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Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Monday, Nov. 5, 2001
(Media availability en route from India to Italy.)
Q: I've been asked to ask you something.
Rumsfeld: Give me a tough question. I've had an easy weekend.
Q: This is it.
Q: This is it. It's a big build up. We're just interested and wondering what you are doing about the report that members of al Qaeda are trying to arrange marriages for their daughters with various Afghans?
Rumsfeld: It's interesting.
Q: Do they see the end coming or are they worried about their future or something?
Rumsfeld: What's your follow-up? (Laughter and cross talk).
Q: You can take it as a joke question but it's actually semi-serious. (More laughter and cross talk)
Q: They know they're losing the war and they're starting to sell their daughters --
Q: Did you see the report and did you ask anybody for more on it?
Rumsfeld: I have seen the report, and I don't know if it's true. But it should be noted that throughout the centuries, people have had arranged marriages in many parts of the world for strategic and tactical reasons. I hope you'll excuse that historical reference.
Q: So you think there may be a military angle to all of this?
Rumsfeld: (Laughs) Yes.
Q: Thank you for finding it. All right, moving right along how about giving us some news? (More laughter and cross talk).
Q: It was a whirlwind tour, but how do you think it all went?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think it went well. This has been valuable from my standpoint and from our country's standpoint, and certainly useful. Several things stand out.
One is the depth of, the impact that September 11th has had, not just in our country but in many countries. The feeling about that and the threat it poses to the world has been taken aboard in not just the United States, but in country after country after country. You can feel it when you talk to the people, even countries that have experienced terrorist acts over long periods of time, recognized there was something distinctive and notable and significant in terms of its impact.
About the New York and Washington attacks: I can remember talking in the first week or so about it, having talked to a number of people on the phone from other countries and sensed the feeling within our country. I can remember observing that it would have significant effects on relationships around the world. I think I said, secondary effects, both positive and negative potentially. That is to say it could shift relationships in dramatic ways because what it did was, it's impact was so great that it caused people to look at things in a different way, to have different priorities, to look at their neighbors or other countries or their relationships in a way that suddenly had an element injected into it that altered what those priorities were. And as I went around on this trip, there's just no question but that you could feel that.
Q: Can you give some concrete examples from any of the stops that could help illustrate that?
Rumsfeld: Well, just start with Moscow. There's no question but that President Putin was the first one to call President Bush, that they are visibly and publicly as well as privately concerned about the problem of terrorism in the world. They recognize the problem of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists, and as a result have been leaning forward on that issue.
It's also interesting when I think back. I came in in January and I went to the Verkunde conference in February, and then I want to Brussels in June. And the bilaterals I had were unusual. One was Uzbekistan and another was India, and here we are today, this weekend, in those two countries.
India's circumstance is a very interesting one and an important one in the relationship between the United States and India I think that we need to be -- we need to strengthen and they feel that way, and certainly military-to-military is only part of it. It's also economic and it's political, diplomatic -- but when you do a fast tour like that and you talk to people from one, two, three, four, five countries like that, and you do it in rapid fire and you ask or think about three or four subjects -- or two or three subjects -- and listen to these people about those three or four subjects, you begin to triangulate and see different vantage points and perspectives on things. And it's about themselves -- their perception of themselves, their perception of their neighbors and their perception of what's happening with terrorism and the war on terrorism. So I found it a good trip and I am delighted I did it.
Q: Mr. Secretary, was this a listening tour or did you receive some concrete support, and if you did, can you give us some specific examples?
Rumsfeld: I always listen. It's a valuable thing to do. And I try to learn from folks. They have different perspectives that are helpful to me and to our country. There's no question but that we in each country had situations that we wanted to discuss and things that we wanted to make sure we understood each other's perspectives on. I don't want to characterize any specific things that we did, that changed or moved forward, but I can just make a comment on each country if you want.
Q: That would be nice.
Rumsfeld: As I said when we left for Moscow, what I wanted to try to do would be to clear out some of the underbrush and make sure we had a very clear understanding in anticipation of President Putin's visit to the United States. Where they were, and where we were, and these are tough, knotty issues and I think that was accomplished. They have positions that are different from ours, as we all know, and the presidents have spoken publicly about this, President Putin as well as President Bush. I think they'll have a good meeting, so I found that helpful.
I also was able to talk with them about Afghanistan and of course, they have some considerable experience in that part of the world. And they also are involved and have relationships with some of the countries that are on the periphery. So that was a useful thing as well.
