeld: You know, for me to say yes or no is un-useful, from your standpoint, because we make decisions on where people go and where ships go and where aircraft go every day. And some are going in and some are going out. And it's true of every area of responsibility that the various combatant commanders have.
The -- obviously, the President is before the Congress and tonight before the American people and, in the period of weeks ahead of us, before the world community in the United Nations. And it's unclear how it all is going to sort through, and it's up to him, and it's not up to us. And we'll do what makes the most sense as we go along.
Q: Can I clean up one detail on Yemen? I believe at the beginning you said that France had not sought any U.S. help or assistance on the investigation. Has Yemen asked the United States for any help and assistance? You have no -- maybe I might have incorrect information. You have no NCIS investigators on their way to Yemen to assist that government?
Pace: Not that I'm aware, but --
Rumsfeld: It's possible. It's possible that people are moving around to assist. But I just happen not to have addressed it myself.
Q: And just also clean up one detail. As a result of this, has there been any new additional notice to mariners in the region, any additional cautions? The 5th Fleet already did have a notice to mariners out. Any -- or is it just completely status quo?
Rumsfeld: Well, since the Cole, there have been so many notices out to mariners that it -- it is clearly something that is a potential problem, for us and for other countries' ships.
I don't know that... of any status that's changed since this particular ship was set on fire, or had an explosion or whatever happened to it, because we don't know what's happened to it.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you and others in the administration have talked several times in recent weeks about your hope -- or let's say, about the possibility that Iraqi people might revolt, that officers might disobey orders. Do you have any signs that there's dissent or defections among Saddam's inner circle or the military or the population?
Rumsfeld: I wouldn't want to get into what our intelligence shows on things like that. But if one looks at that regime and how it treats its people, and how it treats even the people in the military, it seems to me that -- transpose yourself back to Afghanistan. There was the same kinds of questions: What do the Afghan people think about all this? How are you going to deal with the Taliban and the al Qaeda and all of those problems? And the fact of the matter is, as those cities fell, people came out and felt liberated, and they flew kites and they played music and opened schools and refugees came home.
The regime in Iraq is a repressive regime. Human beings are human beings. It's been said there will be no peace in the world till every man is free, because to every man he is the world.
And there have to be people there who, despite the fact that they have been repressed for many, many decades, who would prefer to live a different life. And I don't doubt for a minute but that that's the case. But I'm... it's not for me to get into intelligence that discusses that.
Q: Mr. Secretary, we're in the second week of the fiscal year, and there's no indication of when Congress is going to pass either defense authorization or appropriations. Does it cause the department any difficulty if they go home for the recess, for the election, without -- and leave you living on continuing resolutions?
Rumsfeld: Sure. I mean, your first choice is that when the new fiscal year starts, that the bill would have been passed -- authorizations and appropriation -- weeks before, so you could begin arranging yourself to live with the new budgets and authorizing authorities.
And we're now into the fiscal year and neither has passed. So clearly, that makes life more difficult.
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: Sure. Mm-hmm.
Q: Have you made a decision on who you're going to nominate to lead the force... the Army forces in Europe?
Rumsfeld: (Confers with General Pace.) Okay. I think I have made the decision, in answer to your question. And the decision I make is a recommendation that goes to the White House, and the White House, General Pace tells me, has not yet acted on. But we've been working very, very hard trying to get a large number of military and civilian recommendations to the White House, and to the Senate for confirmation, and we've had some good luck. We've been able to get the interviews that needed to be conducted, the decisions that needed to be made, approval at the White House, and I'm told that the Senate has been very cooperative, and they're moving promptly to try to see that these names get dealt with before they go out. And I believe that's one of them, but I'd have to go back and look. There were so many of them, there were a large number.
