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Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Friday, Nov. 2, 2001
(Media availability en route to Moscow, Russia.)
Rumsfeld: Just briefly, we're going to Moscow first, needless to say, and the reason is because the discussions between the Untied States and Russia have been proceeding along and they're heading toward the meetings between President Bush and President Putin in New York, Washington and then Crawford (Texas). It's useful we think to have some of the underbrush cleared away and to try help further crystallize a few of the issues that remain, that Secretary (of State Colin) Powell and (Russian Foreign Minister) Igor Ivanov were working on earlier this week.
From there we go to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, two countries of course that border Afghanistan. And we have a number of things that Uzbekistan has been assisting with. It's always helpful, I think, to see that relationships are knitted together at the top so that all of the kinds of daily and weekly problems that come along are handled in a reasonably smooth way. And that is best done if there's a fairly clear understanding at the top as to what we have in mind and what they have in mind. And obviously, the relationships are evolving in both cases. They're relatively new because these are both of course former Soviet republics.
Pakistan is an enormously important country and of course the President (Pervez Musharraf) has been just a stalwart in the war on terrorism and we have a good deal of activity that we need to continue to work over with him and with the people in his country. I have not had a chance to visit India yet and we have a new minister of defense (George Fernandes) who has just replaced Minister Singh on an interim basis, serving both as foreign minister and defense minister. And it seemed to me that while I was in the region, it would be good to establish relationships with him, even through the prime minister and the foreign minister are not going to be in the country when we're there.
With that I'll stop and respond to questions.
Q: What underbrush do you hope to be able to clear with the Russians in preparation for Crawford on this particular trip?
Rumsfeld: As you know, there are any number of political, economic and security issues. It's an important relationship to the United States and to Russia, and the discussions have been going on at various levels in various departments. We have always tried to see that those were all linked together because they are in the minds of our citizens. Certainly, one of the most important things from the standpoint of Russia is that they have a multifaceted relationship with the United States and the West that persuades investors that it is an attractive environment for investment. That means that the totality of that relationship is critical if that's to be the case. We have in my previous meetings with (Russian Minister of Defense) Sergey Ivanov discussed all of those issues and we will be on this trip, as well as a number of specific things -- certainly the war on terrorism.
Q: Mr. Secretary if I could just build on that. When you were in Moscow the last time, you spoke to the ITAR/TASS people and you said that Russia had to make up its mind that its future belongs with the West. With the apparent willingness to compromise on NATO enlargement, cooperation in arms control, and the whole thing with the cooperation on terrorism, do you believe the Russians have finally decided that their future belongs with the West?
Rumsfeld: I think there is a great deal of evidence that President Putin and his team have made a decision that they wish to have closer relations with Western Europe, the United States, North America and with the West. I think it isn't something where you start here and you end up there, it is a path you travel. And clearly in his administration, he has been traveling that path.
Q: How have the events of September 11th changed that path and what do the events of September 11th have to do with missile defense and arms control? How have those events pushed that agenda forward?
Rumsfeld: Well, there's no question but that after the attacks on New York and Washington, President Putin immediately called President Bush. He then apparently spent some time working with his senior administration officials and has since that period been a stalwart. He has been very forthcoming, very supportive. How it will affect the other aspects of our relationship I think remains to be seen. But my impression is that one of the things that he has done is that he has established himself in the public mind of the world as someone who is supportive of the effort against terrorism and is working with West and the rest of the world to help deal with this terrible problem. And that clearly is a signal to the world that his intention is to be a part of that world community, which I think is a very constructive thing.
Q: Mr. Secretary, on the arms control agenda --
Rumsfeld: Well, I think we'll have to let that evolve over time and see. We'll find out a little bit more about that tomorrow.
Q: If we could get into the agenda for tomorrow, could I ask for your comment in two areas? One, are you bringing an offensive missile number in your pocket, has that been decided? And the second thing, what is on the agenda with respect to discussions around the Northern Alliance?
Rumsfeld: Well, of course the Russians know the Northern Alliance pretty well and they have had relationships with them in a variety of different ways. So there's no question that we will be talking about Afghanistan in all of its aspects while I'm there.
Q: The first question was are you bringing an offensive number?
Rumsfeld: Well, needless to say, there are four or five issues that are important and I suspect that we will end up talking about all of those issues. I would also guess that the way the world works, there will be two or three of them that will be left and the president will have to address those with President Putin, as is traditionally the case. Maybe they'll need to sit down and work through the final pieces of it.
Q: Are you talking about the final number, even if it may be settled later?
