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Under Secretary Feith Breakfast with Defense Writers Group

Presenter: Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith
February 20, 2002

(Breakfast meeting in Washington, D.C. with the Defense Writers Group.)

Q: [Missing initial part of question related to Office of Strategic Influence] -- what is the reason why the Pentagon hasn't decided to go that route? What is different than what the CIA does and what the State Department already does?

Feith: First of all I want to clarify that when Defense Department officials speak to the public they tell the truth, and despite some of the reports about the Office of Strategic Influence that I've read over the last day or two, Defense Department officials don't lie to the public. And we are confident that the truth serves our interests in the broadest sense of national security and specifically in this war.

The use of information in the war, in order to facilitate the work of our armed forces and help them fulfill their missions, is very important. Everybody who follows the military affairs and knows military history knows how important information can be at the operational and tactical level.

There are all kinds of things that one wants to improvise about the use of information from things like the way you bring information to an area of operations -- one of the major things we did during the Cold War was bring true information through the Iron Curtain. We used information, we've been using information in Afghanistan to advertise rewards, the Commando Solo broadcasts, to tell people what they can expect, to warn people about unexploded ordnance, to tell them that the humanitarian assistance can be eaten. There are all kinds of uses of information for which policy is required.

There's also the issue, as I was saying, about operational and tactical use of information. We have an interest in the enemy not knowing, not being confident about what we're going to do. And there are all kinds of ways of affecting enemies' perceptions of what our armed forces are doing that don't involve Defense Department officials lying to the public.

So it's important that people really be clear on this point. We have an enormous stake in our credibility and we're going to preserve that, but we're not going to give up on the obvious usefulness of managing information of various types for the purpose of helping our armed forces accomplish their mission.

Q: But that's deeper than the purview of the CIA and the State Department. Why is the military getting involved in disinformation campaigns?

Feith: You characterize them as disinformation campaigns. I try to be careful about distinguishing between public affairs and public diplomacy. Public diplomacy is the responsibility of a number of the agencies of the U.S. government. The State Department I believe has the lead. Public affairs work is done by every agency of the U.S. government. We are not, as I said, we are not going to endanger the credibility of our public affairs, but there's a lot that can be done in the information, in the area of using information to facilitate our military mission that doesn't enter the realm of public affairs or public diplomacy.

Q: Are you going to be required to get a covert action finding? Do you think any sort of -- I don't know what you call it. I call it information (inaudible) or anything like that?

Feith: The Defense Department doesn't do covert actions.

Q: But that would be a covert action.

Feith: If it's a covert action, we don't do it.

Q: Are you saying then that there would not be any type of a covert disinformation campaign run by this office?

Feith: The Defense Department doesn't do covert action, period.

Q: I just want to clarify. Will the mandate of this office or any other office of this Pentagon include [stocking] or supplying news stories or information that is false to foreign media or other media sources?

Feith: No.

Q: And will the mandate of this office include -- does the mandate of this office include disseminating information to, in countries that we have not -- in allied countries that --

Feith: You're asking about the mandate of the office. I was happy to answer the first question, but to tell you the truth the mandate of the office is being worked. And it's a new office, and the kinds of issues that have been raised about the proper bounds of this activity -- we are sensitive to the importance of the kinds of questions that have been raised about the office. We don't consider that in any way if, that it's improper to be challenging these kinds of questions. These are serious questions that we've been dealing with.

We are formulating the mandate for the office. It involves issues that require us to coordinate within the Defense Department and to coordinate interagency. That work is underway right now. There is a review of what the proper way to conceive these missions is and how to do the obviously important and legitimate things that need to be done regarding information; and how to do it in a way that protects the purity, the accuracy, the voracity of the public affairs work that is done by the department and by other agencies of the government. And all of these important line drawing issues are being worked right now.

We understand how important these issues are. There's no mistake that this is a sensitive and important subject. We're trying to approach it intelligently. It happens to be that in the midst of our work the story appeared. But we're going to complete our work and I think we should get it right when we do complete the work.

