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Secretary Rumsfeld Gives Pentagon Briefing

Aired October 15, 2001 - 12:49   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: We see General Myers and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, so we know the briefing is about to begin. So we'll go to Pentagon for that.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ...in our efforts to create the conditions for sustained anti-terrorist operations inside Afghanistan.

Chairman Myers will provide some details on battle damage. We continue to use all appropriate means to root out and find and destroy al Qaeda and Taliban targets throughout the country.

In addition to the military campaign, we are continuing our humanitarian efforts on behalf of the Afghan people. Over the weekend, we dropped another 68,000-plus rations into Afghanistan, for a total of some 275,000 rations since the effort began. This is bringing needed food to hungry Afghan people, as well as a message of friendship from the American people.

Many, if not most Afghans, I believe, want little or nothing to do with the Taliban, who have turned their nation into a base from which foreign terrorists wage war on the rest of the world, while they starve, or are displaced.

Through leaflet drops which began this weekend and radio broadcasts into Afghanistan, we're working to make clear to the Afghan people that we support them and we want to help free their nation from the grip of the Taliban and their foreign terrorist allies.

The war is being fought on many front, as you know, military, humanitarian, information, diplomatic, financial, as well as economic. All of these are critical elements in a long, sustained campaign that will continue until we have finished the job of rooting out terrorist networks and putting them out of the business; not just the Taliban and the al Qaeda, but other networks in other nations as well.

General Myers?

GENERAL RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

As the secretary said, we did conduct operations against al Qaeda and those who support them on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday, we struck about 17 planned target areas that included terrorist camps, military training facilities, air fields, air defenses, and command and control facilities.

MYERS: Approximately 25 aircraft were planned for Saturday strikes, including about 15 carrier-based tactical aircraft and about eight to 10 long-range bombers. Additionally, we fired approximately 15 Tomahawks from both U.S. and British ships and submarines.

Yesterday, we struck in seven planned target areas that included military training facilities, surface-to-air missile storage sites, garrison areas, troop-staging areas and Al Qaeda infrastructure. We used approximately the same number of aircraft that we used on Saturday.

Now we also dropped leaflets for the first time, and the areas are marked on the map that I think they're going to put up now. And we have copies of these leaflets for everyone afterwards.

Today we have two sets of pre- and post-strike images to show you from facilities near Sarke (ph), Afghanistan. The first pre-strike image is of Taliban facilities used to repair and store military vehicles. And in the post-strike image, you can see that we were successful in destroying or damaging several of these facilities.

The second pre-strike image depicts another facility. This was one was used to repair and store both armored military vehicles and ordinance. The post-strike imagery shows we had considerable success here, as well.

Now I'd like to show you some camera footage, showing target destruction.

Can we roll the tape, please?

The first clip here depicts a hit on a terrorist training camp, consisting of a series of buildings, bunkers and training areas. Al Qaeda uses such facilities for training individual terrorists and for small unit training.

The second clip depicts a hit on a surface-to-air missile support site, used for storing, maintaining and repairing missiles and their components.

MYERS: As you can see, we hit the SAM canisters here between the earth berms.

The final clip shows us striking one of a number of Taliban fighter aircraft. We continue to take out these aircraft as we find them.

Finally, I want to note that we have used hundreds of munitions in the first week of our visible military operation. Saturday, of course, we had an unfortunate case where we missed a target near the Kabul airfield. Our planners in fact do everything they can to avoid such mishaps, but sometimes these things unfortunately happen.

Operations continue, and with that I think we're ready to take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, might I ask (inaudible), I know you don't discuss the current operations, but are cruise missiles being used again today? And if you're running out of targets in Afghanistan, how come the heaviest raids of the war to date are daylight raids yesterday and today?

RUMSFELD: Well, actually the target set that existed at the outset has been significantly enhanced by additional information from the ground, and by additional tension in the air. And as a result, the number of targets that are available have continued to be roughly the number that they were the day before, notwithstanding the kinds of film you've just seen where we've had success.

We're hopeful as relationships with people on the ground develop and evolve that the targeting information will be still better, and indeed that seems to be proving to be the case.

QUESTION: And are you using cruise missiles again today?

MYERS: It's quite possible.

MYERS: You know, we use a full range, and it depends on the particular target. There are some collateral damage concerns that might dictate one mission over another, as we plan to minimize that. So it all goes into the equation.