In Tajikistan, I had not been there before, we do have a -- they're not members of the Partnership for Peace with the NATO relationship, which Uzbekistan is. So we've had less contact and I think it's helpful. They are very positive, very forthcoming, very cooperative and potentially very helpful.
I've been to Uzbekistan before and I've met with their leadership in Brussels. We have lot going on with them and it's important in a period of conflict such as we're in with Afghanistan, one of their neighboring countries, that we stay well connected at the top so that they know and we know how we think things are going. And I add four or five visits there from people who have been deeply involved in Afghanistan and with the various factions in Afghanistan and I came away with more of a feeling for the texture.
Pakistan of course is just exceedingly important in this situation with respect to Afghanistan. There was not a need for us to try to negotiate anything or rearrange things; they have been from the very beginning very forthcoming, publicly and privately. They live in the neighborhood and care deeply about what happens. They are focusing properly not only on eliminating a terrorist threat on their borders, but also on the humanitarian aspects of it because they directly affect Afghanistan because of the refugee problem. And also, they are very interested in the post-Taliban government issue as are all the countries on the periphery of Afghanistan, as well as the ones on the extended periphery, and other countries in Europe and the UN, as well as the United States. So we had the extensive discussions about that as well.
India, as I indicated is a country that I, as you have noted in our Quadrennial Defense Review, we believe will be and is a nation that we want to and most certainly will strengthen our relationships with. We've got an awful lot in common together besides being large and democracies and common language. They are increasingly a high tech -- a critical country in the high tech world -- company after company in the United States is having a larger amount of their work done in India. The companies in the United States are hiring larger numbers of Indians in the United States as well as India and that alone is something that has changed significantly in recent years.
Q: You've been saying, and you said just now, that you've been doing better with bombing because you have more people on the ground now.
Rumsfeld: We do.
Q: Could you go into little detail on that?
Rumsfeld: Sure, yeah. I think I said the other day that I thought we ought to have -- that we were ready to put in three or four times as many people as we have. Over the weekend we didn't get three or four, but we've gone two and a half times above what we had and we're now, instead of two locations we're now in four and maybe more. That will accrue to our advantage over the coming period.
Q: Could you just say where, any of the places where that's been helpful?
Q: Just regionally, (inaudible) or --
Rumsfeld: Well they're mostly in the north.
Q: Would you characterize this trip as a success? How do you characterize it?
Q: He said that already.
Rumsfeld: Where have you been?
Q: I've been right here.
Q: Were there specific concerns though from countries expressed about the military activity?
Rumsfeld: There was a great deal of support, there was a great deal of interest in what's taking place there, and an interest in our characterizing the kinds of things we think we will be doing in the future and our assessment of it. I was happy to do it with these countries that are so directly involved and interested.
Q: For example, was India very concerned about how the U.S. has established this close relationship with Pakistan?
Rumsfeld: Our relationship with each country is distinctive from the other. I mean I read the press as you did when I was India, but certainly that was the focus of my discussions at all. The focus of our discussions was as I indicated. I was really struck by the press questions in India.
Q: What, that they don't like Pakistan?
Rumsfeld: No, they were right down here (makes a flat hand gesture down toward his knees). It wasn't that so much as it was -- I mean I look at the relationship between the United States and India as one that was -- it's had its ups and downs, clearly after the Indians and the Pakistanis demonstrated to the world their nuclear capabilities and the United States imposed sanctions. You were on a down and the reaction to that of course was to suspend military-to-military relations, the education and training, the military training as well as a whole host of other things in terms of export licenses and the like.
But that is behind us and the relationship is clearly on an upward trend. That is a big thing. That is not a little thing. It is an important thing. And we are each -- each of our two countries are important countries, and I think that is a very interesting trajectory. And yet the questions were down at the "who said what yesterday," and about this and it --
Q: Mr. Secretary, can we go back to the question of the bombing campaign? You said you want to go up to three or four times the number you had before you (inaudible) that. Can we assume you want to put in still more?
Rumsfeld: You bet.
Q: Do you have any timing on when they might come in?
Rumsfeld: I won't discuss timing --
Rumsfeld: -- but the answer is yes, I do.
Q: Can you tell us anything about the conditions that they are facing, the U.S. service members there now on the ground. Weather conditions, how they're preparing for this. What role they're playing, who they're with --
Rumsfeld: It's an interesting question.
Q: About their lives there every day. How are their people there?
