Thursday, Nov. 1, 2001 - Noon EST
(Also participating is Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Slides and videos shown in this briefing are on the Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Oct2001/g011029-D-6570C.html )
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. I've reflected on some of the questions that were posed at the last briefing about the speed of progress and questions about the patience of the American people if something didn't happen immediately. And I personally have a sense that the public understands the following facts:
On September 11th, the terrorists attacked New York and Washington, murdering thousands of people, Americans as well as people from dozens of other countries of all races and religions.
On October 7th, less than a month later, we had positioned coalition forces in the region, we began military operations against Taliban and al Qaeda targets throughout Afghanistan.
Since that time, roughly three weeks, coalition forces have flown over 2,000 sorties; broadcast 300-plus hours of radio transmissions; delivered an amazing 1 million-30 thousand humanitarian rations to starving Afghan people.
Today is November 1st. And if you think about it, the smoke at this very moment is still rising out of the World Trade Center, or the ruins of the World Trade Center, I should say. And with those ruins still smoldering and the smoke not yet cleared, it seems to me that Americans understand well that despite the urgency in the questions that were posed at the last briefing, we're still in the very, very early stages of this conflict.
The ruins are still smoking. That is, I think, important to reflect on.
Consider some historical perspectives:
- After December 7th, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, it took four months before the United States responded to that attack with the Doolittle Raid in April of '42.
- It took eight months after Pearl Harbor before the U.S. began a land campaign against the Japanese, with the invasion of Guadalcanal in August of 1942.
- The U.S. bombed Japan for three and a half years, until August 1945, before they accomplished their objectives.
- On the European front, the allies bombed Germany continually for five years, from September 1940 until May of '45.
- Took 11 months to start the land campaign against the Germans with the invasion of North Africa.
- And it took the United States two years and six months after Hitler declared war before we landed in France in June of 1944.
We're now fighting a new kind of war. It's unlike any that America has ever fought before. Many things about this war are different from others. But as I have said, one of those differences is not the possibility of instant victory or instant success.
At my briefing, when I announced the start of the air war on October 7th [ transcript ], I stated that our initial goals were the following:
- to make clear to the Taliban that harboring terrorists carries a price;
- to acquire intelligence that would facilitate future operations against al Qaeda and Taliban forces;
- to develop useful relationships with groups of Afghanistan people that oppose the Taliban and the al Qaeda;
- to make it increasingly difficult for the terrorists to use Afghanistan freely as a base of operation;
- to alter the military balance over time by denying the Taliban the offensive systems that hamper the progress of the various opposition forces;
- and to provide humanitarian relief to Afghans suffering oppressive living conditions under the Taliban regime.
Now those were the goals I put out on October 7th. That was 24 days ago -- three weeks and three days; not three months; not three years, but three weeks and three days. And we have made measurable progress against each one of those stated goals from October 7th.
The attacks of September 11th were not days or weeks, but years in the making. The terrorists were painstaking and deliberate, and it appears that they may have spent one or even two years planning their activities.
There's no doubt in my mind but that the American people know that it's going to take more than 24 days to deal with this very difficult problem.
I also stated that our task is much broader than simply defeating Taliban or al Qaeda. It's to root out the global terrorist networks -- not just in Afghanistan but wherever they are -- and to ensure that they cannot threaten the American people or our way of life.
This is a task that's going to take time. Victory will require that every element of American influence and power be engaged. Americans have seen tougher adversaries than this before, and they have had the staying power to defeat them. I think underestimating the American people is a big mistake.
In the end, war is not about statistics, deadlines, short attention spans or 24-hour news cycles. It's about will, the projection of will, the clear, unambiguous determination of the president of the United States -- and let there be no doubt about that -- and the American people to see this through to certain victory.
In other American wars, enemy commanders have come to doubt the wisdom of taking on the strength and power of this nation and the resolve of her people. I expect that somewhere in a cave in Afghanistan there's a terrorist leader who is at this moment considering precisely the same thing.
Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
We'll turn to day 25 of combat operations, where our efforts focused on destroying command and control elements, whether in bunkers, tunnels or caves, as well as continuing our support to operation forces by degrading Taliban military forces.
In yesterday's operations we struck in eight planned target areas, principally around Mazar-e Sharif, Kabul and Kandahar as well as in a number of engagement zones around Afghanistan.
We used about 55 strike aircraft yesterday, including about 40 tactical jets off our carriers, between four and six land-based tactical aircraft, and about eight to 10 long-range bombers.
Yesterday two C-17s delivered about 34,000 food rations in the north for a total of approximately to date 1,062,000.
We also flew Commando Solo broadcast missions and dropped leaflets near Mazar-e Sharif.
Turning to today's imagery, we have videos from F-14s and F-18s depicting strikes yesterday on a cave complex near Kabul. The Taliban and al Qaeda use these caves to secure -- as secure locations for personnel and for ammunition and for equipment.
The first video shows a cave at the base of a cliff. The clip is from the weapons display of the wingman of the one that actually dropped the bomb.
The second clip has two videos which depict another cave located at the top of a ridge. The first clip comes from the shooter's display, and the second clip from his wingman, who's observing the strike. The large secondary explosion seems to indicate we may have hit ammunition or fuel in that cave.
And with that, we're ready to take your questions. Charlie.
Q: Mr. Secretary, two quick ones.
Number one, could you share with us the countries that you're going to visit on the trip that begins in Moscow on Saturday? And, given the success of U.S. military targeters that you've put on the ground in northern Afghanistan, do you plan to soon add more targeters and liaison troops to work with the Northern Alliance?
Rumsfeld: The country that is set, as I believe, I've been told, is a visit to Russia to meet with the minister of defense, Mr. Sergei Ivanov, on a range of subjects. We're talking -- I don't know how far along they've gotten with the plans for the other -- I've got no reason not to announce them, except if I do and they haven't -- for whatever reason, the people I'm to see aren't there and we don't go, someone will say, "What happened? So I'm inclined to wait till the details are worked out, but it will probably be maybe four other countries. And I plan to go on Friday and be back on Monday.
Q: And -- I'm sorry -- and on what about -- as I say, given the success --
Rumsfeld: Oh, I'm sorry. Sure.
Q: -- of the targeting and liaison people, do you plan to soon put some more liaison people in?
Rumsfeld: We do. We have been working very diligently to do that for many, many, many weeks now, and it is difficult to do, for a host of reasons. Weather is one problem. There have been three or four other problems that have occurred. Recently ground fire was a situation that prevented someone from getting in, some team from getting in. But we have a number of teams cocked and ready to go; it's just a matter of having the right kind of equipment to get them there and the landing zones in places where it's possible to get in and get out. And we expect that to happen -- I've expected it to happen every day, and I'm sure it will in the days immediately ahead.
Q: So you plan to put them in as soon as you can. And in what numbers, could you tell us --
Q: -- in round figures?
Rumsfeld: I could, but I won't.
Q: Will they be larger numbers than are in there now, or --
Rumsfeld: We're not going to be taking the ones in there out, if that's what you mean. We're going to be adding people. To have a reasonable cluster of American Special Forces who are able to be in there, serve as liaison, assist with the communication, assist with the targeting, assist with the resupply and do the kinds of things that those folks do so very well.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there are reports that our ally Pakistan is aiding the Taliban through a back door, so to speak, by supplying ammunition, other supplies, and by sending, quote, "volunteers," unquote, to fight with the Taliban.
One, is this true? Two, if so, will it change the outcome, the immediate outcome? And three, do you plan to discuss this with the Pakistani president if and when you go to that country again?
