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DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Franks

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
August 15, 2002

Thursday, Aug. 15, 2002 - 1:43 p.m. EDT

(Also participating was Gen. Tommy Franks, Command, U.S. Central Command.)

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. I have promised this distinguished group that from time to time, when General Franks was in town, I would invite him down to meet with the Pentagon press corps, and here he is.

Q: Yea!

Rumsfeld: I should add that we've been discussing Afghanistan, so I would caution you to -- against jumping to conclusions about Iraq -- just a word for the wise.

We keep reading today that the situation in Afghanistan is difficult and that the security situation is supposedly deteriorating. Most of the comments, I suspect, are coming from people who are well- intentioned but may not be current with what's taking place on the ground, or may be looking at one particular portion of the country.

Truth be told, the security situation in Afghanistan is reasonably good. There's one region where there is difficulty -- southeast of Kabul. But throughout the rest of the country, in Mazar and Herat, Kandahar, Kabul, the situation is reasonably stable.

We have U.S. Special Operations teams embedded with regional forces, and they are really able to counsel restraint and communicate with each other and create situational awareness that contributes to a more secure situation. We also have civil affairs teams that are in most of the regions, digging wells, rebuilding schools, bridges, roads and hospitals. General Franks is going to comment a bit on this shortly.

U.S. and coalition forces are training Afghan National Army troops, and in some cases providing humanitarian assistance directly or setting conditions on the ground so that humanitarian workers can deliver aid.

The ISAF is in Kabul, and we're backing it with logistics, intelligence and quick-reaction support.

Is the situation perfectly tidy? No. Nor is it particularly tidy in any city in the world. But I suspect it would be accurate to say that the security situation in Afghanistan is the best it's been probably in close to a quarter of a century. Afghanistan has a transitional government with a popular mandate. It's no longer a safe haven for terrorists. Humanitarian aid is flowing. Women are able to work. Children are back in school. And executions in soccer stadiums have stopped. Over a million refugees have returned to the country. They're voting with their feet, and the country has been liberated.

The real problem, in my view, in Afghanistan is not security, it is, rather, the challenge of bolstering the new government, the new central government, and the fact that the international community is not yet delivering the level of assistance to President Karzai and his team that is needed. The loya jirga met. It chose a representative government. He took office, appointed ministers, but the ministers don't have a structure under them so that they can actually govern the entire country, nor do they have the budgets necessary to conduct a government. And it simply takes time to get that infrastructure in place so that they can actually function as a working government as opposed to a government essentially in name.

They need to get on their feet. To do that, they need resources. There have been several donor conferences. The United States has participated, led or co-led each one. The pledges are something like $5 billion in aid, if I'm not mistaken. But the money has not been coming in as fast as it needs to come in. I'm told that less than a third of the aid pledged for this year, at the Tokyo conference, has arrived thus far, and it's September almost. In many cases the promised contributions are spread out over several years, and in still other instances, they are in kind as opposed to in cash, and that means that managing it is more difficult than it would be with cash, although all of it's helpful and all of it's needed and all of it's appreciated.

Others of the donations are saddled with various prohibitions, that is to say most of them prohibit their being used for security activities. It all helps, but it does need to be increased. We would like to see the ISAF be able to function and contribute as it has been in the past. As you know, the British have passed off to the Turks. The Turks end in December. We're already out looking for someone to follow the Turks. And each of those countries deserves a great deal of credit for taking the leadership, which is a big responsibility, as well as for working with us to try to see that we have enough forces in the International Security Assistance Force to do the job. Our task is to try to see that the ISAF continues after December, that we do have a new leader and that we do have enough countries participating so that it can contribute to peace and stability in the country.

Coalition forces are busy, under General Franks's leadership, rooting out Taliban and al Qaeda. They're training the Afghan national army, along with coalition forces. We're working to bolster the transitional government that the Afghan people have selected. Our goal for Afghanistan is for it to achieve effective self-government and self-sufficiency and never again become a haven for terrorists. That's our interest. It's clearly in the interest of the international community. And it is very much the goal of the Karzai government.

General Tom Franks, combatant commander of the Central Command. Sir, welcome.

Franks: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. Pleasure to be here today.