Q: On another topic. In addition to the creation of the Northern Command, what other changes are contemplated in the unified command structure and why?

Feith: I don't think we've finalized that. As a matter of fact I know we haven't finalized that so I'm not sure that I can say anything publicly about it at the moment. I was explaining earlier as I was coming in, one of my big problems is trying to keep the lines straight in my mind between what's public information and what's still classified.

Q: Still clarifying it. (Laughter)

Q: There's no way to go wrong. (Laughter)

Feith: You may know all kinds of stuff already, but to tell you the truth I am not clear in my mind of what has been said publicly about the unified command plan yet other than the fact that we're working on it and I think we're fairly close to having it completed.

Q: You're expecting aggressive changes throughout?

Feith: There will be a fair number of changes, yeah.

Q: Why?

Feith: I don't know if I really want to get into that right now.

Q: (inaudible) (Laughter)

Feith: As I said, I just don't know exactly where the line is between what we've said publicly and what we haven't. It's the president's decision to make and I don't want to be saying why we think this should be -- if the president decides he wants to go this way or that way, I don't want to have said why he should go differently from the way he decides to go.

Q: We'll favorably consider (inaudible).

Q: Missile defense question. The administration decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. A lot of attention out there. That clears the way for the missile defense program the administration wants. Are you also looking at some other arms control treaties, and looking at the interpretations in them to see if they will prevent the administration from (inaudible) missile defense plans? I saw recent analysis on the INF Treaty that may have, depending on your interpretation, some restrictions of the U.S. inability to develop weapons for a particular range, 500 kilometers up to 5,000 kilometers as a weapons delivery vehicle. Have you taken a look at any of the arms control treaties the U.S. has signed outside of the ABM?

Feith: In our discussions with the Russians about strategic forces, offensive and defensive, we have talked about a number of existing treaties and both sides have raised the question of whether there's anything we might want to do to modify, (the Russians use the term "perfect") to perfect any of the existing agreements.

Those conversations haven't gotten very far. I have not heard any suggestions along the lines that you're talking about regarding the INF Treaty. That's news to me. But there have been some discussions of whether all of the verification provisions in all of the agreements are as they should be or whether they might not be improved or modified somehow. But those discussions are, as I said, fairly preliminary.

Q: I want to turn to Iraq policy, particularly the INC. After the president's State of the Union speech they met with State Department officials and Pentagon officials. So far they've received non-lethal training, INC training, logistics, communication and so forth. Now apparently they're pushing for a lethal style of training, how to call in air strikes, anti-tank training and so forth. Will they receive that kind of training from the Pentagon? And what about as far as drawdown of Pentagon equipment?

Feith: I don't believe that any decisions have been made on that question. There is the Iraq Liberation Act and there are certain, there's a certain amount of support for the opposition, the Iraqi opposition, for which approval has already been provided and funded and provided by Congress.

I don't think I can shed much light on your question on the nature of the training.

Q: But it's under consideration do you think?

Feith: All aspects of our policy regarding all state sponsors of terrorism are continually being reviewed. We've got a lot of thinking going on throughout the government about how to deal with the list of state sponsors of terrorism, Iraq and others. There's a special focus of course on those state sponsors that have significant programs for nuclear and biological and chemical weapons and missiles.

The answer is, is anything under consideration with respect to any of those countries? All kinds of things are under consideration with respect to all of those countries.

Q: With Iraq, though, the INC's been around for a while, they have a lot of support in Congress, they're pressing for lethal training. I'm just trying to find out what the holdup is, if anything. Is there disagreement about whether they should get lethal training? Can you give me a sense of that?

Feith: I really can't say that much about that. Sorry. I just can't shed a lot of light on that for you.

Q: Going back to Afghanistan, does the U.S. military sort of now have a third policy there which is beyond defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda, we now see our mission as supporting Afghan forces loyal to Karzai against other Afghan forces? And if there is, if that is now part of our mission can you talk a little bit about the implications of that? Are we increasingly going to find ourselves in the middle of these clashes between Afghan warlords?

