Wednesday, November 21, 2001
(Media availability en route to Fort Bragg, N. C.)
Rumsfeld: We are off to Fort Bragg and I would be happy to respond to your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, what can you tell us about plans that we have to put Marines on the ground in the operations in Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: I have absolutely nothing to say on that subject.
Q: Are there plans to a potentially use them --
Rumsfeld: We don't discuss plans or potentials about what we might or might not do. Just to make it clear as to what's going on, what's going on is that we continue to work towards our three goals of dealing with the al Qaeda completely, dealing with the leadership of Taliban, and seeing that Afghanistan is not a haven for terrorists. The way you have to do that obviously is to pursue those individuals and organizations and forces wherever they are in that country. They are in a couple of enclaves right now, large enclaves in Kunduz and in Kandahar. They are also in a number of smaller enclaves spotted all around the country, and there are certainly individuals, we are sure, hiding in caves and tunnels and we intend to pursue them.
Q: Mr. Secretary, Mullah Omar is quoted as saying the Taliban doesn't know where Osama bin Laden is or what do you make of that?
Rumsfeld: I have not found a great deal of what the Taliban has said to be believable.
Q: Mr. Secretary what about the negotiations for Kunduz, what are your thoughts about that?
Rumsfeld: My thoughts are very simple about negotiations anywhere in the country, and that is that the people either surrender or they ought to be fought and the Northern Alliance forces are fighting them, and until they surrender I suspect they will fight them. And if they are looking for any kind of conditions where by the foreigners there, Chinese in there, there is Chechens in there, there are Arabs in there, there is al Qaeda in there. Any idea that those people should be let loose on any basis at all to lead that country and to go bring terror to other countries and destabilize other countries is unacceptable.
Q: There are increasing reports there that on the ground is pretty chaotic and that these different warlords are setting up territory and that they are acting autonomously of any kind of united effort, is that a concern now, especially when you hear the Northern Alliance people saying that they don't want any foreign troops on the ground at all?
Rumsfeld: The question is: is it chaotic? My answer is no. It is not chaotic. In fact it is amazingly orderly. I suspect there has not been a change of power in that country in decades that has been as orderly with the very limited loss of life. What we have seen is a great many Taliban changing sides. We have seen a number of other Taliban and al Qaeda fleeing. We've seen a few very serious battles, some of which are still taking place, and then once the battles are over, there to be sure have been some reports that Taliban killed people as they left, and looted as they left various cities, and that the al Qaeda has prevented some Taliban from surrendering. In some cases killing them. In terms of anything else going on, for example in Mazar-e Sharif, it is orderly at the present time, same thing is true in Kabul to my information. Most of the other towns that have changed hands are quite orderly and people are behaving in a reasonably responsible way.
Q: But these leaders are saying they don't want anymore troops on the ground. How do you deal with that?
Rumsfeld: Afghans have never wanted foreign troops on the ground. That is one of the reasons the al Qaeda is not very popular. And that is a perfectly natural attitude, in my view, there will undoubtedly be differences between different tribes and the elements within the Northern Alliance as to who want to be where and who want to do what and who want to be in charge and what among themselves, and that is to be expected. That happens in any kind of country when there is this kind of change over.
Q: Mr. Secretary is there anything new on senior leadership of al Qaeda in the past 24 hours or past two or three days?
Rumsfeld: Oh goodness, I have to think, I don't think I would want to comment on or report on, there is a fairly continuous stream of information about attacks from the air that are taking place on command and control locations or on convoys that are moving. But beyond that type of thing and we don't have names on those individuals.
Q: Pentagon people like to talk about hitting centers of gravity. What was the center of gravity you think the military hit that changed the direction of this campaign, what was the key?
Rumsfeld: That is a tough question, and I am not sure we will know with any precision for months when people can be interviewed and talked to. I think one of the critical, to use a different phrase, I think on of the critical aspects of this thus far I mean it is far from over let there be no doubt. I mean this has a good distance to run, but one of the critical elements is that the fact that the Taliban is so repressive and that there was in the Afghan population a distaste for the repressive ness of the Taliban and the al Qaeda. I think second among the Afghan people there was a dislike for the foreigners, that is to say the al Qaeda, whether it is Pakistanis, or Middle Easterners, or Chinese, or the Chechens, whatever comprised the cluster of foreign element that it is really running that country in a major sense. I think there was a distaste for those people and a preference that they not be there.