I'm especially pleased that the secretary has permitted me to bring my wife to the session. She's --

Rumsfeld: Here, here! (Chuckles.)

Franks: -- in the back of the room. From time to time, that's a very good thing for me, because she keeps me from making these horrendous mistakes of judgment, such as the one you recall Dick Myers made at one -- (laughter).

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) We've all learned from that.

Franks: I was looking around over the last few days, and we were thinking about where we are in Afghanistan, and I think the secretary has just described where we see ourselves today. And it occurred to me that much reported is the business of the kinetic work, the operational work that goes on day by day in Afghanistan. Receiving not so much notice is the tremendous international effort that has gone on and continues to go on in humanitarian assistance. I wanted to just touch a few high points of that sort of activity. And then, sir, I'd be pleased to turn to questions.

If you just look at major projects that have been sponsored by our coalition, or by our country, as the lead to this coalition in the past four or five months, you can find some incredible accomplishments. I'll give you a couple.

About 60 projects have been completed inside Afghanistan, and you perhaps know about some, probably don't know about others -- tremendous number of water wells having been completed; roads and in fact a bridge that assists in connecting Bagram, to the north, with the city of Kabul, a major route that provides for access all the way up to the northern countries of Central Asia, and a major sort of effort. It's being completed now. More than 38 schools have been rebuilt and opened by the Afghans themselves, with support of coalition members associated with the Operation Enduring Freedom Task Force. Medical facilities have been opened in every one of the larger cities inside Afghanistan. People who had not been able to receive medical treatment for perhaps the two decades that the secretary mentioned are now able to do that.

In addition to that, we're working another 55 or 60 projects. And when I say we're working, let me describe that for a minute.

The secretary mentioned that we have special -- some of our Special Forces people and some of our civil affairs teams out operating all over the country. On a given day, somewhere between 40 and 50 different places inside Afghanistan, we find members of the military, our own U.S. military, as well as coalition members, working hand in glove and side by side with more than 300 nongovernmental organizations in order to try to place benefit -- the benefits of renewed infrastructure in the hands of the Afghans.

In addition to that, we are -- the coalition members are operating three hospitals right now. The Koreans are operating a hospital. The Spanish are operating a hospital. The Jordanians alone, up in Mazar-e Sharif, since they opened that hospital, have seen more than 100,000 people, mostly women and children. It sort of reminds me of the fact that prior to October of last year, 26 million people in Afghanistan had not had much medical capability, and women for sure had had no medical capability, because of the specific practices in that country. Women were not permitted to see physicians, because women were not permitted to be treated by men, and men were the only qualified doctors in the country.

All that's changed. Six hundred to 700 metric tons -- in addition to what I talked about, 600 to 700 metric tons of things like plywood and Plexiglas in villages to provide opportunities to close in some of these mud huts and some of the very poor infrastructure that we see in these villages, in order to permit the Afghans themselves to open schools, to create medical facilities, to create police precincts, and so forth.

And so I guess I'd close the way Secretary Rumsfeld did. Does that mean everything is just right in Afghanistan? No. To be sure, it is not. But what it does mean is that there is a government in Afghanistan that is trying to move forward to the future, and I think our coalition is pleased to be part of that move.

And with that, sir.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

Questions?

Q: Okay.

Rumsfeld: It's not mandatory. (Laughter.)

Q: Her name is Debbie.

Rumsfeld: Debbie. Greetings, Debbie.

Q: Thank you. It's good to hear that things are better in Afghanistan, but obviously things are not wonderful in the region. And so I feel I have to ask about one particular serviceman who's been in the news in the last couple of days, that's Captain Speicher. Is his status to be changed? Is it being considered? What's the latest movement on that?

Rumsfeld: I'm told that there's discussion that's taken place in the Department of the Navy -- it is a Navy decision -- and that the Department of the Navy has not made a decision as yet with respect to whether or not to change the status.

Q: Well, just a quick follow-up. Is there any new evidence that he is alive, that his remains remain in Iraq?

Rumsfeld: I think I'll leave it to Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who has been working with the Department of Navy, and to Gordon England and the chief of Naval Operations. They are the ones who have been discussing it. And I think speculating about new evidence would be way out of my lane.