Rumsfeld: I'll undoubtedly be talking about all aspects of the --
Q: (inaudible) -- START III levels?
Rumsfeld: I'm not going to get into the numbers.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there are reports that the hunt for Osama bin Laden has been narrowed to a number of specific sites, mountain sites, cave complexes. Can you comment on that at all?
Rumsfeld: Can I?
Q: Will you?
Rumsfeld: (Laughter) I certainly can and I am not inclined to. First of all there are reports on everything. They always tend to be retrospective, not prospective. He is fully aware, I'm sure, that the world would like to see more of him, in person, and have an opportunity to locate him. But he is careful, as are all the senior leaders in al Qaeda. They've been spending a lot of time in caves and tunnels and moving frequently and I think that the reports are probably as much wrong as right, from time to time, but they are always late.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you said yesterday that you didn't know if the Afghan town of Chowkar-Karez was hit. Do you know that now, and if you do know whether it was hit --
Rumsfeld: I can answer that. I don't. I've asked for that to be looked into with (Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman) Gen. Dick Myers. He's looking into it so that I'll be able to answer the question that was posed at yesterday's press briefing.
Q: We've been helpful to the Northern Alliance and in today's paper, there are some quotes from the Northern Alliance leader directed at you saying, if he were in your position, he would have bombed a little bit differently and he suggests that carpet bombing by the B-52s was not very successful, the on the ground reports. Do you have any damage assessment? Is that wrong or do you know if that carpet bombing was effective in taking out the Taliban front lines?
Rumsfeld: Well, first of all there is no The Northern Alliance. There are pieces of it spread across that country and there are factions and different tribal leaders or leaders of forces in any number -- more than a handful -- of different locations. Second, even within those single elements, they are spread along for portions of the northern portion of Afghanistan. On any given day, you can find someone who will be happy and someone who will be sad. You will find someone who is pleased with the targeting, and someone who isn't.
The ones who tend to be more pleased are the ones that are in the closest proximity to those forces we have on the ground who can provide assistance with respect to targeting. The other thing I would say about it, with respect to resupply -- and we also hear that -- someone's happy because they got, others are not happy. In some cases, there's a three or four day delay between the time the supplies go in and they actually end up reaching people because of the difficulty of the mountainous terrain and moving things along.
I think that as long as we have cell phones and as long as people anywhere in that northern portion of the country can get on the cell phone and call somebody, that on any given day in the future, you will hear a mixture of views as to how exactly things went that day and we understand that.
Q: Well could I ask you then, are you pleased, and is (the commander in chief of U.S. Central Command) Gen. (Tommy) Franks -- based on your conversation today, pleased with the damage done by the B-52s?
Rumsfeld: I can speak before yesterday, but in terms of yesterday, it takes a cycle to get the battle damage assessment from the various intelligence sensors we have and ways of knowing those things. We do not have people that are traipsing around on the ground in the Taliban area to see exactly how many people have been killed.
We also know that they are putting out disinformation and saying exactly the opposite frequently of what the truth is. So if they were badly damaged or if we were, one would think you would not get up in the morning and announce to the world that we were badly damaged -- quite the contrary. You would say, "not a problem; we're going to be just fine." So when you hear them say that it was not a problem, by the Taliban, it seems to me that one has to at least get verification of that from other people.
Q: Could you comment on reports that there has been an armed uprising, an anti-Taliban uprising, in southern Afghanistan? And if it's true, is the U.S. encouraged and is the U.S. helping that?
Rumsfeld: The U.S. is trying to help everyone we can find to help. And we keep adding more people every week, in terms of those who are connected, or in communication and in varying degrees of relationship with us that we can begin to provide more and more assistance. I hear periodically about defections and uprisings, if you will, or changes of position but unless I knew precisely where you were referring to, I wouldn't be able to validate it.
Q: Do you know about the safety or lack thereof of Hamid Karzai? Do you know whether or not he was in a firefight with the Taliban? Do you know what is happening with his group?
Rumsfeld: The last I heard, he was alive and well and we provided some supplies to him yesterday if I'm not mistaken.
Q: You provided some what to him?
Rumsfeld: Supplies. Probably ammunition. Maybe food as well.
Q: What kind of force does he have around him?
Rumsfeld: It would not be wise for me to describe the numbers of people that he has with him.
Q: What did you supply him with?
Rumsfeld: My recollection is that it was food and ammunition.
Q: Did the U.S. provide any air cover to him?
Rumsfeld: Yesterday, I'm not sure.
Q: Have we at other times?
