CNN Europe CNN Asia
On CNN TV Transcripts Headline News CNN International About Preferences
powered by Yahoo!
Return to Transcripts main page


Pentagon Briefing

Aired October 7, 2002 - 13:16   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his daily briefing at the Pentagon.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ... technology and 19th century military tactics, teaming air power, advanced communications, precision guided munitions with thousands of Afghan warriors on foot and some on horseback to overwhelm the adversary.

And it worked. On November 7, just one month into the military campaign, the first Afghan city -- Mazar-i-Sharif -- was liberated from Taliban control.

With each successive day and week, additional territory was reclaimed for the Afghan people: Taloqan, Herat, Jalalabad, Kunduz, Bagram, Kabul and finally on December 7, two months into Operation Enduring Freedom, Kandahar, the Talaban stronghold, was liberated.

The Afghan people promptly exercised their right of self- determination through the loya jirgah process and selected their transitional government, which of course is now getting on its feet.

With coalition partners, we're helping to train Afghan National Army so that Afghans can once again provide for their own security and the stability of the country.

U.S. Army civil affairs teams in coalition countries, are helping Afghans rebuild their country after decades of occupation and devastation, providing water, sanitation, shelter, healthcare, and assistance to returning refugees. Schools have been rebuilt, teachers trained, textbooks supplied. Young girls are back in classrooms. Women are working. Landmines are being cleared. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have returned, a very strong vote of confidence in coalition efforts and in the future of that country.

But sadly, success on the global war on terror has not been without cost. Fifty-three Americans have died in the war thus far. Their names appear on the screen. And many others have been injured.

Our coalition partners have also suffered casualties, as well. We remember them with gratitude. We remember also the many Afghans who fought for the liberation of their country and were wounded or died in battle. The sacrifice of all of those who died is a reminder that we're engaged in a difficult and dangerous undertaking, but it is an effort that is vital to the security of our people.

I believe the names that are listed are all military except for the CIA, Mr. Spawn (ph). United States is committed to the long-term stability and security of Afghanistan. I said here a year ago, that while the raids that day focused on the Taliban and the foreign terrorists in Afghanistan, our aim remains broader, our objective is to defeat those who use terrorism and those who house or support terrorists. The campaign will be broad, sustained and we will use every element of American power. I said one year ago.

Today, Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for terrorists, but there's no question but that free nations are still under threat. Thousands of terrorists remain at large in dozens of countries. They're seeking weapons of mass destruction that would allow them to kill not only thousands, but tens of thousands of innocent people. Our objective in the global war on terror is to prevent another September 11 or an attack that is far worse before it happens.

It's worth noting that before hostilities in Afghanistan began, there were ominous warnings. One newspaper warned before October 7, "There's an environment for military conflict. Afghanistan is virtually impervious to American power." Another declared that, "Afghanistan has been bombed for over two decades by the Soviet Union and every conceivable ban of local marauders to little avail. U.S. high-tech equipment will not provide a decisive advantage against people who can stay holed up in remote caves."

Others issued similar warnings. Fortunately, those predictions, for the most part, have not come to pass. Coalition forces did succeed and had been welcomed by the Afghan people because we came not as a force of occupation, but as forces of liberation.

We face many challenges beyond Afghanistan in the global war on terror. Certainly, no two countries are alike. But the dangers remain as does our resolve to deal with them.

General Pace?

GEN. PETER PACE, VICE CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. We'd certainly like to join the secretary in thanking the thousands of dedicated men and women who served in the Armed Forces to safeguard our nation and our freedom.

I've had the great pleasure of visiting these folks in the field, Afghanistan and elsewhere. They look you in the eye, and they do not ask, "When we can go home?" They simply ask, "What else can we do?" And it's heartwarming and truly an honor to just be with them where they're doing this great work for our nation.

They're families, too, deserve our thanks. It takes a great deal of courage to fight our country's wars. It takes an equal measure of courage to send our loved ones off into battle.

So for all of our families who have loved ones serving now, Thank you for what you're doing for your country.

And to the American people, this is a difficult war on terrorism. We have a long way to go. Thank you for your amazing, sustained support of your military. We promise you, we will stay the course and we thank you for making that possible.

With that, we'll answer your questions.

RUMSFELD: Charlie?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, is there any indication whether the apparent explosion and fire aboard the French flag-tanker (ph) in the Gulf of Aden was caused by a terrorist attack? And have the French asked the United States, with considerable military assets in the region, to help them investigate?