Feith: I wouldn't say that we have a policy of supporting any specific leader as such in Afghanistan. We do have an interest in the kind of political stability in Afghanistan that will make it less likely that Afghanistan will become a base for terrorist operations against us in the future. And we want the Afghans, the current Afghan political experiment, to succeed. We want the interim authority to stabilize. We want it to establish its authority throughout the country. There are extremely difficult questions of what is the proper relationship between the central government and regional powers in Afghanistan, and this is a problem that goes back a long way in Afghan history. We're interested in having the Loya Jirga process succeed sometime in the spring, late spring, and produce a permanent structure for an Afghan government. We have an interest in that and we have ongoing responsibilities in the country.

There's also the international community's involvement in security issues in Afghanistan. You've got the, as you all know, the International Security Assistance Force that the British leads doing their job in Kabul. We have a relationship with that force. There are questions about what that force is going to be doing down the road. There are important police functions that need to be fulfilled throughout the country. There's the question of developing the Afghan national army. These are all things that we're thinking about right now. Then there's the question of what's the proper role of the United States? What's the proper role of other members of the international community in either providing security functions in the country or helping assess security needs, helping in some cases finance.

We're talking with other countries about possibly contributing to the financing of the effort to train Afghans to perform both the police and the military functions. There are all kinds of issues also if you talk about the security area, how do you handle things like border control? Do you set up a separate force for that? Do you make it part of the army's responsibility? Do you make it a police function? All of those kinds of things we're spending a lot of time focusing on and working with allies and friends who can help either provide trainers or military personnel or funds or other kinds of in-kind support to help the Afghans.

But I would, while a lot of that is going on, I think it addresses a large part of your question, I would not characterize that as saying we're in there committed to an individual and we're going to help that individual against his rivals. That's not the way we view it. We view it as a matter of promoting the kind of general political stability in the country that serves our interests in not having Afghanistan revert to serving as a base for terrorism.

Q: So what do we do in instances, and we've had a few of these recently, where we literally are sort of in the middle, and in fact have a couple of times been asked by Faction A to bomb Faction B. What do we do in that case? If we are more friendly with Faction A or Warlord A than Warlord B?

Feith: Our main focus, the main focus of our military activity there, is finishing the job against al Qaeda and the Taliban. That's what we're really concentrating on. And we are not involving ourselves in internecine politics, including the politics backed by guns as the definition of our military mission.

Q: Having said all that you said about the U.S. responsibilities and ongoing responsibilities and ongoing activities in Afghanistan, is it fair to say that we are, that all that is sort of tantamount to nation-building and that we are in fact heavily involved in nation-building in Afghanistan already?

Feith: We don't think of it that way. (Laughter)

Q: Mission creep?

Feith: The idea that when we will have accomplished what we set out to do against the Taliban and against al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the idea that we would have an ongoing interest in preventing the reversion of Afghanistan to its old role as a base for terrorism against us and other countries, that was in everybody's mind all along. I don't think that involves nation-building.

We're not, I think we're not naive about our ability to fine tune the political situation in Afghanistan and we not only don't have the capability to do that, we don't have the desire. We're not trying to run Afghanistan. We've made that clear from the beginning. If Afghanistan is run by the Afghans and the country is not used as a base for terrorism against us then we have no interest in the way they run their own lives. And so we do not think of ourselves as going in there and building their nation.

Q: To follow up on that, how would you define nation-building? You're in there trying to bring order to the country, trying to help it build up institutions. It seems to me that the Bush Administration is just sort of pathologically averse to the term nation-building. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Feith: I don't call it a pathology. I call it a sound policy. (Laughter)

Q: But what do you mean by, why is it not nation-building? What is nation-building that what you're doing is not?

Feith: It's like a lot of broad terms that people can throw around in political debates. People define the terms as they see fit. People tend to choose terminology because of what it connotes more than what it denotes, and we don't like the connotation of nation-building because it implies an ambition that we don't' have to exercise a degree of control that we're not interested in exercising and are not sure that we could organize to exercise even if somebody were so inclined. It's just not what we're interested in doing.