Q: Mr. Secretary, may I ask a question of General Franks, but feel free to jump in, if you like. There has been a lot of discussion here in recent months about a sort of schism between the two of you on the way that you would prosecute a war in Iraq if the commander-in- chief decides to go that way. Part of what we're hearing is that General Franks, as an Army officer by profession, you would like to go in heavy with lots Abrams, Bradleys and lots of troops on the ground, whereas perhaps the civilian side -- and, Mr. Secretary, you tell me if that's correct -- (laughter) --would like to go in lighter, leaner and meaner. And so the two-part question is, have you resolved whatever differences you have? And are you ready to go if the balloon goes up?

Franks: Question for me or question for the secretary?

Q: For you, too. We have -- (inaudible) --

Franks: Thanks for the question. (Laughter.) I enjoy waking up each day to see what the stories are about the schism, which is a word I didn't know until about a week ago, between me and Secretary Rumsfeld is.

Actually, irrespective of the specific examples you gave -- light, heavy, early, all that sort of stuff --

Rumsfeld: Or even the country.

Franks: Or even the country. (Laughter.) I actually -- or even Afghanistan. I mean, I could carry this thing all the way back to Afghanistan. If you remember October and November, it seems to me that you were about to let me go as far as I remember because we were --

Rumsfeld: I read that.

Franks: I read it.

Rumsfeld: I read that somewhere, yeah.

Franks: Actually, the --

Rumsfeld: It didn't happen to be true?

Franks: The secretary can comment on this. I actually don't think that there is any daylight between the principals in the department, whether it's myself, Secretary Rumsfeld or whether it's between the people in the building, the services and Secretary Rumsfeld. Not my business to talk about them. But it is my business to talk about the relationship between me and my boss as it serves the American people, as it serves the president of the United States. We have a chain of command. It's very, very clear. We have an opportunity here, and the secretary can tell you that I engage in that opportunity to share very frankly and very freely the ideas that I have as a combatant commander. Do that. The secretary does the same thing with me. And I actually have never one time sensed animosity.

Sir?

Rumsfeld: I think that that probably was the understatement of the day. I think, from my standpoint, the relationship is superb. It is an iterative process, where I learn every day. We probably are together close to once a week or once every other week, and we're on the phone or on secure videos more than once a day. And I could not ask for a better working relationship. So, obviously, you're reading the wrong journals, sir.

Q: Only ask you about the second part of the question. Are you ready if somebody says go?

Rumsfeld: Why in the world would one want to answer a question like that when nobody has said go? I mean, really!

Yes?

Q: General, to go back to what you were talking about on the activities in Afghanistan, could you characterize a little more how much of the U.S. military is involved in these sort of non-warfighting actions? And how long do you anticipate those would be necessary?

Franks: I see the headline tomorrow that, you know, "Franks Commits the United States of America to, you know, to Nation-Building" or something. And so, you're not going to get that.

What I prefer to do is think about the amount of energy that is devoted to what I call kinetic work in some provinces and places inside Afghanistan, where there is much work left to be done, and then work which is much more humanitarian, if you will, in nature, that goes on across 10 to 12 additional provinces in Afghanistan.

I won't talk too much about the Mountain Lion operation and our operations going back to Tora Bora, Anaconda and so forth like that, because those operations continue. I mean, we have that going on now. Coupled with that, the Special Forces teams even in that kind of operation are providing humanitarian assistance locally, and I mean where we -- I can think of so many cases where the medics which work with our Special Forces have worked in one of the villages in order to treat children for -- you know, with a variety of ailments.

In the other provinces, where we see a much greater sense of stability, is where you'll find Civil Affairs teams. On a given day, you'll find somewhere between 100 and 200 troopers actually in small groups, out moving around through the villages and working with, as I said, more than 300 non-governmental organizations to help them focus and pipe the humanitarian assistance from their agencies into places of need.

And the most interesting thing about all of that is that it -- what it does for us -- is it gives us a chance to be closer to the administration inside Kabul, because what one would like to think is that -- through the loya jirga process, a transitional administration has been named. And so we are interested in working through that transitional administration in order to reach out to provide the humanitarian assistance. And we'd like to funnel it that way.