Rumsfeld: Well, there is no question but that countries bordering Afghanistan have long histories and relationships and contacts across borders. And all I can say is I don't doubt for a minute that there are people in any number of those countries who have relationships and dealings across borders that are unhelpful to us. On the other hand, there's also no question but that Pakistan and the president of Pakistan and his government are very much allied with us in this effort and have been enormously supportive and helpful. So to suggest that it is a conscious effort on the part of the government would be a misunderstanding of the situation. What I will discuss with the president of Pakistan if and when I go would be -- I cannot get into those kinds of discussions.
Q: Could I follow up on that first? Could I follow up on that?
Q: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q: There are also reports that the Pakistani government has taken into custody at least one if not two of their top nuclear weapons technicians and scientists who have known ties and sympathies to al Qaeda. Does the U.S. have any evidence at all that either the Taliban or al Qaeda have obtained nuclear weapons or know-how? And what is the level of concern in the U.S. about the safety of the Pakistani nuclear stockpiles?
Rumsfeld: I've seen those reports. The short answer is, we know of certain knowledge that al Qaeda has, over the years, had an appetite for acquiring weapons of mass destruction of various types, including nuclear materials. That's a fact, and it is -- and you said, am I concerned about it? Of course. Any terrorist network that ends up acquiring weapons of mass destruction, as I've said on other occasions, is a danger to the world, a real danger to the world. Those weapons have the capability of killing many more than thousands -- into the hundreds of thousands of people.
Q: The specific question was concern about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear stockpile.
Rumsfeld: Well, I'm sure that the president of Pakistan and his government have been attentive to that and are.
Q: Any evidence that has been compromised?
Rumsfeld: None at all.
Q: Mr. Secretary, Turkey announced recently that they're going to be sending about 90 special operations troops to aid in training of Afghan opposition forces. Are you moving in the direction of a broader coalition on the special operations side of this campaign?
Rumsfeld: The campaign has been broadening almost every day, I would say, since it began.
Myers: Sir, correct.
Rumsfeld: And there are -- I don't know how many countries involved at the present time, but it is broad. Turkey has been involved in a variety of ways from the outset, and has had a relationship with the Northern Alliance previously. As a matter of fact, that's a subject that came up during my meetings when I was in Ankara.
Q: I'm referring to on the ground, special operations types efforts that we've talked about in that --
Rumsfeld: You know me; I let countries announce what they want to announce about their involvement in this effort and characterize it the way they want to characterize it.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, you started --
Rumsfeld: Ask Dick some questions! (Laughter.)
Q: This question is for both of you.
Q: You set out at the beginning of this briefing just sort of trying to set the record straight about realistic expectations. Let me ask you about another generally held perception, and tell me if this meshes with reality.
Rumsfeld: Is this from polling data?
Q: This is just from general coverage.
Rumsfeld: I see.
Q: You read this in the press. And the general perception is that the U.S. restrained --
Rumsfeld: In the press?
Q: In the press. That the U.S. restrained its bombing campaign initially because it wanted a political plan to be in place for a post-Taliban government. And now that that has failed to happen, you have accelerated the campaign and given up on having that political plan in place before you proceed to escalate the military action. Can you just address how that --
Rumsfeld: Sure. I'd like to, as a matter of fact. I think it's useful to do so. I've seen a lot of press reporting to that effect -- a great deal. It is absolutely false, unless there is something that I simply am totally unaware of, which I doubt.
The reason the target sets were selected in the phases they were selected was the -- first, we wanted to clear out the air defenses and the aircraft to the extent we could, so we could operate over the country at some altitude successfully.
Second, we hit a broad range of targets -- military targets, command and control, airports and the like, airfields.
And third, we have been concentrating on the forces that are opposing the Northern Alliance and other ground forces that oppose Taliban and al Qaeda.
Now, the reason they are -- were in that phase was -- and they still are in that phase -- we're spending, as I think I've indicated, something like 80 percent of our effort on forces opposing the Taliban. The reason we did it in that sequence is because we did not have people on the ground who could help with the targeting.