Q: How did the solitary campaign take advantage of those things?
Rumsfeld: One of the things the United States has had, and has going for us is that it is very clear we do not intend to occupy Afghanistan. We have no interest in that real estate at all. We want the Afghan people to have that country and that aspect of it seems to me coupled with the humanitarian effort, the willingness to work with the various elements in the country even though they don't work with each other. The single mindedness on the part of the United States to deal with the al Qaeda and to replace the Taliban, provided a lot of incentives for the forces to take steps to oppose Taliban and al Qaeda. Couple that with very effective air support because the folks we've had on the ground providing that improved targeting, then couple that with the Afghan people generally want their lives improved, they're starving, they have been repressed, they want those folks out of there, it seems to me that combination is what has created the advances that have occurred thus far. Now what will that do to get us the rest of the way towards our goals? It seems to me that that remains to be seen. But I am hopeful that that same attitude will contribute to people being willing to provide intelligence information as to where these folks have been hiding, seeking the rewards that have been put forward by the Department of State, and I think they could want to continue to be helpful.
Q: Mr. Secretary, about the reward, the question you hear all the time is what is an Afghanistan person going to do with $25 million?
Rumsfeld: Well it is not necessarily $25 million, it is up to. And needless to say it is an incentive for people to provide intelligence information to assist in hunting down these folks and putting themselves at risk to do it. What would they do with some portion of that amount of money, why what anyone else do?
Q: Again, it is a lot of money for someone who exists on maybe $500 a year.
Rumsfeld: Well my guess is that some person, some human being somewhere would have a scrap of information and they would go to their leader, their tribal chief for that activity, and they then would see what they think about that, and they then might move that piece of information to somewhere else and by the time they're through the amounts of money that would be spread would vary depending on the contribution the person actually paid. I don't think we have to worry about whether or not they would find the incentive.
Q: Who would decide how the money was paid out?
Rumsfeld: State has the action
Q: Mr. Secretary, the Uzbekistani officials have given permission for AC-130s to go into that country. Have you issued orders to put those planes there or in other surrounding countries?
Rumsfeld: We already have some aircraft in Uzbekistan.
Q: Do we have the AC-130s there?
Rumsfeld: We have not had AC-130s there. It has been a matter discussed with the government, and I don't know the government has made any announcements with respect to it. But in the event that any government decides that they willing to assist us by allowing various types of aircraft to go into their countries, then we make those decisions, place them where they are most convenient and effective. And clearly the range of an AC-130 is such that it is helpful to have access to all portions of Afghanistan and not just the south from the standpoint of that particular aircraft. Needless to say it would be helpful for us to have AC-130s up North particularly when you have a situation like Kunduz, because that particular weapon system and platform can put on an enormous amount of ordinance and with a great deal of precision without a lot of collateral damage.
Q: How soon do you hope to have AC-130's in Uzbekistan if given permission?
Rumsfeld: See those are all your assumptions that they have said that and we have agreed. The way we have done it from the beginning is that we have let the countries involved characterize what it is they want to do for us and what it is they are doing for us, because we need the maximum amount of help and so I kind of leave it to the countries to make decisions as to whether they want to do things and what they want to say about it.
Q: Can you sir tell us anything new that is happening in Afghanistan the U.S. is doing as you are getting closer to getting air bases and can you tell us anything at all new that is happening?
Rumsfeld: I don't know quite what new means, but there are coalition forces, that is to say countries beside the U.S. that are now functioning in Afghanistan. We have been incrementally increasing our Special Forces so that we now have much broader and deeper coverage with the various elements in the North and the South that are opposing Taliban and al Qaeda. In some cases we have one team and in some cases we have more than one Special Forces team. We have Special Operations activities taking place in the country, they vary they go up and down in terms of intensity. We are doing all kinds of things I characterized earlier, but we now have Global Hawk, which is a new element, and helpful because of winter weather coming and the difficulties the Predator has. I don't know quite what you mean by new
Q: Are they flying now over Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: Either yesterday, today or tomorrow. As you know it is still in the research, development and demonstration phase. It will not be flying every day. It will have to be managed as a demonstration model.
Q: Anything on the helicopter that made the hard landing yesterday?
Rumsfeld: I do. It was a small helicopter and I believe we had a broken arm and a broken leg and a couple of back sprains or strains, and they were lifted out relatively promptly by a C-130.