Q: Some in Congress, and also Britain's Jack Straw, are making a distinction between disarmament and regime change, arguing that, well, if Saddam Hussein allows inspectors in and if he disarms, there is really no need to topple the Saddam Hussein regime. What would you think of that argument?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think that there are different things that concern different people, and there are different people who make judgments as to what is required to achieve one of those things, and in some cases another is required. To be specific, if you go back to the President's speech, whenever it was, three, four, five weeks ago... on the subject of Iraq, and he talked about a series of things. He mentioned the weapons of mass destruction problem, he mentioned the regime, and he mentioned the repressive nature of the regime, and what it's doing to human beings from a standpoint of human rights, the Iraqi people themselves. He mentioned the threats to the neighbors. He mentioned the fact that it's a terrorist state. He mentioned the fact that it has connections to terrorist organizations. He mentioned -- oh, goodness -- oh, violation of U.N. resolutions. So there were five, six, seven, eight things that he discussed as problems with this regime.
And I believe he mentioned -- I know he mentioned, and I suspect he will this evening -- the fact that the United States of America back, I guess, in the prior administration and the Congress, passed legislation on regime change.
Now, is it surprising that some other country might come up with a list that doesn't have two or three of those on it? No, not at all; it's not surprising. And that's fair enough. Some things bother some people, some things don't bother other people, or they don't think that they're as important. And I think that's probably the case in this instance.
Q: So in your mind, there's really just no question that you have to topple the Saddam Hussein regime in order to disarm?
Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, what I think doesn't make an awful lot of difference. It's what the President decides. And I think that it's what the U.N. -- the U.N. is going to have to think that through. If you have had 11 years of violation of U.N. resolutions on disarmament -- the first year, hope springs eternal; the second year, hope still springs, but somewhat less than eternal. And you go through year after year after year. If at the end of 11 years, there are still some people who are hopeful, fair enough; then they're hopeful that you could get disarmament without changing the regime. If there are people who, after 11 years, come to a conclusion that, "Gee, maybe it's not going to be possible to get disarmament with that regime," then that's their call. And the President and the U.N. is going to have to make that kind of a call.
I just -- I just don't know what will be decided, but whatever will be decided will be -- we will be advised accordingly. But it is not our decision to make.
Q: Are you backing away from regime change? I mean, you have said congressional policy --
Rumsfeld: It's a congressional policy, of course. Exactly.
Q: -- and the policy of the last two administrations.
Q: So why can you not say that you fully endorse regime change?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I do. But that isn't what's important. What's important is what the President decides he wants to do about that. We've been -- had a policy in this country for regime change. And we've been using political, diplomatic activities in the U.N., we've been using economic sanctions, and we've been using military activity in the Northern No-Fly Zone and the Southern No-Fly Zone. Now, that has all been according to the U.N. resolutions, in part, and in part, a part of the congressional mandate to the President with respect to regime change and the Iraqi Liberation Act, I believe it's called, of 1998, I think.
Now, that is our policy. That does not mean it necessarily is the policy of some other country, which I thought the question was, and -- nor does it necessarily mean it's going to be the policy of some other organization.
Now, it may become that -- that people can arrive at that conclusion. No one started with that conclusion 11 years ago, obviously, or he'd be gone. That is something that's evolved over 11 years. And as people watch what's happened, then they have to all make their own judgment as to how they feel about that and how much hope they still can find to spring out. (Subdued laughter.)
Q: I think Britain was arguing also that if there was a truly -- inspectors went in and if there truly was a disarmament, that actually would be a regime change without actually --
Rumsfeld: There are people who feel that way, exactly. Mm- hmm.
Q: Has the President ordered a military buildup in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in the Middle East, Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: Do you think he could have done that and have it not be in the press? (Inaudible.)
Q: Mr. Secretary, in Warsaw there was some -- there was some talk at the informal ministerial in Warsaw about the Germans and perhaps the Canadians co-sponsoring, taking over ISAF.
Rumsfeld: Oh, I think it was the Germans and the Dutch.
Q: The Germans and the Dutch. I beg your pardon. Has that gone any further, sir? And have you talked to your German colleague about it?