Rumsfeld: That's a very good question. Afghanistan is Afghanistan. It's a country with very few creature comforts at this stage. It has been at war for many years. It was pounded by the Soviets for a long period of time. They have been fighting with each other. There has been a lot of viciousness that has been taking place. The Taliban regime itself is repressive and brutal. They've had three years of drought.
You then take several handfuls of Americans and place them with elements that are fighting on the ground and you can begin to imagine the kind of circumstance they're in. You flew over that country and you looked out the windows. There are portions of it that are mountainous. There are portions of it where the only means of transportation is horseback. Things are carried on mules and donkeys. There is not a road system that enables people to move quickly from one place to another. Roads have been damaged. And that is the circumstance that these young men are in.
Q: On the way over you said you were hoping to get some special forces in to help that Pashtun leader near Kandahar --
Q: Hamid Karzhi.
Q: Yeah, who's staging a revolt. And then I noticed that helicopter crash that took place trying to save the sick soldier was also in that region. Can we infer from that that we do now have special forces, target designator type people, in that region?
Rumsfeld: I wouldn't.
Q: I mean if they were going in to rescue a sick soldier in that region, wasn't he in that region?
Rumsfeld: That would be an assumption on your part that might be wrong.
Q: Are our people using donkeys and horseback in carrying things and those sorts of --
Rumsfeld: There's parts of that country, that's what you do in parts of that country.
Q: Do you have word that our forces are beginning to really to mesh with the opposition forces? You know that they've been taken in and that the cooperation is increasing.
Rumsfeld: There's no question that the cooperation is increasing. You know, you stick a few handfuls of very trained fine young men, who know their business and have excellent communication with us and are able to provide the kinds of assistance, by way of ammunition, supplies and medical assistance, as well as targeting information -- that it benefits those folks and it doesn't take too many evenings sitting around a fire that you don't begin to develop good relationships and that happens.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you had an interesting phrasing yesterday in Uzbekistan. You said the war was proceeding with measurable progress.
Q: Maybe you've covered it, but is there any implication in there?
Rumsfeld: We set out a series of goals almost on the first day of this operation. And I looked at each one and I recited each one for the Pentagon press corps, and then asked myself the question, how are we doing against those? And the answer is we are clearly making progress against each one of those goals, the five or six goals that we set out.
You know, you have to keep at it. It takes persistence and it's not an easy task. And like most things in life, things tend to go somewhat -- the weather intervenes if you plan to do something one day and the weather is not good and you can't do it. But you expect that. I mean I'm not surprised at all.
Q: Has any one thing stood out that led you to use that phrase yesterday?
Rumsfeld: Well clearly the targeting is improving. I mean there's just no question about it. When you're doing it without contact with forces on the ground, and you compare that with doing it with precision weapons and people on the ground who can give you precise coordinates, you just have an enormous advantage. And the battle damage reports indicate that. There's no question but that the numbers of things -- armored personnel carriers, artillery pieces, troop gatherings, that we're targeting -- the numbers that we're actually hitting, and know we're hitting, are going up every day.
Q: Can you talk to us about creating the conditions for sustained anti-terrorist activities in Afghanistan?
Q: Where are we in that part, and can you now say that sustained anti-terrorist activities will involve significant numbers of ground troops?
Rumsfeld: I don't discuss that.
Q: I'm just asking for a definition of sustained anti-terrorist activity.
Rumsfeld: Oh, I thought you were talking about significant ground troops. I misunderstood you.
Q: Give us a better definition of sustained anti-terrorist activity.
Rumsfeld: Well, what you need to do is begin with your circumstance on September 11th. And then you realize that you have to go do something. It's a big project so the first thing you do is you move forces and position them in places where they will be helpful and advantageous. To do that you have to go to dozens of countries and get cooperation, overflight rights, base rights, cooperation to do A, B, C or D. And you set about that task and you do it.
You have to then begin gathering intelligence and you go to a whole series of countries that have reason to have better intelligence than you might on specific things and you begin sharing intelligence and that quality begins going up. You then have to, if you're going to do anything from the air, you have to then go in and take out the air defenses and you have to take out their aircraft to the extent you can find them. And so you do that.
And all of those things contribute to being able to conduct sustained operations against terrorists in that country.
Q: But what is the next step? What is sustained operations?
Rumsfeld: We're not going to announce things that we have not announced about what we're going to do.
Q: You said you were in four different positions. Is that with four different tribal leaders or four different areas of the country? Are you both in the south as well as the north?