Rumsfeld: Yes.

Q: Mr. Secretary, as you know, members of the Marine Corps today here in this building are moving back into their rebuilt offices at this ground zero for the first time. I would like to ask you to reflect for a moment on what it means for these people to move back into their offices, the message it sends to terrorists.

And with all due respect, sir, the reason I'm asking you this now is, we've been told that you will be visiting this area of the building later today, that news media coverage of your visit there will not be allowed. In fact, we were told we'd be barred from leaving this room. So this is apparently --

Rumsfeld: (In elongated, jocular tone.) No, Barbara.

Q: Sir, please don't joke. We have heard that from your staff.

Rumsfeld: No one will bar you from leaving the room.

Q: We were told that by --

Rumsfeld: That would be wrong.

Q: It certainly would be. But we were told that by your staff prior to this briefing, sir. So this is our only opportunity to ask you to reflect on what it means for the rebuilt portion of this building to be reoccupied by U.S. military personnel today.

Rumsfeld: Wow. Well --

Q: And you could reconsider your media policy --

Rumsfeld: My -- I'm without a media policy. The fact is, I said this morning to Ed Giambastiani that I thought I ought to take a walk down and take a look at the E Ring and see the folks moving back in. So that's what I intended to do sometime today. I had not picked a time or a place. And it was not a media event; it was simply -- like I do all the time, I walk around the building and go to lunch in the cafeteria, or I stop different places.

Q: Would you?

Rumsfeld: And they need not be media events.

Q: Would you?

Rumsfeld: It changes it. It eliminates the ability I have to talk to anybody in the E Ring if there's a crowd of people around. But I will assure you, no one in this room will be barred from leaving the room when the press briefing is over. And --

Q: All right.

Q: We appreciate that. Now would you mind reflecting on your views on the matter?

Rumsfeld: I'd be happy to. I think it's -- that it certainly says that the folks who have been working day and night to finish this building have just done a superb job. And it is a real compliment to them that they are able to begin the process of moving in this E Ring, and they expect to be able to complete it, as I understand it, by September 11th. And we are all grateful to them for what they've done and for the dedication and the patriotism that they've shown.

I think the fact that this building never shut down and the fact that it is going to be well along on September 11th, back in the shape it was in before September 11th last year, is an indication that the Department of Defense is in business, and it intends to stay in business.

Q: And what does this say to Osama bin Laden?

Rumsfeld: We don't even know where he is or if he is. So -- and I don't speak Arabic or -- I have no idea what it says --

Q: I guess what I'm asking you, sir, is, do you think this is a symbolic and a real message to terrorism?

Rumsfeld: Well, I think it is more a statement about the United States of America: that we intend to live our lives as free people and to go about our business and to do everything we can to defend our people, our country, our allies and our deployed forces against terrorist acts. And we know that terrorists can attack at any time, at any place, using any technique, and it's not possible to defend every time at every place against every technique. So it is a difficult task that we're faced with, but we are determined to go about our lives like free people and not allow a terrorist to win simply by threatening and intimidating.

Q: May I ask General Franks a question about Iraq, the situation on the ground in Iraq. Do you see any evidence that the Iraqis are dispersing elements of their military capability, whether it may be conventional or otherwise?

Franks: We do not see evidence of some magnitude of shift that would sort of go probably in the direction that you're trying to go. As you know, because of Operation Southern Watch, we pay attention to what's going on there. You know, we have an obligation under Security Council resolutions to continue to do our intel, surveillance and reconnaissance activities inside these so-called no- fly zones, and so we watch that. And the specifics of, I guess, what we see when we look at that, I wouldn't want to get into, and I think you'd probably understand that.

Q: But the point is, there's been no significant change is what you're saying?

Franks: I'd probably just repeat what I said.

Q: General Franks, three of the most repeated words in news accounts in the last three months have talked about "leaked war plans." To what extent at your level do these numerous stories compromise your ability to craft options, recommend courses of action to policymakers or not? I mean, do these represent things that are actually bubbling up from CENTCOM or just things you haven't even been able to track that have little or no relevance to your process, whatever the process ends up being?