Rumsfeld: I haven't. It is something that has been discussed in the interagency process, and there is thought going into it here and at NATO. There's nothing to announce. And at some point my guess is that we will get seized with that issue after NATO thinks about it a bit -- the Military Committee and people like that -- to see how it would work and what NATO might do, and by way of force generation or planning or to assist them -- that type of thing. But it's still -- it is not off track, but it has not jelled.
Q: General Pace, can I ask you, a year later, to bring us up to date on the number of U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan proper, in the theater? And if the number remains around 10,000, why is it several thousand more than it was during the last major battles of the campaign? And how long will they be there?
Pace: The number does remain around 10,000. [NOTE: Approximately 9,000.] As the Secretary pointed out, we have forces that replace each other routinely. So you'll have spikes in strength on the ground, where the new unit's in, it's learning what the old unit was doing, and then the old unit goes home.
But the total number does not always reflect the exact focus of the military organization, either. For example, it is certainly possible, inside of any number, to have, as we had early on, at this time last year, combat forces conducting combat operations.
And now we have still a very demanding environment, a very dangerous environment. But we have a lot more of the total coalition force and U.S. forces there assisting with stabilization, so that the Karzai government can have a chance to start building some of the institutions of a functioning democracy, or functioning country.
So within the same number, you can have a very different focus and very different flavor. And as we swap out units, sometimes a light unit goes in, and other times an engineer unit may replace a specific combat unit to get the right kind of capability there.
Q: It sounds like what you're saying, then, is the mix is - a destabilization component of that has increased since hostilities sort of settled down a little bit. Is that right?
Rumsfeld: Actually, the answer to that is yes in part, but also what specific people are doing has changed. So it may be a larger number of people doing civil affairs and humanitarian activity, or it simply means -- it's probably a combination of both -- that some people who were doing more military functions are doing more humanitarian and civil works functions today.
Q: I thought we didn't want to do that kind of thing. I thought we wanted to leave that --
Rumsfeld: Who's "we"?
Q: The United States government.
Rumsfeld: The reality is that you could stick a half a million troops from 20 countries into Afghanistan, and you wouldn't necessarily improve the security circumstance, as long as you've got Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan and Iran, and porous borders. What has to be done is not to dramatically increase the number of security people, in my view, but the government has to find its sea legs. And it has to develop -- people have to develop confidence in that government that that government is delivering for them and making their lives better. And that means you've got to focus on the humanitarian side. You simply have to focus on the civil works side. And people have to develop a stake in that country and in that government.
It is [a] dangerous place; it will be -- it has been a dangerous place for decades, it is a dangerous place, and it will be a dangerous place prospectively while the government is developing that -- the connections to the people and the connections to the region, that will enable it to begin to provide for its own security. So whether somebody wanted to do it, or it was a hope to do it, or a first choice to do it doesn't make an awful lot of difference today. It's the kind of thing that needs to be done, unless that country were to revert to a terrorist training camp.
Q: Well, many people would, of course, agree with you, and they would call that nation-building. And how long do you think we're going to have to have this large group of people there?
Rumsfeld: Well, I'd say it's a relatively small number of people, not a large number of people, by standards as one thinks of --
Q: The size of the country --
Rumsfeld: -- the size of the country and other situations. And the answer is, they'll have to probably stay there, along with their coalition partners and associates, as long as it takes to do what I just said.
Thank you very much.
Q: Sir, have you seen Modern Maturity's latest issue?
Rumsfeld: I don't even know what it is. (Laughter.)
Q: It's the magazine of the AARP.
Q: (Off mike) -- circulation is -- (off mike).
Rumsfeld: And I don't know what it is?
Q: Well, you're not retired yet.
Rumsfeld: That's not only thing that --
Q: But you're in its centerfold as one of eight, I think, archetypes of "Eldercool"! (Laughter, cross talk.)
"THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS PREPARED BY THE FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE INC., WASHINGTON, D.C. FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE IS A PRIVATE COMPANY. FOR OTHER DEFENSE RELATED TRANSCRIPTS NOT AVAILABLE THROUGH THIS SITE, CONTACT FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE AT (202) 347-1400."