Rumsfeld: As I've said, it's mostly in the north and it is with different elements of the forces that are on the ground opposing Taliban and al Qaeda. I said -- I think I said -- if I didn't, I should have said roughly four. I would not want to --
Q: You said four or more.
Rumsfeld: Yeah, that's better.
Q: So it's not exclusively in the north.
Q: Has the assessment begun on those bases in Tajikistan?
Rumsfeld: They just landed, today or yesterday. I haven't heard.
Staff: They were scheduled to land today.
Rumsfeld: Scheduled to land today I guess.
Q: Let me ask one more question about your answer again. You implied that there are in fact some special forces in the south because you said they're not -- they're mostly in the north.
Rumsfeld: Yeah. We've had people in the south. They've gone in and gone out and at any given moment I would not want to say -- I can't answer the question at any given moment.
Q: Any other losses of people or equipment?
Rumsfeld: Other than what? We haven't lost people.
Q: The helicopter, the Predator -- (inaudible)
Rumsfeld: Yeah, okay. We lost obviously a Predator or two to icing. They were not shot down.
Q: Two Predators?
Rumsfeld: I'm trying to think. One or two. I can't remember. I'd have to check. Do you know?
Staff: I think it's two.
Rumsfeld: And that's going to be increasingly a problem on the icing because these are experimental birds that do not have all of the niceties that one would want, and which you do in a full production case.
We've had a couple of helicopter accidents, three I guess. One got caught in a dust blind and flipped. That was in Pakistan. The second was in an operation that went in to the south and had a hard landing and broke a piece of landing gear off. And then we had the other one that went in to rescue the young fellow who was ill and got into a weather situation that was just like a wall, and so they went down and he had a hard landing. They evacuated all of the people in his helicopter and then destroyed the helicopter.
Q: On the last one, what was the weather?
Q: Was that a search and rescue team from Uzbekistan?
Rumsfeld: We don't say where they come from.
Q: On that last one, do you know what the weather problem was? You said a wall.
Rumsfeld: It was very bad weather. It was a front of some sort that they were headed in and decided they simply could not go through that wall of weather so they had to set down. And they set down where they were, which was a -- I suppose you'd call it an emergency landing. And in the process, there were four people who had back injuries from it, from the severity of the landing. And fortunately they were able to be picked up. There were several people who tried to bring in helicopter search and rescue in from at least two different locations and couldn't get in because of the weather. And apparently what happened was the front moved through and the other helicopter that was there was able to get back and pick up the crew.
Q: Those Pave Low 4s are pretty all weather helicopters there. It was a serious weather situation to be in.
Q: Were they in any danger at that point from Taliban forces nearby?
Rumsfeld: Well, fortunately there was no -- they didn't take any fire. They were not on the ground a long time and how close other forces were, I don't know.
Q: Do you have a sense of how many hours they were on the ground?
Rumsfeld: I do. It was while we were on the C-17.
Q: Which time?
Rumsfeld: Yeah, I can't remember. And I was on the phone with the CINC about it.
Q: Was that the flight to Pakistan?
Staff: On Friday.
Rumsfeld: It's kind of all blurred. I can't remember. But I was on the phone with him several times while they were on the ground and while we were trying to figure out what they were going to do about it.
Q: So it was on this plane while we were going to Moscow?
Rumsfeld: It was on a C-17.
Q: It might have been to Tajikistan or Uzbekistan.
Rumsfeld: Yeah, and then of course you never know what's going to happen because you say we're sending in rescue helicopters but they have to turn back because of weather, and there sending in some more rescuers from another location and they have to turn back because of weather.
At one point there was a report they were going to start walking seven miles, but of course they had four people who were injured. I guess they were -- I don't know whether they were mobile or not. But it turned out they did not have to walk very far and it also turned out that there were no Taliban forces that found them while they were there.
Q: Walking to the border?
Rumsfeld: No, walking to a landing site where the other helicopter could come in and pick them up.
Q: The other helicopter was one that had gone in with them and sort of loitered in the area?
Rumsfeld: Yeah, it did, exactly. It landed elsewhere.
Q: Did the one who got sick get out?
Q: What was wrong with him?
Rumsfeld: I'm not sure.
Q: What about the terrain?
Rumsfeld: I don't know what the terrain was.
Rumsfeld: I don't know.
Q: Well did they walk or not?
Rumsfeld: I was first told they started to and then was later told they either did not then or did not have to.
Q: But the guy they were picking up, how long had he been on the ground?
Rumsfeld: I don't know.
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