Franks: Let me give you an answer that's too clever by half, by saying on the day that we permit what we read in our media to affect what we try to do as part of the Department of Defense on behalf of the nation, that would be a sad day. And so probably that's the most direct answer that I can give you.

I think the secretary, and I think perhaps others, have said that the intentional leaking of any sort of activity that carries a classification by anyone is wrong. And so we take that as a given, but we continue to do the work that the president and secretary ask us to do in CENTCOM.

Q: The point, though, is a lot of the press is being seen as, you know, traitors, fellow travelers, for putting this stuff out. You're the chief planner. Have any of the stories, to date, actually resulted in national security compromises as you, as the tactical military commander would understand --

Franks: I think we probably want to be careful to either confirm or deny something that could be helpful to a potential adversary. And so I really can't -- I really can't give you a good answer to it.

We're going to continue our work. I'll say that.

Q: General, I wanted to take you back to Afghanistan and talk a little bit about the cross-border activity between Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you could talk a little bit about al Qaeda activity in Pakistan, the northwest areas, and the efforts to root out those folks there? Some military, obviously, are sort of comparing it to Cambodia to Vietnam, that they keep leaking across the border.

Franks: You know, I've read some of that. I think that the leadership in Pakistan remains as committed to rooting out terrorism in that country, al Qaeda the example you use, as we do. The specific coordinating relationships that we enjoy both within Afghanistan and with the government in Pakistan, I think we're not served to talk to the specifics of those. But let me just say that that cooperation has been very good. It remains very good today. And I believe the government of Pakistan is just as interested in doing away with what you described as the cross-border back-and-forth and so forth as we are. And I would even go one step further and say that it will only be a matter of time until, in fact, we have that in the box that we want it in -- I'm talking about the movements back and forth and so forth. So, our government continues, with the coalition, to work with Pakistan and her leadership on this problem.

Q: Speaking of time, there was an unnamed U.S. official yesterday or the day before that said that the U.S. military will be in Afghanistan for years. Would you agree with that?

Franks: I would agree with that because my experience when I visit a great many countries around the planet is that we are militarily engaged in security cooperation with a great many countries. And so, I mean, I could use -- I could use examples in my own region. I can use the example of Korea. We are engaged in military-to-military relationships in a great many countries around the world. So, it does not surprise me that someone would say, "Oh, gosh! We're going to -- the military's going to be in Afghanistan for a long, long time." Sure we will be.

Now, the numbers are something that I think we're just going to have to continue to work. One would expect a maturation of the government inside Afghanistan. One would expect the training of the Afghan national army border security forces, police forces and so forth to come along in accordance with a plan, and it is likely that when one sees that, one will see less need for the level of security cooperation -- that means the number of troops we have now. And I think we would not be wise to put a timeline on when we see that happening.

Rumsfeld: If you think about the beginning, the beginning was between September 11th and October 7th. It was a matter of moving forces and setting the conditions for a conflict in Afghanistan to depose the Taliban and chase the al Qaeda out. From October 7th until some other period, we were going after cities, large numbers of concentrations of Taliban and al Qaeda. Forget what the date was, but at some point, the large concentrations disappeared. They were either killed or captured. The cities had all fallen to the Karzai government or what became the Karzai government. The Taliban no longer ruled the country. Large concentrations moved out. They moved into neighboring countries; they moved south.

So you go into a new phase -- the phase we're in now, phase three, if you will -- a phase where the task is to chase out -- to prevent concentrations from forming again, to prevent them from flowing back into the country from the neighboring countries in large concentrations, to prevent the Taliban from taking the country back over and turning it into a terrorist training camp and to begin the process of, as the general said, civil action and humanitarian support. So at the present time, because we're no longer chasing after large concentrations or trying to conquer cities, the military is, as he indicated, doing a good deal of many sweeps, providing security, but in addition, doing various types of humanitarian assistance.

As the Karzai government gets strength, as the Afghan national government -- Afghan national army grows, as the border patrols and the police are trained and as money begins to flow into that country, the goal is not for the United States or the coalition or ISAF or anyone else to provide security in that country. The goal is for the government of Afghanistan to provide security in that country. And that is what we're attempting to do in the four or five or six ways that I described.

