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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability with Traveling Press

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
October 04, 2001

Thursday, October 4, 2001

(Media availability with traveling press in Cairo, Egypt)

Q: What was your message to President Mubarak and how did he respond?

Rumsfeld: My message was the fact that this is enormously important to the entire world and he knows that. He has lived in the neighborhood where terrorism has been a problem longer than it has been in the United States. And he shares the concern we have about terrorism.

He emphasized the fact that it is important to the entire planet that the problem of proliferation and the risks to nations and large numbers of people is real and has resulted -- he understands and agrees with President Bush's approach that it is has to be a sustained effort over a good period of time and for that we are appreciative.

The Egyptians are cooperating in a number of ways and have been and we appreciate that. The exercise that we have going on we discussed. I guess it begins, the 11th they said. (Exercise Bright Star) is an important part of the relationship between the United States and Egypt. I expressed the hope that I could get back before then, sometime at the end of this month.

Q: Have you been briefed at all about or know anything about this apparent accidental shoot down of a civilian aircraft?

Rumsfeld: I just received the early report that most everyone else has. I don't know that we have anything else.

Q: Do you know if the British broke off part of the exercise that you were seeing in Oman and are positioning their forces for apparently some coordinated effort --

Rumsfeld: I don't know that they did break off the exercise. My impression was that the exercise was underway and was going to continue.

Q: The exercise continued but some elements, the HMS Illustrious, the aircraft carrier, is leaving and heading toward the Indian Ocean. What can you tell us about that? The question is not about the exercise but about what the intent of the Illustrious is.

Rumsfeld: Needless to say, we don't discuss our movements nor do I discuss other countries.

Q: Can you give us any more clarity on what we talked about earlier about what planning there might be for air drops of food and medicine? Do you expect that to happen or just under consideration? The President did talk about it. It seems (inaudible)

Rumsfeld: As I indicated to you, I think yesterday, the United States government has been working on a substantial humanitarian aid program for Afghanistan. I believe it was announced today, and it involves a rather substantial sum of money, well in excess what we've already contributed by way of food aid this year. I don't recall the figure.

Staff: $320 million.

Q: What will be the degree of the U.S. military participation in delivering that food aid?

Rumsfeld: As I indicated, it will depend on the circumstance and it will be essentially an Agency for International Development and Department of State effort, but the military does help and can help in addition to whatever that package involves. As I indicated to you, there is no doubt in my mind but that there will be some food drops by the military over a period of time.

Q: And what hazards will the aircraft face? Certainly the Taliban does have some rudimentary defense capability.

Rumsfeld: The food drops will be done only in the event that it's very clear that the SAM sites -- the limited number surface-to-air missiles and the rather larger number of Stinger missiles -- that are still in the country would not pose a problem.

Q: How did you verify that?

Rumsfeld: Well, you know, there are people on the ground we talk to, who have knowledge of what's going on.

Q: What about the theory of strikes to neutralize other threats such as those in Iraq?

Rumsfeld: We don't discuss those.

Q: Mr., Secretary, what kind of importance do you attach to your visit tomorrow to Uzbekistan?

Rumsfeld: Well, the United States of course does not have a long-standing relationship with Uzbekistan, and it is a significant geographic location and we have had a number of interactions over the period of weeks. It seemed to me that it's a useful thing to meet the people and get to know them a bit and to express appreciation for any cooperation they care to offer in this exercise and in the president's program against terrorism and to establish some relationships at a fairly high level.

Q: And who would you meet with in Turkey?

Rumsfeld: I don't know how that's worked out to be honest with you. I know the staff has been working on it but I don't know whether we are going there or, if we do, which city we are landing at or whom we might see. We just saw the foreign minister of Turkey within the last several weeks.

Q: Prior to going into Saudi Arabia, you said you're not going in to negotiate. One of the questions of course about Uzbekistan is whatever agreement there may be or have to be for U.S. military to use bases there. Can you tell us whether that agreement has already been reached or whether you have to tie up some loose ends on your trip tomorrow?

Rumsfeld: Well, you know what happens basically in these things is that the United States develops an initial contact with a country and then there are technicians and technical people who know precisely what is of interest at any given time. They then begin that process, and then there are further discussions at higher levels and, if at some point it is appropriate for someone at a more senior level to be engaged directly, why it happens. I was correct when I told you I was not out here to negotiate any particular arrangements or deals. On the other hand, to the extent there are questions or issues that need to be discussed, sometimes others bring them up with me or I bring them up with them and it gets discussed and then it goes back down and is worked out at a different level. That has happened on this trip already, where some of those issues have come up. It's just the normal types of things.

Q: Are they looking to you for any reassurances?

Rumsfeld: I guess I haven't been there yet, so we'll see.

Q: You said that you told President Mubarak that you hoped to get back to the area before the exercise ended. Are you right now planning another Middle East trip?

Rumsfeld: I am certainly not. The question came up when I was talking to the field marshal and minister of defense and with President Mubarak. I had hoped to be out in the region, as some of you may know, for an extensive trip because we have so many important relationships here, as a country, and as a Department of Defense and the U.S. military. Whether my life will sort out in a way that I can get back here before that particular exercise ends on the 26th, remains to be seen.

Q: Mr. Secretary, at a previous press conference you said something I wanted to ask you about. You said, the chance of any military action affecting any single terrorist it seems to be small. This raised the question in my mind of why we would undertake military action if that were the case?

Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, I haven't said we are undertaking military action. Secondly, I think, just being realistic, if you are engaged in a broad-based effort, that depends on good intelligence and depends on making life uncomfortable for people who are terrorists and people who harbor people who are terrorists, it is completely unpredictable as to which event or which scrap of information or which potential military activity, or which diplomatic activity might lead to the turning up of information that would lead to a single arrest or a single apprehension of a terrorist.

The important thing is to see that we put enough pressure on the terrorists and the people who harbor terrorists through a variety of means over a sustained period so that they have to alter their behavior and they have to move from where they are and they have to try to do things differently and that people are less eager to help them, and that people are less eager to be recruited by them and people are less eager to finance them and -- that as life becomes more difficult, opportunities improve. We were talking last night, a few of us, about comparing this effort to a war, and it undoubtedly will prove to be a lot more like a cold war than a hot war, in this sense.

If you think about it, in the Cold War it took 50 years, plus or minus. It did not involve major battles. It involved continuous pressure. It involved cooperation by a host of nations. It involved the willingness of populations in many countries to invest in it and to sustain it. It took leadership at the top from a number of countries that were willing to be principled and to be courageous and to put things at risk; and when it ended, it ended not with a bang, but through internal collapse. The support for that way of life and that pressure against the world and that threat to the world -- just disintegrated from inside. And it's just by accident, and in discussing this with some people that it strikes me that that might be a more appropriate way to think about what we are up against here, than would be any major conflict.

Q: So you think it may take 50 years to win this war?

Rumsfeld: I have no idea. All I know is that there are people out there, who for a variety of reasons; but I think it is bedrock that they want to control things. Possibly personally, and certainly in the case of many, they are determined to bring great damage to the world, and the world can't let that happen.