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Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Thursday, November 29, 2001
(Interview with Muhammad Ashraf Azim, Pakistani TV)
Q: Mr. Secretary, are the prime objectives of the international coalition against terrorism being met as planned?
Rumsfeld: They are. It is hard to say that without any qualification, however, because it is such a broad problem and such a complex problem and it involves an effort that engages the economic side, the financial side, the political/diplomatic as well as the military, both the overt as well as the covert side of the effort. And second, it is an effort that is going to take a good period of time.
So when I say yes, what I mean is we feel there is a good plan in place that a great many countries across the globe are cooperating wonderfully. They're cooperating and sharing intelligence. They're cooperating in law enforcement efforts. They're cooperating with respect to military assistance and overflight rights and troops in some cases. A lot of countries have stepped forward and frozen the bank accounts of terrorists.
So you always want it to be better and more effective and faster than it is, but on the other hand I feel that we're making good progress thanks to the cooperation of so many countries across the globe.
Q: Mr. Secretary, how do you rate Pakistan's contribution towards achieving the goals of the coalition in the fight against terrorism?
Rumsfeld: It's a very significant contribution. I think that the president and his government have stepped forward and made an important decision. Terrorism is an evil, a problem, a danger to the world and to stability. It's harmful to human beings. We've had thousands killed, many others, hundreds of thousands have been killed across the globe over the years, and with the power of weapons today and the dangers that those weapons pose, the problem of global terrorism becomes even more acute and more dangerous.
So I think that Pakistan and the leadership there has made a significant contribution in their vocal and public position that they've taken as a member of the coalitions.
Q: How [far] is the international coalition on target in their operation against the perpetuators of the September 11th events?
Rumsfeld: The al Qaeda network and the Taliban who harbored the al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, and of course it's not just in Afghanistan, it's in many countries, including in the United States there's an al Qaeda cell, and many other nations, dozens of nations. That effort is going forward. It is the kind of a thing that has to, one has to apply pressure, and as their funds dry out and as their options are reduced, as the number of places they can go, as you know well, the countries that had recognized the Taliban have for the most part withdrawn their recognition. The places that people from Afghanistan who are fleeing, the terrorists who are fleeing can go have been reduced. Many countries are trying to block the borders. Many countries are being careful about who comes into their country from Afghanistan. All of which I think is to the good and it brings us closer to our goal. But until we reach our goal of actually capturing the senior al Qaeda leadership and tearing up these terrorist cells around the world it still remains ahead of us.
Q: Has the U.S. committed its ground forces in Afghanistan as a short-term measure or a long-term strategy?
Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know quite how to answer that except I would begin by saying that of course the United States is acting in self defense. Our interest is in working with other countries to stop terrorists from killing people. Our only interest in Afghanistan is to deal with the al Qaeda and to change the leadership in Afghanistan so that there is a stable, broadly based government. Then that's up to the Afghan people. It is not for us to decide.
So when you say is it short term or long term, our interest from a humanitarian standpoint, obviously, is we're interested in the people of Afghanistan. We don't want to see people starving, which is why before September 11th we were one of the biggest food donors in the world for Afghanistan and certainly we will be afterwards.
But in terms of any long-term interest in having troops there, we don't. We have no interest in keeping troops in Afghanistan at all. They are there simply for the purpose of running down the al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership.
Q: How do you see the role of the proposed U.N. peacekeeping force in Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that there has been proposed a U.N. peacekeeping force. I've heard people speculate that someone might think it was a good idea, but to my knowledge the U.N. has not proposed it, nor have I heard requests for it from Afghanistan.
There is some disorder taking place in some of the cities, the various groups on the ground, the forces that oppose the Taliban have occupied. In some cases it's criminal activity. In some cases it's the remaining Taliban who are still firing, and in little small pockets and enclaves. But thus far, and one can only speak as of today, thus far the change of power in Afghanistan that's taking place has probably been the most peaceful change in power in the history of Afghanistan.
Q: Mr. Secretary, what measures have been taken to forestall the use of chemical, biological and other deadly materials by the terrorists against humanity?
Rumsfeld: We know that terrorist networks have been harbored by the so-called terrorist states, the states that have been put on the terrorist list. And we know that those states have chemical and biological weapons, many of them, and that a number of them have been pursuing nuclear or radiation weapons.