We're not trying to shape the politics of other people's countries. And what we are interested in is, as I said, we have a legitimate interest in making sure that countries don't allow their territory to be used as a base for attacks against us. That's a legitimate interest of the United States. It's recognized as legitimate around the world. That's what we're interested in. And helping the Afghan, having operated in Afghanistan to remove the al Qaeda and the Taliban rule, we're doing what Americans are famous for doing which is we're now trying to help the people of Afghanistan in various ways through humanitarian projects and the like and we're certainly willing to give them a hand in the economic sphere and to the extent that we can help promote political stability there within bounds we're doing that. But we think that's far short of what the term nation-building normally connotes.

Q: As you discuss the security situation, I'm a little unclear as to whether or not, or the extent to which you think U.S. troops are going to have to remain. I understand that you put the primary focus on getting al Qaeda and the Taliban, but the truth is that there is continued armed conflict in that country, it undermines your goal basically.

So to what extent are you considering an extended presence for the U.S. military, a U.S. military role in (inaudible)?

Feith: Our immediate goal, the goals that we set at the beginning of the fighting there have not yet been fulfilled. There's still a lot of work to be done against the Taliban and al Qaeda. And until we finish that I can't really answer definitely what we are going to want to do in the way of any kind of continued military contact.

I suspect that we will -- I suspect we will establish friendly relations with the permanent Afghan government when the permanent Afghan government comes in, and I suspect we will have the kind of military-to-military contact with them that we have with lots of countries around the world. And help promote the education and professionalism of their officers and the like. So I imagine we'll maintain those kinds of contacts in Afghanistan. What's beyond that I can't say at this point. As I said, we haven't finished our first job.

Q: Are you leaving the door open for a peacekeeping force with Americans in it?

Feith: I think that the best option for Afghanistan is really that they have their own Afghan forces keeping the peace in their own country. And the International Security Assistance Force has a very narrow mandate and it's really just providing security in Kabul. And there's not a great inclination to expand that mandate.

Q: But clearly there's a need for them down south. I mean everyone you talk with in like Kandahar and elsewhere is dying to have peacekeeping troops down there.

Feith: It is understandable there are major security requirements throughout the country. As I said, of all types. Police, military, and in-between. Border patrol and all kinds of stuff. And as I was saying, one of the things that we're spending a lot of time on right now is trying to figure out how do you get those responsibilities fulfilled and how quickly can you train up Afghans to do the job? What do you do in the interim? How long is the interim?

We are very aware that if you create interim arrangements you run the risk of creating dependencies that are very hard to end. There's some French expression that I used to know about there's nothing more permanent than the provisional. And we're conscious of that. So our strong inclination is to work as quickly as possible to put the Afghans in the position where they can perform the security functions throughout their country that are necessary.

Q: But is there a danger if you don't put troops in in the interim that the warlords can run amuck - - and other problems along those lines?

Feith: It's like all interesting policy questions. There are dangers in either direction, in every direction. That's why it's such an interesting field. In any one of these things if you head off too far in any one direction you've got danger.

Q: Returning to the use of information, you said a fair amount about how you would not use it, but how about giving some very graphic examples of how you would use it to your advantage? And don't go back to the Cold War.

Feith: I gave one or two. The Commando Solo broadcasts. Giving the kind of broadcasts that give information, true information, to people whose access to true information is being blocked by their government.

Q: You're not talking about doing anything different than what you're doing already then. Nothing more creative that hasn't been done so far?

Feith: I wouldn't rule out creative. (Laughter) We're in favor of creative.

Q: Then tell us something creative that you might do. But don't go back --

Feith: It's hard to be creative at a moment's notice. I'm not going to lay out a program for you.

Q: I just asked for a few examples.

Feith: Okay, then don't insist on creative. I'll give you examples of things we've done. I think it's worthwhile reviewing a few of these things even though they may be familiar to you because they're not I think generally at the fore of people's minds when they hear a term like strategic influence.