RUMSFELD: Furthermore, today's still going on. And second, we can't know that, because as emerging targets evolve, it's the kind of an answer that could be wrong five minutes ago.

QUESTION: Are you hitting more and more troop positions?

RUMSFELD: I don't know more and more, but there's been troop concentrations that have been attacked everyday of the last three or four that I...

MYERS: Yes, sir. That's correct.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what do your assessments tell you about these various reports of civilian casualty?

RUMSFELD: General Myers mentioned one, where we believe four civilians were the unintended casualties of an errant (ph) missile fire. Most of the Taliban activity has been shepherding journalists around to things they claim caused civilian damage. We do not have information that validates any of that. Indeed, some of the numbers are ridiculous.

But I would say this, that we have been going after ammunition storage areas. And on occasion when we've been highly successful, the result has been that there have been a number of quite powerful secondary explosions that have occurred. And in at least one of those cases, there's no question but that people who were in close proximity to these isolated ammunition dumps, who very likely were there for a good reason, because they were a part of that activity, may very well have been casualties.

QUESTION: If I could follow-up. Saudi Arabia's interior minister, today, criticized these casualties. And so, I want to understand, you're saying you don't have any confirmation on this 200 (inaudible) and maybe don't know still about the four U.N. workers. Is that what you're saying?

RUMSFELD: No. I think we...

QUESTION: And overall, do you feel that this will weaken the support that you're getting for your campaign in Afghanistan?

RUMSFELD: I think that we know of certain knowledge that the Taliban leadership and Al Qaeda are accomplished liars, that they go on television and they say things that we know are absolutely not true.

We know they are taking journalists -- to the extent there are journalists in the area -- into areas that they want to take them and not into ares that they want to go.

Now, do we have pretty good information about where the weaponry that's being fired is going? You bet we do. Do we have perfect knowledge from the ground? Of course we don't. Are we stating each instance when we have reason to believe that there was some unintended casualties? Yes, we are. Will we continue to do that? Yes.

One has to keep in mind the basic, and the basic is that thousands of people were killed in the United States by terrorist attacks; more are threatened every day. And any time that the Department of Defense is engaged from the air or on the ground, we have to know that there are going to be people hurt.

Overwhelmingly, they will be people who we intend to hurt. On occasion, there will be people hurt that one wished had not been. I don't think there's any way in the world to avoid that and defend the United States from the kinds of terrorist attacks which we've experienced.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you tell us specifically what was the target at Karum (ph)? And what do you think the U.S. hit there when it went after that target at Karum (ph)?

RUMSFELD: I can't offhand.

Can you?

MYERS: I think that the target were the caves.

RUMSFELD: That's the one.

QUESTION: What did the targeters think was in the cave? And what do they think now was in the cave? MYERS: I think there is still speculation. I think everybody was surprised by the length of the fire afterwards.

MYERS: It went on for three and a half to four hours. And I think there is still speculation on exactly what that was.

RUMSFELD: They were not cooking cookies inside those tunnels. I mean, let's face it. You do not spend that kind of money and dig that far in and store that many weapons and munitions that it would cause that kind of sustained secondary explosions, unless you have very serious purposes for doing it. The people in the vicinity clearly were connected to those activities.

QUESTION: And is it believed that if there were civilians killed there, they would have been killed by a secondary explosion as opposed to U.S. ordnance?

RUMSFELD: We simply do not have the kind of information from the ground that could prove that. Clearly, the targeting was unambiguous. It was into the tunnels.

MYERS: There are no bomb craters on that village, and furthermore intelligence would tell us from our photographs that the village was not heavily occupied, if at all, during that strike. So that's our information. But again, we have imperfect information on the ground. That's the best we know.

QUESTION: Are you saying the weapon actually went into the tunnel, into the cave? They had that...

RUMSFELD: It was more than one tunnel. My recollection there were at least two.

MYERS: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: And they actually penetrated inside the tunnel?

MYERS: Right.

RUMSFELD: When the explosion occurs in the photograph -- you've seen them -- suddenly there's a plume and a blossom.

MYERS: They hit the tunnel area. They did not hit...

RUMSFELD: We're reasonably certain they hit inside the tunnel, but they certainly hit the tunnel area and they certainly caused damage inside. But at least my imperfect ability to read those photographs and the camera film suggest that if they weren't in the tunnel, they were darn close. QUESTION: Can we get that camera film today?