RUMSFELD: We have no information as to the cause of that damaged ship. And I have no information that would indicate that the French have asked for assistance. I just don't know.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in this press briefing last year, you were asked about Osama bin Laden and said, "This is not about a single individual. It's about a terrorist network," a message you've said many times. You've also said that there's no hard evidence that bin Laden is still alive or that he's dead. Has that changed?

RUMSFELD: I said that a year ago?

QUESTION: Since then you've...

RUMSFELD: Oh, since then I've said that. OK.

But I said that on September 11 or October 7 a year ago?


RUMSFELD: It is. Interesting. I was right.

QUESTION: Has that changed since then?


RUMSFELD: Fortuitously.

QUESTION: And could I get you to comment on the audio tape broadcast this weekend by Al Jazeera and whether that is any indication that either way that that's bin Laden?

RUMSFELD: I have really nothing I can add to anything I've said on this subject. I have read only press reports of the tape -- the radio tape, as I recall. I've not heard it. I know that there are people looking at it. I'm told there's no way to know when it was made. Obviously, there would be many ways that one could easily -- were one alive, one could easily indicate that they were alive and that the tape had been made recently.

And I'm told that it does not indicate that. So I have still, to this moment, not seen anything since last December that one can with certainty say that he's alive or functioning. So he's therefore either alive and well, or alive and not too well, or not alive.

QUESTION: Do you have any better indication on Mullah Omar, Mr. Secretary?

RUMSFELD: I don't. I hear scraps that he's probably still alive. But I haven't seen or heard anything hard.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, it seems that Congress is not going to give the president the blank-check resolution he might have wanted. It also seems that getting a strong resolution through the Security Council is going to be probably an exercise in futility as we now see it. Also there are some who claim...

RUMSFELD: My goodness, you're in a morose mood today.


Is there any other adjective you could wrap around those two resolutions to make them sound...

QUESTION: Bear with me. There are some who say that Saddam Hussein is playing us like a Stradivarius with his United Nations ambassador now saying that the palaces are not off limits.

Is the administration now getting frustrated? It said many times that time is of the essence. When is somebody going to do something tangible against the so-called, you know, man in Iraq who threatens America?

RUMSFELD: I wish I had written all of that down. But first of all, I don't believe the president ever asked for a blank-check of Congress.

Second, I am not as close to the congressional resolution as I possibly wish I were, but I just haven't had the moment in the last period of hours to check anything. But to my knowledge, everyone seems to think that there will be a resolution and it'll pass overwhelmingly by the Congress.

So you're characterization, I think, probably misses the mark. With respect to the U.N., it seems to me that's still quite open as to what's going to happen. But my impression is that Colin Powell and his team are working hard with the folks at the U.N. And I haven't seen anything that strikes me as suggesting that it's a bleak, gloomy prospect for the U.N. resolution.

Last, the answer to your question is yes, there's no question but that Saddam Hussein has in the past and is now attempting to manage that whole process, and he's very good at it. He leans forward when he has to and he leans back when he can get away with it. He's very skillful at disinformation and not telling the truth. He is very skillful at timing things in a way that causes the interaction at the United Nations to do things that favor him.

RUMSFELD: How it will all come out, I don't know. It seems to me one would -- at least one would think that after 11 years of doing it, pretty soon people would wake up and say, "Ah-ha, that's what he's doing." And we'll see. QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we've had some concerns raised. Leo Mullen, airlines head, said the airline industry already lost $7 billion last year. It'll lose another $7 billion this year. And we have a long war in Iraq, with high jet fuel prices, it would be very damaging. We've had economists saying that a long war over there, with the uncertainty it would generate, would damage the fragile U.S. economic expansion. We've had others saying...

RUMSFELD: Thank goodness. You should have been sitting right next to...


QUESTION: Well, see, it gets better...

RUMSFELD: Should we all wring our hands together here for this?

QUESTION: The difference is it gets better with me.


If the president requests you to initiate a strike on Iraq, would it be done, as General Shalikashvili said, with overwhelming force, or would it be prosecuted in a very rapid manner, so that you would have a decisive outcome quickly? Does the Powell doctrine still prevail?

RUMSFELD: My goodness gracious. That is something. Just say yes or no.


First of all, there's been no decision on Iraq. So we have to begin with that.

Second, were there to be such a decision, I don't know why one would assume that it would necessarily last forever. I think what you said, "Would it be a long, terrible, drawn-out thing?" And I saw Leo Mullen down in Atlanta, and had lunch with him the other day. I think that -- I don't want to correct your question, but he had much more to say then just what you said, as I recall. And I don't know that wording that through, given the fact that the president hasn't made a decision on the subject, and it has an assumption that he does, and an assumption that it's long. And I don't know that either assumption will prove to be correct. So, I don't know, but I can answer your question.

