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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with CNN Live

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
October 08, 2001 7:00 AM EDT

Monday, Oct. 8, 2001 - 7:00 a.m. EDT

(Interview with Paula Zahn, CNN Live)

Zahn: The Pentagon today is beginning to assess the damage from yesterday's strikes in Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joins me now from the Pentagon to talk about the military campaign.

Good to see you, sir. Thank you for joining us.

Rumsfeld: Thank you. Good morning.

Zahn: Good morning.

Did yesterday's campaign meet its objectives?

Rumsfeld: Well, we'll know a good deal more later this morning as all of the various types of intelligence are examined and correlated. My impression is that it has been very successful. We do, however, have to understand that it's going to be a very long and sustained effort. There's, as I said yesterday, no silver bullet, no single thing that's going to win this effort for the coalition. But all the aircraft returned safely. The humanitarian food and medicine drops were successful, and the planes are starting to return now.

So we feel that thus far it's been a very successful effort.

Zahn: So basically what you're telling me this morning that everything the Taliban is reporting, that they shot down a jet, that they shot down a helicopter with 14 people on board, is simply false.

Rumsfeld: That's correct. It is false what the Taliban has said. Indeed, much of what they have said over a period of time is false. These people are terrorists. They are harboring terrorists. They have been repressive to the Afghan people. And it's no surprise that the many Afghan people are opposed to Taliban, and even many Taliban are opposed to the al Qaeda organization, the foreign terrorists that the Taliban leadership has been harboring.

Zahn: I know you said your initial impressions are that this campaign has been successful. The British defense minister announced today that some 30 sites were targeted and struck in Afghanistan overnight. Do you want to go along with that report this morning?

Rumsfeld: Well, there have been two or three dozen targets. They were all military targets. They were military aircraft, surface-to-missiles, airports, military airports and runways. They were terrorist training camps. They were a host of things that are directly associated with the al Qaeda and with the Taliban leadership, which has been in close relationship with al Qaeda these many years.

Zahn: I know you have said that the Taliban doesn't have any army; it doesn't have a navy. What do you think it does have left at this point?

Rumsfeld: Well, it has a -- it still has money, which we're trying to dry up. It still has the ability to harbor the al Qaeda organization, which has cells in 50 or 60 nations. While they're not a threat in the sense of having an army, navy or an air force, they are very much a threat in terms of international terrorism, not just in the United States, but in many nations of the world where they have already engaged in terrorist acts.

So the important thing is to realize that this is not something that's going to happen first. It's not an effort that's against the Afghan people. Indeed, we're providing humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people. It is going to take a good deal of time. We need to be patient. We need to recognize that ultimately they're going to collapse from within because they'll be starved by the people that have been supporting them.

Zahn: And you are you expecting to fill that power vacuum?

Rumsfeld: Well, that remains to be seen. There are many elements within Afghanistan. And in my view, that's for the Afghan people. But many Afghans are opposed to Taliban. Even Taliban are opposed to the al Qaeda. And there're forces in the north, the Northern Alliance. There're tribes in the south. There are elements within Taliban. And I think that those are the kinds of things that are going to have to be sorted out by the people there.

Zahn: At this point, though --

Rumsfeld: What we have to do -- what we have to do is make sure that the terrorism that they're exporting around the globe stops.

Zahn: And how seriously degraded is their ability to export this kind of terrorism, given the number of military targets you say have successfully been struck?

Rumsfeld: Well, I think that they still have that capability, and that ultimately what has to happen will happen from the ground. It will be people within that country who decide that they no longer want al Qaeda there, that they no longer want the leadership of Taliban to be supporting al Qaeda. And they themselves will find ways to assist the rest of the world in stopping this scourge.

Zahn: I was speaking with an Air Force general who said that this is an unusual campaign because it's the first time really the U.S. has attempted to fight and feed at the same time. How critical is the humanitarian aid part of this?

Rumsfeld: Well, anyone who looks at the overhead photography of these poor human beings massing in twenties and forties and hundreds, and now more recently into thousands of people trekking across drought-stricken areas, looking for food, looking for sustenance and refuge, anyone who sees that has to be just heart-broken. And it's important that we and other countries in the world assist those people. And that's what President Bush is doing. We were already the largest food donor in Afghanistan earlier this year before September 11th with some $170 million. And the $320 million program that the President announced and will be joined by other nations is something that's urgently needed by the Afghan people.

Zahn: But how does the humanitarian aid complicate your war planning?

Rumsfeld: It doesn't at all. We're perfectly capable of flying in transports and delivering food and medicine. As long as we're able to deal with the air defense capability of the Taliban, the radars, the MiG aircraft and the surface-to-air missiles, which we, I think, will find later today got a good start on.

Zahn: And a final question for you, sir. You've said so much of about how the American public needs to be prepared for a long offensive. What are we talking about there?

Rumsfeld: Well, I think, realistically, we have to expect that it could take some years, and several years. The reason I say that is because there are a lot of people who've been trained in these terrorist training camps in many of the countries that sponsor terrorism. They're already out there. They are organized. They have been financed. And what we have to do is to be patient. We have to recognize that the power of weapons today is such that they can impose enormous damage on free nations and free people. We don't get up in the morning and think about protecting ourselves when we walk outside the door. We don't wear flak jackets and carry weapons. That is part of our vulnerability as a free people. It's a wonderful aspect of our society.

Zahn: Do you have enough cruise missiles to sustain a long campaign of the type you're talking about?

Rumsfeld: Well, as I say, this problem is not going to be rooted by a cruise missile. There are things cruise missiles can do. There are things bombers can do. But there's an awful lot that will have to be done through the financial system, through diplomacy, as well as through covert operations on the ground, and particularly through intelligence gathering.

All across the globe, people are stepping forward. Dozens and dozens and dozens of nations are participating. And this is probably more likely to be a scrap of information that comes from somebody about how we can deal with this problem than it will be a cruise missile.

Zahn: Secretary Rumsfeld, good of you to join us at such a busy time. We appreciate your being with us this morning.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.