But the kinds of messages that go out that encourage enemy forces to surrender. The kinds of messages that go out that are designed to prevent problems with, if there are populations in areas that we're doing military operations, in which we're doing military operations so that you tell people, for example, stay away from equipment that could hurt you, stay away from unexploded ordnance, how to distinguish between unexploded ordnance and humanitarian daily rations.

Q: Those are all things we did before --

Feith: But if you think of it, those are all things that require policy oversight. In other words, we were doing lots of things in the informational area and it became clear that we needed to have oversight over the use of all kinds of information. What happens is when you put together an operation to do that somebody immediately comes forward with suggestions that go beyond I think this very sensible and rather narrow concept of how you as a policy matter manage information for your military operation.

So I think it really is useful to understand that there's a lot that needs to be done in this area, needs to be coordinated in this area that is not the kind of activity that has people in high dudgeon in various press stories over the last 48 hours.

Q: Were there failures then that you're trying to correct? And if so, what were those failures?

Feith: I'm not sure I'd characterize it as a failure. There are a lot of activities that require oversight, and when you start getting a bunch of things coming in and you say well how do we handle this and how do we formulate that and who's reviewing leaflets that we're dropping? How do we want to formulate our messages on rewards? And who should we be advertising to when it comes to collecting WMD material or asking for people to be turned in? And what kind of oversight do you have for messages for leaflets? And who's going to review the script for radio broadcasts and things like that? When you start getting these things in you say you know, we really need to have an office that has responsibility for information. That was really the genesis of this. There was a lot of stuff going on.

Then there's also the issue of we have all kinds of false information being purveyed by hostile people or simply misinformed people in the area of operations and around the world. Who's monitoring this to make sure that we know what kinds of misinformation we need to correct? It's a matter of tracking what are the kinds of things that the armed forces have to focus on to counter in order to be able to do their job?

For example, you learn after you're dropping these humanitarian daily rations, you learn all of a sudden that a story is going around the country that they're not, it's not good to eat by either, there were false stories that the food was poisoned. There were false stories that it wasn't proper for Muslims to eat it. If you're not monitoring what's being said you wouldn't even know that to be able to go and produce a leaflet that will tell people it's okay to eat.

I mean the last thing in the world you want when your military is operating in an area is to have people thinking that you're trying to poison them.

Q: I wanted to clarify something you said earlier. I think I heard you say that the Defense Department didn't do covert actions, and I wasn't sure what you meant by that. My understanding is that information operators have long [done] covert activities. Is that not true?

Feith: The term covert action I think we all understand is a term of art. It is a thing that is defined and it belongs to the CIA and it doesn't belong to DoD. Anything that is called a covert action is not a DoD activity and we don't do it.

Q: Secret.

Feith: We do secret things. The term covert action is a term of art.

Q: I wanted to clarify that. Would not -- in the discussions over OSI, are they contemplating putting all Defense Department information operations under its purview? Or are you coordinating them through that office?

Feith: No. Not possibly. If by that you mean public affairs, for example, no. Absolutely not.

Q: Referring beyond public affairs. Referring to other activities involving whatever information operation that (inaudible).

Feith: As I said, we don't have a finished mandate for the office. That's being worked. That is under review right now. It's a big issue within the department and interagency, which I suspect is part of the reason that it got publicized. When you have big issues within the department or within the interagency, that's the kind of thing that occasionally finds its way into the newspapers. So here we are. (Laughter)

Q: One other thing. You said that the Defense Department will not be involved in disseminating false information. Have you ruled out the possibility of contractors being involved in that kind of thing? (Laughter)

Feith: As I said, we're going to preserve our credibility and we're going to preserve the purity of the statements that defense officials make to the public. And as I said, we're also going to preserve our option to mislead the enemy about our operations. And those are not inconsistent. And as I said, what we need to do for military operational purposes does not require defense officials lying to the public and we're not going to have defense officials lying to the public.

Q: How about outside (inaudible)? Dot coms.

