Secretary Rumsfeld Stakeout following Classified Senate Ops-Intel Briefing U.S. Capitol
SEN. FRIST: Over the last hour and a half, we've had the opportunity to have an all-Senate briefing that was informative, instructive, very useful. It was bipartisan, of course, and most the United States Senate was there. Before turning over the microphone, let me just say, as majority leader and on behalf of the Democratic leader, we very much look forward to the joint session tomorrow with Prime Minister Allawi. That joint session will be in the morning.
Our briefing today included Secretary Rumsfeld, Ambassador Negroponte, who will be with us shortly, Deputy Secretary of State, Dick Armitage, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dick Myers and the head of Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid.
And I think what would most useful is for us to turn to Gen. Abizaid for a few comments and then Ambassador Negroponte.
GEN. ABIZAID: Thank you very much, Senator. First of all, I’d like to thank the wonderful young men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States for the activities and the actions and the bravery and the heroism that they’ve put forward in defending our nation in the Central Command area. That doesn’t only include Iraq, it includes Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and the entire Middle East and Central Asia.
We are certainly looking forward to the election season in Afghanistan that’s coming up. We’re also looking forward to the election season that’s coming up in Iraq. We know that we will have to fight for the elections in both countries. We know that the enemy will come at us very, very tough, but we also know that we’ve got the military capacity to deal with anything that may come our way. In three years of fighting in the Middle East, we have yet to lose a single tactical engagement and we’re going to keep it that way. Our troops are doing great work.
SEN. FRIST: Good. Thank you, General. Thank you for your tremendous service.
AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE: Good afternoon. Prime Minister Allawi of the Iraq interim government will be coming to Washington tomorrow – this evening, and he’ll be addressing a joint meeting of the Congress tomorrow. His government has been in office slightly less than three months. And I don’t want to steal his thunder, but I think the government is taking hold. I think perhaps most importantly, they are preparing for elections for a transitional national assembly to take place not later than the end of January next year. I think preparations for those elections are proceeding apace. And if our plans for training and equipping the armed forces of Iraq continue as they have been up until now, that security conditions should be adequate for the satisfactory conduct of those elections by the end of January.
SEN. FRIST: Our discussions over the last hour and a half have centered strategically, have centered militarily, economically and politically as well. We had a very thorough discussion by all of the people that I listed just a few minutes ago. These same briefers will be going to the House of Representatives now immediately to do a similar type of briefing. But I know that they’d be happy to take questions. Gen. Abizaid or Ambassador will be happy to take questions on – can you take a couple of questions before – good.
Questions for either of them?
Q: Gen. Abizaid or Secretary Rumsfeld, can I get your general reaction, first of all, to the recent beheadings and is the military any closer to catching those responsible?
GEN. ABIZAID: Well, first of all, we clearly know that the Zarqawi network is responsible for this. We have had a lot of good effect against the Zarqawi network in the past several weeks. We’ll continue to work against them, as long as it takes. We will find him, root him out, and destroy him and his organization and we’ll do it as quickly as we possibly can.
Q: Have you made any progress, though? I mean, there’s been an escalation of these? Are you any closer than you were, say, two months ago?
GEN. ABIZAID: I wouldn’t want to say, one way or the other, that we’re closer to him personally, but we have had good effect against his network. We’re going to keep it up, and we’ll take it apart piece by piece.
SEN. FRIST: OK, further questions?
Q: Mr. Rumsfeld, some experts are saying the insurgency in Iraq could last 10 years or more. Is this possible, in your estimation?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Who are these experts?
Q: It’s all over CNN…
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, CNN -- come now. Look, Gen. Abizaid just gave a presentation up there to the United States Senate that was powerful -- and it is that we are up against a very serious collection of enemies, terrorists, extremists, people who use terrorism as their weapon of choice, people who’ve cut off people’s heads. And the task that the moderate people in this world who are being opposed by the extremists, the task we have is to deal with them wherever they are, and it will take time. I think anyone who pulls a number out of midair and says it’ll take one year, or five years, or 10 years, must have mystical powers that most people don’t have.
It is a serious collection of people who are determined to kill innocent men, women and children and attack the state system that exists in this globe. And it’s the job of civil societies all across the globe to do everything humanly possible to see that they’re not able to kill innocent men, women and children. Thank you very much
SEN. FRIST: Thank you all.