And we do now have some, not -- nowhere near as many as we need, and not with all of the elements that are opposing Taliban and al Qaeda. And so the best work is being done where we do have those special forces on the ground. But it was not some master plan that we concocted, that we wanted Joe to reach Kabul instead of Mike. Those are, I'm sure, not Afghan names, but -- (laughter) -- but it just wasn't so.
Q: General Myers, could you comment on why that -- why the military campaign has unfolded the way it has, what the military thinking was behind that?
Myers: Well, I think the secretary did a very good job of that. I would throw my nickel on this, Jamie, in the sense that I agree with the secretary; this is -- the premise that you put forward is absolutely wrong. There has been no constraint on our bombing.
In fact, if you would ask General Franks down at Central Command, the one that we entrust with the responsibility of this effort, and ask him if he had the rules of engagement that allowed him to conduct this campaign in the way that he wants to, in the way that he's instructed to do, he would tell you yes. I'm confident of that. I can't speak for Tommy, but I would -- and so the campaign has unfolded exactly as the secretary said. We've tried, over time, to set the conditions so we could go after the al Qaeda leadership and the Taliban leadership, so they will stop supporting terrorists in that country.
And it's continuing to unfold, and we are now in a phase -- I don't like the term "phase," but we're now in a piece of this, because we have many phases going -- we're still going after the leadership. We're also, as the secretary said, devoting about 80 percent of our sorties to the support of the opposition forces. And that 80 percent does not include the resupply that we are engaged in as well.
Rumsfeld: As a matter of fact, we would probably be using a higher percentage if we had more people effectively providing the target information than we currently do, and the weather had been better over the last week or two or three, and we could have gotten those folks in.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: Your opening statement today wasn't about prosecuting war. Increasingly, it seems to be about selling the war, telling the American people why it's taking as long as it is, and to have patience.
How big a part of your job is the sales effort? What sort of time are you dedicating to that? Are you dedicating too much time to it? And are the people that you're talking to buying?
Rumsfeld: Well, I would guess it's probably about maybe 30 to 60 minutes a day.
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: Yeah. I mean, I'm here for a half-hour or 40 minutes, whatever it takes. I meet with some other folks probably one other time during the day. I get into the office about 6:30, I go home about 8:00, and as a percentage of the day, it's relatively modest.
Is it important? I guess I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't believe it was important. I think it probably is. I think that the -- well, first of all, we have multiple audiences that we have to deal with.
One is the men and women in the armed services. And this, to be perfectly honest, is a good way to communicate directly with them as to what this is all about: What are doing, why are we doing it, how long will we be doing it? Are we doing it in a way that we're pleased with or disappointed with? And what are the kinds of questions? So we can address that audience.
Then there are the American people, and the American people determine where this country goes, ultimately, and so it's important that they have that same understanding.
Then there is the press, and needless to say, that is important. You play a very important role in this process.
And so, as questions come up, it's important for Dick, and for me, and for others to be here almost every day and try to respond to those and provide the calibration that we believe is the right calibration, the honest, true calibration. And that's what we try to do.
Myers: Can I just add on to that?
Rumsfeld: You bet.
Myers: I think those three categories are very good. The troops -- last week I -- end of last week, I visited some troops. I went to Whiteman, as I said. I went to Fort Riley. And as we explain the strategy, and where we are, and how we're trying to prosecute this particular global war on terrorism, they have a very good understanding and are very supportive of the way we're headed.
The American people -- I happened to have a chance to meet in a retirement community with about 40 to 50 retirees, who had very sophisticated views of what we were doing. They understood; they'd been reading the papers, and they understood. And we had a good dialogue, a good question-and-answer session. And I think they, too, understand what it is we're trying to do.
Now, it's a little bit different when you come inside the beltway with the Washington pundits because we have a very well-informed, very well-educated, up-to-speed audience and a group of pundits who have opinions on this. And that's fair; that's the way it should work.
