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Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Wednesday, November 14, 2001 - 8:15 a.m. EDT
(Joint media availability with New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani)
Giuliani: Mr. Secretary, thank you very very much for coming. I know I express the view of all of us in New York City in thanking you for your remarkable leadership during this very very difficult period. I think everyone in New York is enormously impressed with the leadership you're providing, the ways that you're communicating with us and explaining to us what's happening, and of course we're all praying for our men and women in the military who are supporting us and defending us. You have our support and you have our prayers.
Thank you for coming.
Rumsfeld: Thank you, sir.
Well, Mr. Mayor, and all of those who have been helping you and supporting you in the leadership you have provided to this city and indeed the country, we thank you. I guess the site there says it all. The Pentagon is no longer smoking, and yet here we are, so many weeks later, and the World Trade Center is still burning, still smoking.
I guess the one word that comes to mind is -- is really "duty." You've done yours, the people of New York have done theirs, and the men and women in uniform are still doing theirs. The task they have is a very complicated one. It's different than any that's ever been undertaken. There is no road map, and so much of it can't be seen as to what's taking place. But the president is determined to root out the terrorists wherever they are, to find them, to bring them to justice or bring justice to them. And his determination and his will and his steadiness of purpose are clear, I think, not just to the people of this country but clear to the people of the world.
And we've benefited from the wonderful cooperation from so many other countries, just as you've benefited here from people from all across the United States helping out, and we did at the Pentagon, as well. They came from far and wide.
We have a task before us that is -- it's going well. We're making progress. But it's far from finished. And as the president said, we're going to stick at it till it's done.
Giuliani: Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.
Rumsfeld: We'd be happy to respond to some questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, if I may.
Q: Has there been any success overnight in hunting down any of the leaders of the Taliban and al Qaeda? And have these other tribes taken the airfield in Kandahar, or what type of progress? Are the al Qaeda and Taliban retreating into the hills?
Rumsfeld: There are Taliban doing all of those things, as well as still fighting, and as are the al Qaeda. There's still fighting taking place up in Kunduz in the north. I suspect it's mostly al Qaeda, as opposed to Taliban. There's fighting taking place in the south.
The people of the major cities have been so welcoming to the forces that have been liberating them and so grateful that the Taliban are fleeing and the al Qaeda are fleeing, that the sights of music and welcome are certainly gratifying. It says something about how repressive and how vicious the Taliban rule and the al Qaeda rule have been.
Q: Was there any success in hunting down any of the leaders overnight?
Rumsfeld: It is a process that goes on. Some have been killed. Others are hiding. And there are no particular reports of senior leadership having been located.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you've mentioned this site many times, including once when you were defending the speed of the military campaign, saying that these ruins were still smoking.
Rumsfeld: They still are today.
Q: I'm wondering what your feelings are today, now that this is at a lightning pace, it seems, in Afghanistan, and if you feel like telling us, "I told you so?"
Rumsfeld: No, I don't. We still have a ways to go, and I can understand when things are happening that aren't visible and aren't something that we can remark on, I can understand the impatience. But the pressure has been on from the beginning. The pressure is still on today, and the pressure is going to have to stay on, not just in Afghanistan but elsewhere, because the terrorist networks are spread across the globe. And it is, needless to say, gratifying to see the Taliban fleeing and the people of Afghanistan getting their country back.
On the other hand, our task is to find the al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership, and we still have that ahead of us. So we have to be purposeful about that and recognize that that's going to continue to be a difficult task. It is -- finding handfuls of people is indeed like finding needles in a haystack, and it's a complicated process. But because of all the pressure that has been put on across the globe -- the drying up of bank accounts, the numbers of arrests that have been made, the interrogations that have been held, the intelligence that has been gathered -- I think that we have -- every day we have a better chance of achieving our goals.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could you talk about how quickly New York will be getting the $20 billion in federal aid? And as you stand here now, how important do you think it is to get it and get it soon?
Rumsfeld: Well, I'm not in the Congress, but there's no question but that the Congress has been interested, responsive, and I think the mayor would be a better one to ask -- answer that question. I know the president has been determined.
Giuliani: We have not had -- we haven't had any difficulty in getting the aid that we need. The White House has been very helpful. Congress has been very helpful. So I don't anticipate that there's going to be any major difficulty in getting the reimbursement that we need to pay for this project.
Giuliani: I don't know what the correct amount is. It isn't a matter of 20 billion [dollars] or 15 [billion dollars] or 25 billion [dollars]. It's the amount of money that it costs to actually do the cleanup. That's the amount that we need. So I have no reason to believe that we're not going to get that as we need it -- now, before the end of the year, and then we're going to need it well into next year. So it's -- I don't quite understand why someone would limit it to the end of this year. The city is going to need that help over the course of the next 12 to 18 months.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there's fighting going on in Kandahar right now, and is that a focus of your military activity --
Rumsfeld: Kandahar, of course, is the stronghold of the Taliban. Indeed, it's been something that almost approximates their capital, as opposed to Kabul. And there is fighting taking place in and around Kandahar. It is -- I hope and expect that there will be a lot of activity by the tribes in the South who have not been supportive of the Taliban, and that they'll be encouraged to assert themselves and to take over.
Q: Is the airport there in the hands of -- still in the hands of the Taliban, or is that -- (off mike)?
Rumsfeld: I have not checked in the last two hours.
Q: Mr. Secretary, have you heard anything from your Special Operations forces that are in the South? Are they have having any luck with the Pashtun tribes?
And could you tell us the significance of the fact that it seems to be al Qaeda fighters now, instead of Taliban? Is the Taliban in its last gasp?
Rumsfeld: The forces in the South have had a role in doing a series of assessments and interdicting some activity in that part of the country.
The Taliban are Afghans. The al Qaeda have -- are for the most part Arabs. And the al Qaeda has pretty much taken over control, as far as I can tell, in some portions of the country. They have been particularly active fighters, and they have been organizers of the Taliban.
The Taliban is melting into the -- some pieces of it are melting into the countryside, part of it because they may have decided to toss in the towel. In other cases, they may simply be waiting to counterattack at some later time. And I think one ought not to assume that anything is necessarily permanent at this point. Until that country stabilizes, things could go -- could move back and forth, and we have to be aware of that.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could you explain what you mean by interdiction by the Special Operation forces? And have you been able to insert more Special Operation teams into the South?
Rumsfeld: We have been inserting some teams in the South, and when I mean interdicting, I mean interdicting. I mean they have been interdicting the main roads that connect the North from the South, to see what's going on, and to stop people that they think ought to be stopped.
Q: Are they actually involved in fighting --
Rumsfeld: I haven't checked in the last two hours.
Staff: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Q: The Taliban are retreating [inaudible] borders. How do you know that the al Qaeda aren't leaving into other countries, including bin Laden?
Rumsfeld: The border is porous. There are some portions of it where the countries are more -- are able to be more vigilant than others, but there's no question but that particularly in the Pakistani border and the Iranian border, people can move in and out, and have for centuries.
Q: How do you know that rather than killing them, that you're not just drawing them out of Afghanistan into the neighboring countries?
Rumsfeld: Life isn't perfect.
Staff: Thank you.
Giuliani: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
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