QUESTION: Why don't you release that film?

RUMSFELD: I haven't thought about it. They must have a reason.

MYERS: We may not have it available. I mean, it's not -- you know, some of that is just not available. We can check on that.

QUESTION: Are you going to provide us with any of the gun camera where you know you missed?

RUMSFELD: The gun camera where we missed was not aimed -- it was aimed at the target, as I said the other day. It was aimed at the helicopter. And because of a targeting error, it went in and hit a small house. But my recollection is, and I could be wrong on this, but my recollection is that the house that was hit is not in the gun camera area of view.

QUESTION: Secondly, you are doing radio broadcasts daily now in several different chunks of time, will you release to us what the message is that you are sending to the Afghan people so we have some idea of how the U.S. is communicating with them?

RUMSFELD: I guess we could do that. I have not read it myself, but I can't imagine why we wouldn't. It's out there in the air...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: Well, it's stuck somewhere probably in my office, along with 85 other things.

QUESTION: Have you also dropped radios, Mr. Secretary, so they can pick up the...

RUMSFELD: I don't think we have yet. There was talk about that, but I don't think it has happened.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you are still getting aircraft out on runways. Any idea why the Taliban hasn't made more of an effort to conceal these visible targets?

RUMSFELD: Well, I think they have. Indeed, I would go so far as to say I'm confident they have both aircraft and helicopters that we have not found; that we don't know exist, if you will. We also know that there are some that exist that we not gotten yet. But I also believe there are some that we just don't know about.

QUESTION: Could they be in the kind of hardened bunkers that we've seen in past conflicts?

RUMSFELD: They certainly -- every one that I've seen has revetments and protection around the sides.

RUMSFELD: But we just don't know. Helicopters, you know, they can hide those relatively easy.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you were saying when you were talking about defending the action that you were saying that thousands were killed on Wall Street and the Pentagon, and you said more are threatened everyday. I wonder what you might be referring to? Is it the latest Daschle or what else might you be talking about?

RUMSFELD: Well, I was referring to the statements that are being made by the Al Qaeda people when they come out of their caves and send something to the television stations and talk about it and the various threat information that we receive on a daily basis from across the globe.

QUESTION: What is your reaction to the latest anthrax report in Daschle's office?

RUMSFELD: I was not aware of it till I walked down the hall, and it was mentioned to me. And I'm just not knowledgeable about it.

QUESTION: But, I mean, your own reaction to it. I mean, is it another worrisome thing that with more each day or...

RUMSFELD: I really do tend not to talk about things that I don't know -- I don't know if it's been validated, for example. So why would I opine on it? Obviously, it's not something we want to have happen in our country or in anyone's country, that someone would be mailing anthrax in an envelope.

I think that Secretary Thompson has been very thoughtful on this subject and is knowledgeable about it and has been aggressively dealing with it.

QUESTION: Secretary Rumsfeld, there's reports that the Taliban troops feel that the safest place for them is on the front lines, because the United States has not hit them in areas of conflict between them and the Northern Alliance. I'm wondering if you could talk about that?

RUMSFELD: Well, I've read things like that that have been said in the press. I can assure you that's not a conscious pattern on our part. Our conscious pattern is to try to be helpful to the forces on the ground that are anti-Al Qaeda and anti-Taliban, and we are doing it aggressively every where we have decent targeting information. And at the moment, we have had less-than-perfect targeting information in the area, I think, people are speculating about.

And you ask what my comment might be. My comment might be that I suspect that in the period ahead that's not going to be a very safe place to be.

QUESTION: Does that mean you are going to, in fact, start targeting Taliban front lines and, perhaps, increasing the coordination with the northern front?

RUMSFELD: It means exactly what I said, that we hope to have improved targeting information in the period ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Seymour Hersh writing in the New Yorker quotes sources as saying the United States had Mullah Omar in its sights early in the campaign and that because of the time it took and the advice of military lawyers, no action was taken.

QUESTION: And he reported that this distressed you somewhat. What can you say about the truth of any of these -- of this -- of these reports? RUMSFELD: Well, first, it is just -- I'm going to respond generically to this. It is practically impossible to know with certainty who is on the ground in any given location by name and serial number. It is possible from time to time to see what looked to be military leadership elements moving by the size of the group, by the kinds of vehicles, by the way they conduct themselves. You can make an educated guess that that is very likely a military leadership and command element.