But to the question, I think the American people understand this. And I hope to go out to other parts of the country and do the same thing again and continue to gather that kind of information.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, speaking of the troops, do you have a sense of when the administration is going to look at General Frank's request for a combat zone exclusion for those who are engaging in -- (off mike)?
Myers: That should be processing already. That was an early request, and it's -- my understanding is that that has been close to approval.
I can't tell you exactly where in the process it is now, but my last position report was that it was working its way through just fine.
Q: General Myers, I had a question on the impact the B-52 raids may be having on the Northern Alliance's chances to break through at Mazar-e Sharif. They're saying that the raids have been -- have helped them position for a potential breakout offensive in that region and possibly moving toward Kabul. Was that kind of the macro- strategy underlying the B-52 raids and increasing those in the last few days?
Myers: The strategy by using any weapons system is to have the maximum effect you can on the targets you're going after. In this case, we're trying to destroy Taliban forces that are arrayed against the opposing forces. One thing to think about in the B-52 raids, for some of us, we go back to Vietnam and we -- and that's where the term "carpet bombing" came up, because it was perhaps less accurate then than it is today. The B-52 has been modified extensively, and so I think the term carpet bomb is not right. What we've done is if there are targets that are suitable for general-purpose bombs, i.e. non-precision bombs, where you have to drop, say, 40 or 50 or more at a time, and we find those targets -- as you can guess, they probably aren't going to be close to areas where we'd worry about damage to civilian structures, but some of them are ideally suited, some of those -- that techniques is suited for the kind of troops in the field that we find. And yes, we think they're having some effect.
Rumsfeld: I should correct one comment. When I said an hour and a half -- or an hour to an hour and a half, it may be slightly more, because Torie keeps calling me with questions -- (laughter) -- that you people ask, and there is that periodic distract- -- opportunity -- (laughter) -- for me.
Q: Yes, the U.S. is openly supporting the Northern Alliance, but I'm told that there are other anti-Taliban forces that have requested similar support, either arms or airstrikes, namely Ismail Khan's forces around Herat --
Q: -- or the Hazara in the Central Mountains. Why isn't the U.S. military supporting them?
Rumsfeld: We are. We're for them. We're supplying food. We're supplying ammunition to some. I could list them, but I won't. And we are trying to increase the number of forces that are opposing Taliban and al Qaeda forces. And we're not only trying to increase the number that are doing that, we're trying to improve their success. And to the extent we can provide -- get people in with them and provide the targeting that help us, we will do so.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: Earlier you said that one of the teams that was going into Afghanistan couldn't get in because of weather, and then you mentioned --
Rumsfeld: More than one.
Q: -- but you also mentioned ground fire. Could you describe that incident to us? When did it happen? Where did it happen? How did it happen? And were there any American casualties?
Rumsfeld: Definitely not. The ground fire was simply too heavy to unload the folks. And so they went back. And they'll try it again in a different landing area.
Q: Mr. Secretary, what do you see as an ongoing role in the campaign for the Army Rangers, specifically? And if General Myers can address that as well.
Myers: Well, as we've said, they're -- we're going to use every type of capability that we have in this conflict. And to speculate on when we might do that, we simply can't do that because that would put them in harm's way. But I think people know the capabilities the Rangers have. And as we see ways they can contribute to this campaign in a meaningful way, we're ready to use them.
You know, often the issue of risk comes up in this context. And I think we understand, certainly the American people understand, that since September 11th things have changed fairly dramatically. And so it's -- we'll always balance the risk. I mean, obviously we're going to do that. But if we're not satisfying some pundit's concern about how quickly we're using ground forces or not using ground forces, I can guarantee you it has nothing to do with risk. It has to do with the overall strategy, when is the right time, when can we have the desired effects on the battlefield that we want to have.
Q: Could you give us some sense of the magnitude of the increase you're talking about with the Special Forces on the ground? I understand that we don't know the base line number there, you won't tell us the base line number. But will it be increased by 50 percent, or will it be doubled or tripled? And then also, could you talk about the problem with cluster bombs, unexploded cluster bombs in bright yellow wrappers and HDRs in bright yellow wrappers? Obviously they look the same from far off and can endanger people on the ground.
