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Rumsfeld Stakeout at the Hart Senate Building

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 05, 2002

(Media stakeout at the Hart Senate Building)

Q: Can you talk a little bit about that assessment team that's over in Kabul now looking at the Afghan National Army?

Rumsfeld: Why do you pronounce if Kabool [ph]?

Q: Kabul, sorry.

Rumsfeld: Half the people in the Administration switch between Kabul and Kabool [ph], I wish we could get --

Q: Secretary Powell is the one that says Kabool [ph], right?

Rumsfeld: He goes from one to the other.

The team, General Myers, is modest in size and it is purposeful and its goal is to work with the interim Minister of Defense and the interim government to think through what various ways they might begin this process that Chairman Karzai has talked about of beginning to fashion an Afghan military that represents a variety of elements of the country rather than a single element. The timing is, they're just starting. How long it takes I don't know.

Q: Presumably the interim government wants it trained and equipped. Would that fall to the United States to do that?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I don't know that any judgment's been made about that. Indeed, if there's one thing that Afghanistan is not short of, it's equipment. (laughter) They have an ample supply of weapons and all the things that armies and those types of things need. So I don't know that that's the big issue.

Q: What about as far as training?

Rumsfeld: I think it's organization and training.

Q: Would that fall to the United States, do you think?

Rumsfeld: I was going to say, that's an open question. I think the Interim - ISAF -- Interim Security Assistance Force has indicated that it could conceivably be a part of their role and responsibility. Certainly the United States is interested and cares and wants it to be successful, so we would undoubtedly be helpful, but I don't know in precisely what way, nor does anyone know precisely what they'll end up deciding they want to do. It's their country.

Q: Mr. Secretary, I think here you mentioned a maritime function for the new Northern Command that you're proposing to the President. Would there be one?

Rumsfeld: General Myers and I got so far out in front of our consultations with the President and with our allies and friends around the world --

Q: Now that you're out there.

Rumsfeld: Now that we're out there, we're embarrassed.

There may very well be some changes with respect to how the maritime sort would be, but those are not resolved. As Chairman Levin said, we also have the Congress to consult with.

Q: The Coast Guard currently in its maritime coastal protection comes under Joint Forces Command. That was envisioned as one of the ones that would shift.

Rumsfeld: Yeah, but the responsibilities of Joint Forces Command for the U.S. would be the kinds of things that the Northern Command would assume and Joint Forces Command would be, as General Myers indicated, focusing on its other portion of its current responsibilities.

Q: When do you expect to present this to the President?

Rumsfeld: We're pretty close. Get an appointment some time.

Q: He's a busy man.

Rumsfeld: He is a busy man.

Q: This week?

Rumsfeld: I don't know. He travels, I travel, other people travel, who knows? It will be sometime soon.

We're still, I think (inaudible) with Congress and then go over -- it will go pretty quick, though, within the next --

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said that Iran has been permissive in allowing al Qaeda to transit through their territory to come across that border. Do you have any evidence that senior al Qaeda people have gone through Iran itself? Has it been with the help of the government there? And does that make Iran a country that harbors terrorists?

Rumsfeld: I don't know that I'm inclined to get into the intelligence we have except everything I said is true. And Iran's already on the terrorist list. It doesn't need any additional help.

Q: Would you say, though, that they're harboring terrorists?

Rumsfeld: Oh, there's no question but there's al Qaeda and folks that are in there.

Q: Wouldn't that make it a country that -- I mean the President has said that one of the goals of this war is to go after countries, not just the terrorists --

Rumsfeld: One of the goals of the war is to find the terrorists and to stop nations from harboring terrorists, and there's lots of ways to do that.

Gen. Myers: Not just military ways. It's all instruments of national power.

Q: Are you talking with Iran about giving those folks up? And what are they saying if you have been talking with them?

Rumsfeld: I don't know that I want to say anything beyond what I've said.

Q: -- make a distinction between there being al Qaeda in Iran versus Iran harboring those al Qaeda.

Rumsfeld: I think there is that difference. The same thing with Pakistan or other countries on the periphery. The borders are porous. People move across them all the time. And we can't -- look at our border with Canada. There are logging roads and animals traipsing across and people traipsing across, one thing and another. Deer, elk, moose probably.

Q: Is there any reason to believe that the Iranian government is harboring terrorists?

(tape gap)

Rumsfeld: We have not found Iran to be a completely cooperative country in the war against terrorism. I think that might be the understatement of the day.

Q: One of the things that Senator Bunting raised in terms of al Qaeda and how many had been captured or killed. There are lots of figures of being thrown about. Is there a figure that you all accept?

Rumsfeld: We've got some figures internally that we use and we've debated whether to make them public and we decided not to thus far. If we do that, then you want to know who it is, and they've all got a bunch of aliases, and you've got to be absolutely certain. Some are dead and some are captured, and it's not clear that you want people to know who you've got captured because then they know what information that person has and they know what information if the person talks is going to be compromised. So we've been slow to think that there was any national purpose served by constant elaboration on the subject.

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Rumsfeld: I'm going to have to excuse myself --

Q: Can I ask you just one on North Korea?

Has North Korea done something or not done something recently that caused the President to want to put it up on the radar screen the way he did in his speech? I mean has their behavior changed in some way?

Rumsfeld: I think the way to think about North Korea in the context of the president's speech is that they have active weapons of mass destruction programs and they have demonstrated repeatedly a willingness to sell almost anything they have to anybody in the world who wants it. The president does not think that's a great idea.

Q: Have they sold something recently that alarmed --

Rumsfeld: I'm going to have to excuse myself.