Feith: I must say I think I've covered the point. We are going to preserve our ability to undertake operations that may, for tactical purposes, mislead an enemy. But we are not going to blow our credibility as an institution in our public pronouncements. I don't think this is that hard.

Q: By hiring others to do that?

Feith: I think I've really --

Q: Let's move on.

Q: Moving on is such a relative term. Can you close the loop on when this came up as an idea and when you expect the interagency process to be worked out and when the process will get set up? And then could you also, a separate topic, can you address tactical nukes? There's lots of talk about the strategic nukes, but tac nukes is a harder problem. First the schedule.

Feith: We've been working on the issue of the mandate for this office since it was put together in I believe November. I hope we'll have it soon. I hope we'll have it -- It's hard. I don't have a definite deadline, but I would hope in the coming weeks we will have this thing sorted out.

The issue of Russian tactical nuclear weapons. You're correct, it gets very little attention. The Russians have lots of tactical nuclear weapons. We view them at this point not as a big military headache for us but as a, more from the point of view of the danger of nuclear proliferation. But it is a very large arsenal and I don't know what more -- your general point that it's not paid a lot of attention to is true.

Q: What are you going to do?

Feith: What are we going to do?

Q: Is this on your radar screen? Do you have a plan of action? Okay, now that we've done this whole ABM thing let's move over to tactical nukes?

Feith: In general the idea, if the Russians -- When the Russians are interested in demilling items like that we do have a mechanism through what's called the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, the Nunn/Lugar program --

Q: Are you interested in pressuring them to demilitarize?

Feith: We're interested in -- if they want to work with us on helping to demil those, we'd be happy to do it. As I said, we're not viewing them as an immediate threat to us. They are mainly a threat because of the proliferation problem. But I don't think -- we're not in the business of pressuring the Russians. We actually have quite a cooperative relationship with them.

Q: The immediate threat I think is very clear, especially with al Qaeda, and there's a great deal of concern about weapons of mass destruction getting out there. You say there's no immediate threat, but that really doesn't jive with what's in the news.

Feith: The word is immediate. What I mean by immediate is the Russians threatening us. I said there's a significant threat from the point of view of proliferation.

Q: Is it better not to demil them? Are they safer sitting on top of a big old rocket than they are unpackaged and put in a nice small container and put on a rail car to some storage center when they can be stolen?

Feith: They're better off being properly secured.

Q: Are you confident in the command and control (inaudible)?

Feith: Confident. The issue of command and control of anybody else's weapons is always an issue. We're confident of our own. And when weapons are in anybody else's hands there's always an issue.

Q: On Pakistan, last week Musharraf came in. Can you give us a sense of what comes next by way of mil-to-mil startups? And F-16s, they said they want those [20] F-16s. Will the Pentagon agree to releasing those?

Feith: There's no decision on -- we know the Pakistanis have expressed interest in the F-16s. There's no decision on that. On mil-to-mil relations with Pakistan, we are eager to engage in mil-to-mil cooperation with the Pakistanis.

We serve the national interest in I think important ways when we have good mil-to-mil relations with different countries. The United States has over the years through legislation cut off our ability to do military-to-military contacts with various countries at various times as a sign of disapproval. And I understand the concerns that lead to that kind of legislation. I think that that kind of a move, those kinds of restrictions on military-to-military relations I think tend to net out negative from the national security point of view from the United States because the political message you send with it is more than offset by the harm done that we for ten years sometimes or longer have no contact with the officer corps of these different countries, and it winds up creating many more problems than it mitigates.

We're now in a position where we can resume military-to-military contacts with the Pakistanis, and that's a good thing.

Q: The F-16s. A number of years ago there was concern that those things could carry nuclear bombs and that was one of the reasons there was concern about giving them back to Pakistan. What are some of the policy considerations held by giving back a small but symbolic amount of airplanes? Or giving what they paid for?

Feith: The issue of payment -- that was actually worked out. That was settled.

Q: I know, but it's symbolic. They want the planes back.