Rumsfeld: I'd like to see as soon as humanly possible the numbers of teams go up by three or four times.
Do you want to deal with the colors of the cluster bombs and the food rations?
Myers: Right. It is unfortunate that the cluster bombs, the unexploded ones are the same color as the food packets. We have dropped fliers that show the pictures and the proper language explain why you want to go to one and you don't want to go to the other. We hope that helps. Another thing we're doing is with the food packets is changing the color of their design. We're going to -- I think it's going to be blue. It obviously will take some time -- we're trying to figure out how long -- to change that color over, because there are many in the pipeline. They were probably yellow because they were very visible and people could see them lying around. The same for the cluster bombs. Unfortunately, they get used to running to yellow. So --
Rumsfeld: Just a second. She's not quite finished.
Q: Didn't you run into that problem in Kosovo, then? I mean, you did use cluster bombs and you did distribute HDRs and they were the same color then. Why is it only now being addressed?
Myers: I'd have to research that. I don't know. I wasn't -- I'm not aware of that.
Q: What about the -- [inaudible] for the public who -- you know, beyond the criticism from human rights organizations for using the cluster bombs, they're calling for a halt -- could you explain the tactical rationale for using them?
Myers: Yeah. This is very simple. On September 11th, we lost over 5,000 innocents to an intentional act. We are prosecuting now a global war on terrorism. We are trying to be very careful in the way we plan this particular conflict. Probably only the U.S. and its allies could do it in such a way that we minimize civilian casualties. If we match up a specific weapon to a specific target and we make the judgment that it's in accordance with the law of armed conflict, and we've worked this very, very carefully, then we'll use that weapon. In some cases, that means cluster bombs. And we understand the impact of those. I would take you back to September 11th. We also understand the impact of that.
Rumsfeld: They are being used on front-line all Qaeda and Taliban troops to try to kill them, is why we're using them, to be perfectly blunt.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you talked about the continuing support of the American people, that you have no doubt they will be with you. It's really the support outside of the United States where there are indications that there is not only a fading, but a rapid decline, as best can be measured, in some of the Arab countries, in particular. Will you address that issue? Will they be with us?
Rumsfeld: I think so, yes, indeed. The reason I say that is, if one looks at the statements and recognizes the circumstance of each country and the statements each country is making, I think it is just enormously encouraging the amount of support and the assistance we're getting. I just saw two press reports today on statements out of Arab countries in the Middle East that were very positive, very supportive, unambiguous. Now, they have a different set of circumstances than others do, but I feel quite encouraged by it.
Q: Well, one of the continuing issues, the pictures of civilian casualties, which is difficult for the U.S. to explain -- and you have addressed this issue. Last week we asked three different times on this one village, called Chukar Karezz, which has been addressed again and again in questions, and today there are American reporters on the ground in this village looking at the destruction with no apparent military targets around it. Did the U.S. strike this village? The Taliban said more than a hundred people were killed. If we did, why? And is there an explanation? Or was it Taliban propaganda on the other side?
Rumsfeld: I cannot deal with that particular village. I suppose I could try and find out for you, and will.
I can deal with the question of the Taliban's comments. We know of certain knowledge they're putting anti-aircraft batteries on top of buildings in residential areas for the purpose of attracting bombs so that, in fact, they can then show the press that civilians have been killed. And I can tell you that the Afghan civilians don't like it.