Q: Before yesterday?
Rumsfeld: Pardon me?
Q: Before yesterday did you?
Rumsfeld: I don't know. He has been on the ground there a relatively short period of time. We do not have forces with him as yet. Therefore, we are not in communication in a way that we could provide good targeting information to assist with their air support. There have been times when we provided air support even where we have not had people in close proximity but it has been less effective than when we do.
Q: Mr. Secretary, yesterday you were adamant that the U.S. did not --
Rumsfeld: I wasn't adamant, no --
Q: Yes you were. (Background laughter) You said absolutely you were adamant that the U.S. did not slow up military efforts for political considerations over a proposed Taliban government forum, saying that those reports were absolutely false. Now there are Northern Alliance leaders saying they are ready possibly to move on Kabul before Mazar-e Sharif. Is the U.S. ready to have the Northern Alliance march on Kabul?
Rumsfeld: There's two things going on here. One is the work that's being done by the U.N. and the group of outside countries to try to help move along the process of establishing some sort of provisional government or an arrangement that will produce some sort of a beginning of a post-Taliban government. Taliban is not a government. The government of Afghanistan does not exist today. The Taliban never was a government as such. It was a force in the country that is now substantially weakened -- in many cases cloistered away from the people -- in many cases the people are quite unhappy with them. And that country is going to have a government that will follow what is there now. That work is going forward. I think it will end up happening. It's very difficult to do, but I think it will happen. I think there will be some sort of understandings.
Now some have said that it would unfortunate if this group moved faster than that group. Our position has been very clear. I don't think it's possible to manage the work on the ground -- the war campaign on the ground -- against a political timetable that's unpredictable. We can't know how long that will take or how it will shake out.
We do know a couple of things. We know that the al Qaeda has damaged this country and killed thousands of people, and we know that they are currently threatening to damage it more. U.S. and Western interests all across the globe are at risk. For us to sit around at any stage of this, for us to have sat around or currently sitting around saying -- well, we're smart enough to think that maybe we can delay this so that this happens instead of that -- and wait until that process, which is unpredictable, to happen, would be mindless. We have not done it in the past, we are not doing it now, and we do not intend to do it in the future.
Q: If I can follow that sir.
Rumsfeld: And I'm not adamant. I'm just accurate. (Laughter)
Q: If that's the case, why are special forces not helping Northern Alliance troops tactically, like they sometimes do? Special forces help in insurgency operations. Why are they not helping militarily on the ground?
Rumsfeld: Of course your question is not a question, it's an assumption. It happens to be inaccurate. They are helping.
Rumsfeld: What do you mean by tactically?
Q: Military objectives. You said they were liaison.
Rumsfeld: They are certainly in communication with the forces on the ground and to the extent they are able, giving advice. They are also giving resupply information. They are also giving targeting information.
Now those commanders have been in Afghanistan for a long time. They know the territory, as they say. They are perfectly willing to listen to all the advice in the world. They're also perfectly capable of making up their own minds. If they wanted to go after any city and thought they were capable of doing it, you could be darn sure that they would have done it.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Rumsfeld: And the implication that we have held them back is not accurate, and the implication that we are not giving them the right advice is inaccurate -- if that is what was implied by your question.
Q: Then why is there disagreement between the Pentagon and the State Department --
Rumsfeld: Not a bit.
Q: -- over how fast to move, how much to help?
Rumsfeld: Not even the slightest bit.
Q: Not at all. So the Pentagon has not been pushing for more military actions than the State Department would want you to.
Rumsfeld: Absolutely not. The Pentagon, State Department and the president have been urging that the work go forward with respect to the formation of some sort of interim or provisional government. We all think that's a good idea. The President has asked Secretary Powell to appoint a special ambassador, Mr. Richard Haass -- that work is going forward. We have been moving as fast as is humanly possible to try to see that the war on the ground is prosecuted as effectively as it can be done and we are putting people in there as fast as we can to provide the kind of liaison assistance that we believe will be helpful.
Q: Why is it limited to the aid? Are our soldiers ever going to fire their guns at the Taliban?
Rumsfeld: Well, it's hard for me to believe that we're going to have U.S. people on the ground and that at some point there won't be some situation where they might have to fire their weapons. So I would take that as a given myself. You can be certain they're armed and they're well trained. They are not going in as an occupying ground force, as you well know.
Q: Mr. Secretary, can I (inaudible) the speed with which the amounts of Russian assistance, in terms of tanks and APCs [armored personnel carriers] and so forth for the Northern Alliance, or is perhaps one of the topics tomorrow to be how to try and speed that pipeline and get more to them faster?