Feith: Right now our focus on that area is, on getting tensions lowered in light of the mobilization and so all I'm going to -- I'm not going to be commenting on arms transfers. That's not a smart thing to be highlighting at the moment. What we're trying to do is resolve the current tension.

Q: The Office of Strategic -- I don't have too much of a dog in the fight, but this one issue, offensive information operations at the airports practiced in (inaudible) and Kosovo against the Serbs. Will this office have some kind of policy oversight in terms of how the Air Force orchestrates offensive information [off] a computer attack, and going after bank accounts and things like that?

Feith: The lines of responsibility have not been drawn yet so I can't answer that.

Q: I wanted to ask about the war against terrorism overseas. It would seem that in the Middle East and possibly other parts of the world it's perceived that it's not being something in the interest of those countries but rather as being a war against Islam. How particularly has the Administration moved into taking a more aggressive (inaudible), how do you overcome that? And going back to the Office of Strategic Influence, how does that fit into that process?

Feith: When we started the war against terrorism and begin military operations in Afghanistan we heard from lots of people that this was viewed as a war against Islam and against Afghanistan. We said from the beginning, of course, that it's not. And there were all kinds of warnings how we were going to lose our position throughout the Muslim world, the Arab world in particular. That the street would turn against us, we wouldn't have cooperation from the government. You remember, of course all the talk about if you bomb during Ramadan it's going to be the end of our relations with all these countries.

What became clear in the course of the war in Afghanistan is that we were not fighting against Afghanistan. We were fighting on behalf of people in Afghanistan who wanted to rid themselves of the domination of al Qaeda and the Taliban. And it is now clear to everybody that we were not fighting against Afghanistan. Let alone or much less I should say, against Islam.

There is a war between various terrorist organizations, a network of them, and you could say the civilized world, the United States in particular.

There is also a war within the world of Islam between a particular extreme view of how their societies should be organized and the more moderate view.

That was true in Afghanistan too and it was clear that the United States was not fighting against Muslims, we were fighting to help the more moderate people against the extremists. It turned out to be a war of liberation as we said all along we conceived it.

So I think the particular problem you're referring to is a real problem. It has not been solved completely in the minds of people around the world, but I do think that the way the Afghanistan situation has evolved and people have seen what our role was and what happened after the initial fighting ended has helped us enormously. People understand that we're not at war with Islam. And that there's I think a greater recognition of this fight within some of these societies between the extremist view and the more humane, moderate view.

Q: Is it the mission of trying to get them, is part of the mission of this Office of Strategic Influence to get that message across to international audiences? And particularly audiences in the Middle East who at this point don't show a whole lot of support for, certainly for a U.S. effort in Iraq?

Feith: The United States has a number of offices addressing themselves to that, to those themes. The State Department Public Diplomacy Office is focused I think on the theme that I just expounded. Public affairs offices at the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon and elsewhere are focused on that theme. One of the things that needs to be worked out in the details, the mandate of this Office of Strategic Influence is to make sure that its work is properly coordinated with all the other offices of the government that do public affairs and public diplomacy, to make sure there's no conflict between the work of the different offices.

But those, the messages that I just laid out are messages that are being pushed by essentially public diplomacy and public affairs offices throughout the government.

Q: You seem to be saying that this office's purpose is strictly for information efforts related to battlefield situations, battlefield advantage.

Feith: I don't want to say strictly. I told you, the strict lines haven't been drawn yet. I would say that there is an emphasis, there's a focus on facilitating military operations.

Q: You said awhile ago that the department is interested in preserving our ability for tactical purposes to mislead an enemy, and we're talking about a battlefield situation I'm assuming. Would you rule out as a policy matter using the news media in that effort? To mislead an enemy?

Feith: I think I covered that. We're not going to have Defense Department officials lying to the public -- neither the foreign public nor the domestic public nor to the press.

Q: So you're ruling it out. I think. What I'm saying is the news media, whether they're speaking from the Pentagon briefing room or any other interaction.

Feith: Right. We are not going to lie to the press or the public.

Q: We're out of time. Thanks very much for coming. We appreciate it.

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