QUESTION: Well, the question was, would you put in enough troops? General Shalikashvili said, "Don't wage war on the cheap. Put in enough so that we can have a decisive action that will be over quickly."

RUMSFELD: It is always nice to receive advice from people who've served in this department. But if I were to comment on the advice that's received from every person who served in this department, we wouldn't have much else to do.

RUMSFELD: We wouldn't have time to do anything else, so.

The last part of your question on the so-called Powell doctrine, my impression is that it was actually the Weinberger doctrine. I think technically, wasn't it?

QUESTION: It was, yes.

RUMSFELD: I don't want to get picky, but...


... that was a couple of presidents ago, and the times were different. This is now post-September 11th, and the world's changed significantly since President Reagan was elected in 1980 when those thoughts were uttered.

And it strikes me that even the people involved then would probably have today somewhat -- some amendments that they would probably make or elaborations. So I don't know that it's useful for me to comment on that.

QUESTION: Could you tell us what amendments you'd be talking about? What would be this new doctrine?

RUMSFELD: No, I haven't read this document that you're talking about for 15 years, I don't suppose. And I have my own thoughts, you can be sure of that, and I have -- you can be also certain that I've communicated them to the president and that there've been discussions about what are the kinds of things one ought to think about prior to making a commitment of U.S. lives to a conflict.

QUESTION: I'll take that as a no-comment.

RUMSFELD: Well, no, it's a comment, I mean I have thought a great deal about this. In fact, I wrote down my thoughts when I first came into office some 20 months ago, and have discussed them extensively with the president and with General Pace and with General Myers and with others in the department.

QUESTION: Despite all the successes in the war in Afghanistan, how much of a disappointment is it that coalition forces were not either able to capture Osama bin Laden or at least definitively determine his fate, whether he's dead?

RUMSFELD: If you go back to what was read about a year ago today, what I said, I said what I believed then and I believe today.

This is not about him. It is a problem that's much bigger than one individual. It was that day. I said so. I tried to dissuade people from personalizing this global war on terrorism into the face or name of a single individual; that that would be unwise and misguided, misdirected.

RUMSFELD: I did my best. I failed. There's a fixation on him. And I suppose we'll just all have to work our way through it.

QUESTION: Nevertheless, whether it's about one individual or not, how much of a disappointment is it that coalition forces...

RUMSFELD: For me or for the press corps?

QUESTION: Well, for you.

RUMSFELD: I'm not frustrated, I think was the word you used, at all about it. Needless to say, we would like to locate him and determine what his circumstance is. But that's true of 15 or 20 people that we've got high on the list of Taliban and al Qaeda that have thus far not been -- we don't know precisely what's happened to them.

There are a category that we know are dead. There's a category that we know are alive. And then there's a fairly large category that we don't know if they're dead or alive. And the communications management and the way they manage their lives have gotten quite skillful; because of all the leaks in the press about how we do things and what we do and how we find out things, they have managed to change their behavior patterns in ways that it makes it very difficult to find them. That's just a fact. The leaks in the press have been damaging to the way we have to do things.

And when we find some of these people, I just don't know. We do know that we're putting pressure on them. We do know that their live are more difficult. We do know that it takes them longer to do everything. And we do know that if they are alive and well, that we'll eventually find them.

QUESTION: General Pace, can you help us with the environment since the USS Cole was hit out in Yemen two years ago? Have there been continuing indications that al Qaeda or other terrorist groups have been plotting, going after maritime shipping? Is that a priority as you talk to detainees, as you continue to gather this body of evidence? Can you give us some feeling for where that threat matrix, to use the secretary's word, is?

PACE: Periodically, we receive intelligence reports that do say that not only U.S., but other coalition vessels would be subject to attack, as we do reports about embassies around the world and about other assets around the world. We take them all very seriously. The U.S. Navy, for its part, is very sensitive to and attentive to the requirements to safeguard our capital ships, our warships. They do that in various ways. We share intelligence amongst navies and amongst intelligence organizations about the threats to shipping.

But I should not get into the specifics of how many threats and when we get them, but we do receive threats and we do take precautions against it.

QUESTION: Is there an indication that al Qaeda...

PHILLIPS: General Peter Pace, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with today's daily briefing from the Pentagon.

We want to remind you of our special coverage tonight, Bush addresses the U.S. on Iraq, that;'s at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. You won't want to miss it.


© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.