Monday, October 8, 2001 - 7:02 a.m. EDT
(Interview with Katie Couric for NBC Today)
Couric: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, just back from that part of the world, is managing the U.S. military offensive.
Secretary Rumsfeld, good morning. Thanks for joining us.
Rumsfeld: Good morning. Thank you.
Couric: Tell us what the United States was trying to achieve and whether it achieved its goals.
Rumsfeld: Well, I'd be happy to. The United States began, shortly after the attacks on September 11th, a very broad-based effort that involves diplomatic and financial as well as military, over and covert activities, to take this battle to the terrorists, because, in self-defense, there is no other way to deal with the problem of international terrorism than to go after the individuals who are killing thousands of Americans and threatening and terrorizing much of the world.
The purpose of these attacks was to attack, very discreetly, military targets, Taliban and al Qaeda military targets, to create the conditions so that we can engage in a sustained effort to root out those terrorists. It will take time. It is an effort that is certainly not against the Afghan people. Indeed, we're engaged in a massive humanitarian effort for the Afghan people. It's against terrorists, pure and simple.
Couric: When will you have a BDA, a bomb damage assessment?
Rumsfeld: We'll have all of the information from a variety of intelligence sources sometime later today, once we're able to sift and sort it and compare the information. We do know already that all of the planes have landed safely except for the two C-17 aircraft that were engaged in the humanitarian effort of dropping food and medicines for refugees in Afghanistan. They are still en route back to their home base.
Couric: Having said that, did U.S. forces meet any resistance? Were any of the planes ever in danger?
Rumsfeld: Well, any time you're flying over land where you know there are surface-to-air missiles and there are manned mobile surface-to-air missiles, one has to be exceedingly careful. And that is the case, and the Taliban do have those weapons.
Couric: So is that answer a yes, Secretary Rumsfeld?
Rumsfeld: It is true that they have those weapons and that some were fired.
Couric: Apparently --
Rumsfeld: No aircraft was hit. No aircraft was damaged. The allegation by Taliban that they shot down coalition aircraft is flat untrue.
Couric: That was an allegation that was made prior to this military attack, correct?
Rumsfeld: No, the allegation was made most recently.
Couric: They also claim that they've shot down another plane, though, over the weekend, did they not? Do you know anything about that or can you give us any information about that?
Rumsfeld: There is no manned coalition aircraft that has been damaged or shot down.
Couric: What about an unmanned aircraft?
Rumsfeld: We have had unmanned aircraft that we have lost control of. Whether or not the Taliban had anything to do with that is an open question.
Couric: Apparently one of the targets was the Taliban's small air force. Were U.S. forces able to take that out?
Rumsfeld: The aircraft, to our knowledge, did not leave the ground. They were attacked by U.S. and British forces. We will not know precisely what the battle damage is until later today.
Couric: Tell me about collateral damage, if you could, Secretary Rumsfeld. I know the Taliban is claiming more than 100 civilians were killed. What can you tell us about that?
Rumsfeld: Well, it is clearly not the case. The targets were carefully selected. They tended to be in remote areas. And they were all very low collateral-damage targets. There is no question but that any people who were around those targets were around those targets because they were part of the al Qaeda and the Taliban military.
Couric: You have called this a sustained attack. Is it safe to assume that the bombing will continue for several days?
Rumsfeld: I think it's safe to assume that the entire effort, the diplomatic and the financial and the military, both overt and covert efforts, will continue until we have been successful in rooting the terrorists out, not just in the Taliban and the al Qaeda network, but in other networks as well.
Couric: As you know, Mr. Secretary, Osama bin Laden delivered a pretty chilling statement to the United States, apparently videotaped prior to these attacks. What is your reaction to some of the things he had to say?
Rumsfeld: Well, my reaction to things that he had to say in that taped message is really roughly the same as the messages that he has been releasing for months and years. He clearly does not represent Islam. What he is doing is counter to that faith. He has an aspiration to become a leader of terrorists across the globe and to change governments, and he is exactly the kind of person that needs to be dealt with and his organization pulled out wherever it exists. And it exists all across the globe. There's 50 or 60 cells.
Couric: Are his whereabouts known at this point in time?
Rumsfeld: It's pretty clear he's in Afghanistan somewhere.
Couric: And that's all you can say at this point.
Rumsfeld: Mmm-hmm. (Affirmative response.)
Couric: And before we go, what is the overall goal here? Is it to overthrow the Taliban government and replace it with a different one? And how can we ensure that that government is, in fact, more stable and less oppressive and not as bad as the one it's replacing?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think that I would characterize the goal exactly as President Bush said. It is that the victory, if you will, will take time and it will be seen and understood when people are not terrorized, when people are free to go about their business and have their children go to school and know that they'll come home and people can go to work and know they'll be coming home safely.
And as long as people that are making a business out of international terrorism and countries are harboring those international terrorists, people will not have that freedom. And it's important, as a free people, that we recognize that the only way to deal with this is to take the battle to the terrorists wherever they are.
Couric: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for your time this morning. We appreciate it.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.