We know also that they have been seizing and beating non- governmental organization workers. And when I asked, on one occasion -- my, it's interesting that when I hear a non-governmental worker, they seem to say that the bombing is inhibiting their ability to distribute food from time to time, or something like that, and I see that reported in the press. And I asked this World Food person, who is knowledgeable about it, why don't we hear non-governmental organizations talking about the fact that their warehouses are broken into, the materials are taken, their workers are beaten? And the answer is, it's very simple -- the Taliban will shoot their people if they do, so they keep their mouths closed.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I want to go back to your opening statement. You talked about World War II and how it took years to defeat Germany and Japan. I'm just wondering if that's an apt analogy, because in those cases, we had millions of men under arms, thousands of aircrafts, huge navies. And in this case, we have a Taliban with 45,000 men under arms, really no air force to speak of, antiquated weapons. And people are saying this should be farther along maybe than it is.
And another point is, analysts have said --
Rumsfeld: Well, sure -- on the first point, no analogy is perfect. It's not on all fours with World War II or with the Cold War or Korea or Desert Storm. Desert Storm is more recent -- it took six months before a bullet was shot.
Q: Right. But in Iraq they had --
Rumsfeld: I mean, is that closer? Am I getting better? (Laughter.)
Q: Well, in Iraq, certainly they had a larger military than the Taliban.
Rumsfeld: That's right. And we don't have good targets here, there's no question. And it takes time to find them. And they are the kinds of targets that if you don't have feet on the ground helping to target, it's very, very difficult to do it.
Q: And one other point. Analysts have mentioned that it would have been wiser early on, maybe right off the --
Rumsfeld: These are these same anonymous analysts?
Q: Same analysts, correct. (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: Good. Just so we've got that nailed down.
Q: Would it have made sense right off the bat to help the Northern Alliance more with ammunition than perhaps assistance of other kinds, farming and so forth?
Rumsfeld: Well, I've heard a Northern Alliance spokesman say something to that effect in a dress suit from the Press Club. The fact of the matter is, we are supplying ammunition and supplies to the Northern Alliance and to other forces opposing them as fast as we can. And to the extent we have a chance to find out about these people, whether or not they're a people who are going to do anything with the ammunition other than sell it, which is always nice to know -- it's preferable that it ends up in a weapon and is shot.
There are a series of steps that need to be taken. You just don't load up an airplane and start dropping it out from the sky in parachutes for people that you have not developed some sort of a relationship with, some sense of whether or not they're going to actually do something with that.
We are supplying a lot of supplies, food, ammunition, and other things. And does that mean that somebody could not legitimately stand up and say, we didn't get what we'd hoped to get, or we didn't get as much as we wanted? Sure. And as I told you the other day, sometimes it takes days after we've dropped it before it ends up with the fellow with the rifle because it has to go by donkey or mule or horseback.
Q: Can you say anything about the --
Q: There's been some reporting out of the White House that the Bush administration has decided to, in a sense, uncouple the political efforts to build a post-Taliban government in Afghanistan with the military efforts to advance the Northern Alliance.
Rumsfeld: The implication being that they were originally coupled?
Q: That being the exact implication, yes. And --
Rumsfeld: If they were, as I said earlier, it was not to my knowledge that they were coupled.
There is an effort going on. There is a non -- there is a State Department, and I believe the man's name is Ambassador Richard Haass, who has been designated by the secretary of State to be the U.S. person to work this issue. He is doing that. He is doing it with lots of other countries. He is doing it with the U.N. representatives. He's doing it with people in Europe. He's doing it with people in the region. And that effort is not going to be a U.S.-controlled effort. It is going to be an effort that we want to participate in. It is going forward.
There is no way in the world anyone -- you, I, Mr. Haass -- can manage it. It is a lot of people with a lot of views, and they're going to be working that through. And we are going to, as General Myers said, proceed to do everything we can to damage the Taliban and the al Qaeda forces.
Q: Mr. Secretary, can you say why --
Q: There seems to be to us here some escalation in the efforts in that area. We've moved --
Rumsfeld: Escalation in that area?
Q: In Afghanistan. We've moved into --
Rumsfeld: You mean military escalation or diplomatic?