Rumsfeld: I wouldn't be surprised that if the Northern Alliance and the work that's going on in Afghanistan would come up, then it's conceivable that that subject would come up, but they have been at that for a long time.
Q: Mr. Secretary, have the Russians asked for airlift assistance by the United States?
Rumsfeld: Not to my knowledge.
Q: Could we go back to the ABM Treaty for a moment?
Q: You've been among those who have believed fervently for years that these types of treaties put the U.S. at a disadvantage. You're on the record for years and some very strong members of the Republican Party as feeling that way. Now you're engaged in a process where any intent by the U.S. to get out of the treaty -- to withdraw from the treaty -- is being delayed. How do you explain that to the people who --
Rumsfeld: He said I was adamant, and now I'm fervent? I think of myself as measured. I'm not as flinty as Torie (Clarke, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs).
Rumsfeld: Yeah, flinty was the word someone applied to her.
How do I explain it? I think the way I explain it is that over the decades that I've lived, and there have been a lot of them, there have been a lot of negotiations with the Soviets. The Soviets are gone. It's a different era. It's a different period. The Cold War is over. The words and the arrangements and the relationships that existed between two hostile powers are things of the past between the United States and Russia. I don't see that there ought to be any symmetry or parallelism here.
Q: Well that had been the logic for seeking to withdraw from the treaty. You're using the same logic now to delay withdraw from the treaty.
Rumsfeld: Oh, I'm not suggesting we delay withdrawing from the treaty. Where did you get that?
All I have said publicly on the subject is what the president has said. The president said we need to set the treaty aside and establish a new relationship between the Untied States and Russia. Therefore, we're going to embark on a series of discussions at the presidential level, with the secretaries of state, and the secretaries of defense, and we are going to find a way to do that. But the president has said we will deploy missile defense. Now that can't be done with the treaty there as an impediment. The president has said that repeatedly. He has told the Russians that, he has told the world that. He said that in his campaign when he ran for election. So I don't see that there's any suggestion that that should be done. What I have said recently is several things.
If you will recall my confirmation hearing, I said look: the treaty is there and the United States adheres to treaties. We don't break treaties. Second, that the president wants to set it aside and deploy missile defense. And so do I. Now, within the last week or two, I was told by the Ballistic Missile Defense Office that there were a series of tests coming up -- this was some weeks ago -- and that they were going to bump up against the treaty and some people would say that they were a violation, even though others might say that they were not. And so I advised the president and the National Security Council that that was the case and obviously, since we're still in the treaty, it would be wrong by my standard to break the treaty by going ahead with the tests and allowing people to accuse us, even inaccurately, of having violated the treaty.
So I personally told the Ballistic Missile Defense Office they ought not to go forward with those. I told the president I had done that and I obviously see it as an indication of several things. One, the truth of what I've said all along -- that we intend to not break the treaty -- and second, that the truth of the fact that we're going to bump up against it, which we now are and therefore, there is an impetus to get beyond that treaty.
Q: Is there not some sort of deal being discussed now that would enable you to go beyond the treaty limitations in missile defense testing, but also preserve the treaty in some fashion over at least the short period to appease the Russian concerns about walking away from it?
Rumsfeld: Well there are all kinds of things that have been discussed at different levels by different people. How it will all end up we won't know until the two presidents get together in Washington.
Q: Mr. Secretary, can you confirm that anthrax was mailed to a newspaper in Pakistan and if so, what does that mean to possible state sponsorship, since it was not being sent to the United States?
Rumsfeld: No, I don't know.
Q: You don't know anything about it.
Q: Mr. Secretary, is the nuclear posture review finished?
Rumsfeld: No. What we have done is that we have completed the review that we needed to come to where I could develop some conviction about the numbers -- the ranges that I thought were appropriate, and the various other things that needed to be done in connection with our offensive nuclear capabilities. It is not a number, it is a program. And the work of the nuclear posture review will proceed and probably be wound up sometime in mid-December, I would guess, but we do know enough from the nuclear posture review to have extracted from it enough information that we can proceed with a high degree of confidence with the Russians.
Q: In general, what would describe as the mission of this trip to all these countries? Is there a specific?
Rumsfeld: Well, it would have to be plural. As I outlined it with respect to the Russians, it is clearly to discuss in some detail a number of the elements of the relationship between the United States and Russia, in anticipation of the meetings between President Bush and President Putin in Washington and Crawford.
Q: Thank you.
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