Whatever that's called, the next phase is one where, instead of doing 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 percent humanitarian and civil work, the military very likely would be doing a larger percentage of civil work and less providing security, because as the Afghan government develops those institutions and those capabilities, they're going to be able to provide that. And we're very interested in seeing that developed, which was the import of my remarks today.

The last phase, end-state, if you will, whenever that is -- I mean, we didn't go in there in a way to leave in a way that allows it to turn back into a terrorist training camp. We went in there so that that would not happen. And end-state is when the Afghan government has the capability to provide for its own security and, in fact, is able to do that and has the capabilities, with respect to armies and border patrols and what have you, to keep the al Qaeda out, to keep the Taliban out, and so that the people of the country can begin to prosper after 25 years of terrible, terrible, terrible circumstances.

Q: Well, along those lines, there are some who argue that you should redouble efforts to create a national army and police force, and so forth. Is there any thought to --

Rumsfeld: We are thinking about ways that that can be done faster. It is important that it be done at a pace that they can manage it. And I'd like to see the police forces being trained somewhat faster; I'd like to see us be able to do maybe some more Afghan army training at a faster clip.

Q: Does that call for more U.S. troops to do that training?

Rumsfeld: Oh, there's all kinds of people helping do this. The ISAF has trained some of the army, the French have been helping, other countries have been helping. It would call for a higher level of effort.

I think the thing I would say, if I were to look at the Afghan situation and drop a plumb line through it and be asked, is it basically a security problem today or is it basically a problem of getting the civil institutions in place and getting the capabilities of that country and the money and the resources and the budget and -- right now you've got Karzai, you've President Karzai and you've got his ministers. And underneath his ministers is not a lot; that is to say, the linkages between the central government in Kabul and the regions are relatively modest. And what's needed is the civil side. It needs a court system, it needs the rule of law, it needs the ability raise revenues and collect taxes and duties. It needs to guard its borders and to manage its neighbors with -- its relationships with its neighbors. Those are the things it needs.

And if you said to me, where on the spectrum between security and what I've just described as the civil side ought we to focus, I would say they need more money, they need more assistance on the civil side; they need support there. The security situation, you could fill the country with armies and all kinds of military and police and everything else --

Franks: The Soviets did.

Rumsfeld: -- the Soviets did. They had enormous numbers of people there and they still couldn't pacify it. What pacifies a country, what provides security for a country is that the people feel they have a stake in it and they want it to work and they support their government. And the kind of support that I'm talking about is the only way for that to take place and to take hold.

And I think it's a misunderstanding of the situation to think that because periodically there's a security problem in one or more parts of the country, that the answer is to keep flooding in more security. What we want to have is a civil side grow up, provide that kind of a circumstance for the people, and then the Karzai government provide for its own security, and we're helping in all of those ways. But I think that the public dialogue and debate on this subject is off-track. I think that it is way over on the security side instead of on the side of supporting civil action and civil institutions. And that's where we need to focus more.

Q: Mr. Rumsfeld --

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Franks: If I could just add one, also, to that. I think we've said this on numerous occasions, to the secretary's point, but -- you know, the Afghan people themselves would like to see this environment of, you know -- grow and improve and mature. And a great deal of what we read indicates what, you know, what the United States of America is doing to something inside Afghanistan, rather than sort of recognizing that the Afghans themselves at some point in the future identified by the secretary take responsibility in every way for their own security, for their own -- for their own country. And I -- it's -- I think it's important to not forget that the Afghans want that very badly. And so, it's working with, rather than working in the face of this evolving leadership in Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld: And with that -- with that, I'm going to excuse myself and leisurely walk through the E Ring and on the way out, I'm going to make sure, positive, absolutely certain, that not a door is locked, that no one is held hostage. The implication that we would even think of that, I think, is unfortunate. It's all wide open.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you just say one thing --

Rumsfeld: I'm really going to go -- got to do it.

Q: How about just --

Rumsfeld: I'm really going to leave. (Laughter.) You don't believe me? Just trust me.

Q: Just a quick question, sir.

Rumsfeld: I'm gone. General Franks -- he can stay all afternoon.

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