Q: Yes. Coordination with the Northern Alliance, bombing the front-line positions. Some of these are somewhat recent developments that were not happening earlier in the campaign. Has there been some shift in the thinking that's allowed us to go --
Rumsfeld: No, no. The only thing that's shifted is, we have gotten more forces in the region, we've gotten more people on the ground, and we've gotten better targeting information. And we've completed the earlier target sets, and we're now working on the current target sets.
Q: Mr. Secretary, if you weren't concerned about support or backing from other countries --
Rumsfeld: We are. We think it's very important.
Q: -- then why are you taking a trip overseas without knowing whether or not you're going to be received in countries in that region?
Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, you're beginning with an illogical premise and proceeding perfectly logically to an illogical conclusion -- (soft laughter) -- which is a dangerous thing to do.
First of all, I, we, all, are concerned about the relationships with the countries in the region. We are constantly communicating with them. People go there. General Franks has been there. Secretary Powell's been in the region. I've been in the region. I'm going back to the region, and I'm sure I'll go back again. So any implication that we are not concerned would be wrong.
Now, then why am I going to the region without having nailed down every single visit I might make? The answer is because they, those people who I might see, have schedules also. And so what I do is, I say: Well, I know I have to go to Russia. I know I have to meet with Minister Ivanov, and I will do so. And if have gone that distance, it seems, you know, passing sensible to me to suggest that I might also stop at a couple of other countries that are in reasonable proximity to Afghanistan.
And that -- those contacts, once the first visit was nailed down and set, we then can build around it. And those talks or discussions are going forth, and we will in fact have them all arranged by the end of today. And not to worry; it'll all turn out.
Q: Can you say if those countries include India and Pakistan and whether or not in India --
Rumsfeld: I've announced earlier that I thought it does not make sense to name countries, because if, for whatever reason, I end up not going there, someone's going to say, "Why did you cancel the visit?"
Q: The United States and India are discussing a proposal -- a specific U.S. proposal to expand joint military cooperation specifically for this operation in the area of naval refueling and sea-lane security.
Rumsfeld: I'm aware of what we're doing. (Laughter.)
Q: Is that one of the issues you are going to go discuss? And --
Rumsfeld: I just said I was not going to announce the countries I was going to. Therefore, if I respond to your question, I will have just defeated my original answer, which I am not inclined to do.
Q: General Myers, can you comment at all on plans to deploy a Global Hawk or Joint STARS [Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System] aircraft to the theater of operations, and what additional capability that would allow you as you move ahead?
Myers: Well, one of the things that we need to continue to look at is, are we -- how we gather intelligence and what systems we have over there to do that. So I think we can say that we are indeed looking at the entire array of reconnaissance assets. That would include Joint STARS. As you know, Joint STARS is very good at picking up -- everybody knows its mission -- it's very good at picking up movement along roads or trails or whatever of vehicles. That would be a useful thing to have. And Global Hawk is being looked at, as well. As you know, it's a developmental system, so there's some issues with that, but that's being looked at, as well.
Rumsfeld: We'll make this the last question. We'll make this the last question, right here. There we go.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Rumsfeld: If we stay any longer, I'll be accused of being here too long. (Laughter.)
Q: Let's go to your mission to Moscow, because nobody wants to discuss that, apparently, and I know you don't want to upstage the president. But the front-page story in the Washington Post today implies that a deal has been cut between the United States and Russia on a national missile defense. And this in no way will abrogate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Can you tell me if there is such a deal, and what purpose is your mission to Moscow specifically?
Rumsfeld: If those things were all tied up with a ribbon, I doubt if I'd be going.
Q: General Myers, could you -- (scattered laughter) --
Rumsfeld: Further -- I will speculate further by saying that I suspect that the ribbon will not be placed around the thing until the president -- President Bush and President Putin -- meet and sort through the -- several important issues. The rest of us, we clear out underbrush. That's what we do.
Thank you very much.
Q: Have a good trip.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
"THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS PREPARED BY THE FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., WASHINGTON DC. 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."