So with respect to that element of that report -- which I've not had a chance to read, I must say -- I would answer that way.

Second, it is true that there are, for reasonably valid reasons, lawyers who get engaged not in specific targets so much, but in the question of the appropriateness of categories, and offer their advice from time to time at various levels. They do it at the level of a CINC, they do it at the joint staff level, and they do it at the OSD level, and I suspect they may do it in other places that I'm not aware of.

I have not experienced -- first of all, I'm not intimately knowledgeable about what preceded my awareness of that particular event. And I very likely will check. But I can assure you there was nothing other than a desire to deal aggressively with command and control, military command and control activities on the ground at the Dick Myers and Don Rumsfeld level.

QUESTION: One quick follow-up. Does the United States have the capability to put munitions or armaments on unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles, and have you done that in the case?

RUMSFELD: We don't get into that type of issue.

QUESTION: You began this press conference and many other ones by saying the goal here is to create conditions favorable for sustained anti-terrorist operations inside Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Could you describe what those conditions are?

RUMSFELD: Yes. The first is, you'll recall, was the desire to be able to operate in the air in a way that advantaged the forces on the ground. To do that, given the non-trivial stinger (ph) population on the ground, and the SAMs and the aircraft -- jet aircraft, as well as helicopters -- the first order of the day was to attempt to deal with the air defense capability that existed on the ground.

And we have been diligently pursuing that and have had measurable success, but have not completed that assignment. We still believe there are some SAM, at least one or more SAM sites. We still know, of certain knowledge, there's any number of stingers (ph) and manned portable ground-to-air missiles.

We believe there are still a number of aircraft that we know of, and we believe there are still more of those, so that's kind of the first thing that needed to be done. The second thing that needed to be done was to develop relationships and communication with the forces on the ground that do not favor Taliban or Al Qaeda or the Taliban leadership. And that process is going forward and it is still incomplete, if you will.

And the third thing to do would be to find ways in your communication with people on the ground to develop a capability to provide the much more precise information, as to potential targets, so that they can be dealt with aggressively from the air. And that is something that is evolving and improving, but has not reached the full flower one would hope.

QUESTION: So once all of these are achieved, then you will have your ability to carry out counterterrorism operations inside Afghanistan?

RUMSFELD: And one would think that the people on the ground would be more successful against the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces, that the environment for the terrorists would be less hospitable, that people would be less inclined to be supporting them and that they would be more inclined to have to move and find that their numbers are being treaded in a way that is going to be discouraging for them.

QUESTION: Secretary Rumsfeld, do you believe that the prohibition against assassination that's part of the United States code now includes leadership during a military engagement? RUMSFELD: There's no question in my mind, or I would not be standing up here saying what I've been saying, but that it is certainly within the president's power to direct that, in our self- defense, we take this battle to the terrorists and that means to the leadership and command and control capabilities of terrorist networks.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the skipper of the Enterprise use the phrase "clean-up mode" to describe the state of the air strikes, sort of suggesting that they're almost wrapped up. You seem to be suggesting they could go on for a while longer than you expected at the beginning...

RUMSFELD: Go with me.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: If I could just follow up on that, sir, given the political price the United States seems to be paying in some areas of the Islamic world for these strikes, are they worth it, when you look at what appears to be, by comparison with past air campaigns, a fairly limited air campaign?

RUMSFELD: Well, I guess one has to put on a scale and say, how many thousands or tens of thousands are you willing to lose to make it worth it? It seems to me that there have been demonstrations, in the countries that are having demonstrations, well before September 11 and well before a week ago. This is not something new.

Second, that the sizes of those demonstrations have been, relative to the populations, not something that is startling.

Third, there is no question but that we have a job to do as a country to make sure that the entire world understands that this is not against any religion, it is not against country, it is not against any people. It is against terrorists. And to the extent that people who understand that are unhappy about the fact that we're against terrorists, it's just too bad.

To the extent we need to do a better job to make sure that people are not confused as to what this is about, then we darn well ought to do a better job. And to the extent there are people out around the world actively trying to mislead populations into believing that this is about a race or a religion or a people, then they are not telling the truth. And we need to make darn sure that we're very clear on that and that all of our behavior in our country and in our behavior around the world sends not any mixed signals about that, but that it is exactly and truly what I just said. And we can do that.

Once we start saying, "Gee, the people who tell lies are going to prevail and cause people to do things that are harmful to our country, therefore we have to stop doing things that would help us defend ourself against this," then we're done. And we're not going to be done.

QUESTION: But from a military aspect, it's winter in Afghanistan. Within a month or so, there will probably be heavy snow on the ground. Does that give you just a small window to work with, particularly with what you keep referring to as the invisible part of your operation?

MYERS: I don't want to go into the specifics of potential tactics that are going to happen in a month or two months from now.

Let me just say that we have an all-weather force. And visible and probably invisible things are going to happen off and on for a very long period of time, as the secretary has said.

So we're well aware that winter is coming on, and we're planning around and through that.

QUESTION: Why have you not yet struck at any of the Taliban drug infrastructure? Does it not exist to the extent you thought it did? Can you find it?

RUMSFELD: Give us some coordinates.

QUESTION: So you cannot find it.

RUMSFELD: There is a lot of information that's contradictory.

RUMSFELD: There is no question but that Afghanistan was an enormous contributor to the, particularly as I recall, heroin trade in the world. There is speculation that some months back that started to change, and that the, for whatever reason, that the stocks and warehouses or so-called "factories" that were engaged in this trade are, for whatever reason, not manifesting the kinds of indicators that suggest that it's still active.

Were we to find that, clearly, that had been a significant source of funding and we would be happy to address it.

Yes?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you speak in some detail about the air attacks by the United States on Afghanistan. My question is, can you speak about in any detail or in any way about the ground component? Does it exist yet?

RUMSFELD: We are not going to discuss that.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: There were reports aboard the USS Enterprise yesterday that they were very much carefully going through the mail, concerned about anthrax-tainted mail.

RUMSFELD: Good.

QUESTION: What are you doing in terms of the entire armed forces? Any new security measures to ensure that -- there's an anthrax letter that apparently, according to the president, was sent to the Senate majority leader -- that it's not being sent here to the Pentagon or any other places?

RUMSFELD: Everyone in the world is sensitive to the anthrax issue, particularly sensitive to the method of using the mails to transmit anthrax. I think that there are things being done in the Pentagon, I suspect, and in military forces around the world, to be, as the president said, on a state of heightened awareness and to see that we do everything we can to avoid having anyone come in contact with it.

QUESTION: Do you have any indication at this point that any of such mail has breached either the Pentagon at this point or anyone is being tested?

RUMSFELD: I would suspect that it would be public if it had happened. I don't recall hearing anything to that effect.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you just said earlier that the message needed to be gotten out better. Condoleezza Rice is being, I understand, interviewed by Al Jazeera today, and you're considering such an interview. Is that part of a new public relations offensive to more clearly get the message out to the Arab world?

BROWN: Secretary Of Defense Donald Rumsfeld breed -- briefing -- can't tell honestly if he will answer the question. Looks like he might be. Why don't we listen.

RUMSFELD: Well, Condi told me this morning she was going to do that, and I didn't know I was.

(LAUGHTER) But she's afraid to tell me anything beyond one day ahead, I guess.

QUESTION: Do you want to more clearly get the message out to the Arab world?

RUMSFELD: You bet. We have to. We have to. We have to do a better job. I mean, our cause is just. What we're doing is right. And we have absolutely nothing to hide. The other folks don't function in free systems. They don't function with free press. They are trying to manipulate world opinion in a way that is advantageous to them and disadvantageous to us. And we need to do everything we can to make sure that the truth gets out.

QUESTION: Thank you.

RUMSFELD: Thank you.

BROWN: Secretary Of Defense Rumsfeld reiterating that the United States -- he says -- must do a better job of getting the message out that this is a war against terrorists, bot a war against Islam. Our cause is just. The other side is trying to manipulate world opinion. In fact, aarly in the news briefing he said the Taliban are accomplished liars that they are taking journalist to places they want them to see. Not necessarily the places that journalist want to see. He said this is the basics. Thousands were killed in the United States. Many still threatened. There are going -- speaking of civilian casualties in Afghanistan -- there are going to be people hurt. Mostly they are people we are intending to hurt, but sometimes not. He acknowledged -- both he and General Meyers -- that there was an incident over the weekend where a bomb landed in an area it was not supposed to.

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