We also have evidence that al Qaeda had an active interest in chemical and biological weapons and possibly in nuclear or radiation weapons.
Because a terrorist can attack at any time at any place using any technique, and it's very difficult to defend against every technique every time in every location on the face of the earth, one of the first things, the measures we're taking to avoid that, is to go after the terrorists and to try to stop them.
So our effort is an effort in self-defense. What we're engaged in is an effort to prevent terrorists -- these terrorists or other terrorists -- from thinking that they can with impunity use weapons of mass destruction because they can't. We're going to stop them.
Q: Do you think the international coalition is in a position to do that work efficiently?
Rumsfeld: Well, the only way to efficiently do it is to stop the terrorists. You cannot erect barriers and defenses against these powerful weapons and think that you can live safely. You can't. As long as there are people out there who are determined to use them, as we saw in New York and in the building you're sitting in right now, and killing thousands of people, as long as they're out there there is the danger.
But I do think that the coalition is serious, I think that it's broadly based, I think that it's made measurable progress, and I am encouraged.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there's a lot of speculation that goes on on Pakistan's nuclear installations. Pakistan has been declaring that its nuclear arrangement has been well established and well protected. But why is so much speculation going on in the West, especially the U.S.?
Rumsfeld: I have no idea. I think any time a country has nuclear weapons it's incumbent on the leadership in that country to be certain that those nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction are managed and handled in a way that's responsible and respectful of the enormous lethality of those weapons.
When a country for the first time has weapons of mass destruction it's not surprising that the world looks and watches for a period and measures how carefully and how cautiously and how respectfully of those weapons that country is being.
So when this happened in both India and in Pakistan and it's happened in other countries over the years, I think it's not surprising the rest of the world is attentive to that. Beyond that I have no reason to believe anything other than what President Musharraf has told me, and that is that he and his government recognize the important responsibility that comes with weapons of mass destruction and that they are taking all the appropriate steps to assure that they're managed and held in a manner that is safe and responsible, and I respect that, and I respect him for that.
Q: There used to be close defense collaboration between Pakistan and the U.S.
Rumsfeld: I remember it.
Q: You remember that.
Rumsfeld: Yes, indeed.
Q: Why do you think that can be evolved, and again revived, you know, in the present situation when the sanctions have been lifted.
Rumsfeld: I think it can be revived and I think it's important that it be revived and that we have the kinds of military-to-military contact and the exchanges for education. Both of our countries have benefited over the years by that relationship.
The United States has with respect to a number of countries, as you know well, found that one of the things it's done when a country has a period when they're doing something that causes concern in the United States or the United States Congress, one of the first things that seems to happen is they say well, we'll have to change our military-to-military relationship or alter it in some way.
Personally I'm not in favor of that. I think that it's important to maintain those linkages and to the extent we can we ought to not immediately discontinue those kinds of relationships because I think they do benefit both of our countries.
Q: Do you think that your voice is being heard in Congress?
Rumsfeld: I do. I know that Secretary Colin Powell feels as I do, and the president feels as I do, and that all three of us, and the vice president does, Mr. Cheney, and all four of us have from time to time talked to members of the House and Senate. I've done it within the last several days, talked to members of the House and Senate on this subject.
I understand the sensitivities they have, but I think one has to say something's not this or that, or black or white, or hot or cold. There are gradations. And that we need to be more nuanced and more sensitive to ways that we can improve a situation rather than thinking that there's some value to us or the world that accrues by severing a relationship because we don't believe that it's 100 percent exactly the way it ought to be.
I feel that the interaction improves the situation rather than being something that ought to be severed if it's not perfect.
Q: Mr. Secretary, India is actually in a buying spree mood and is really amassing lots of weapons of destruction, and conventional weaponry is also being sought after from different sources including Soviet Union.
Don't you think it's very necessary that in order to stabilize South Asia these kind of processes should be halted?
Rumsfeld: Well, I guess it's not for me to opine as to what a country ought to do. Each country has to look at its circumstance and its geography and its neighbors and its people and come to conclusions as to -- that's part of what a sovereign country does. It's what the United States does, it's what Pakistan does, it's what every country on the face of the earth does.
I think that in a perfect world we wouldn't need weapons. We don't live in a perfect world and as a result each country looks at its circumstance and makes a set of judgments. One of the things you have to balance against it is cost. And that consideration unquestionably tends to moderate appetites for weapons because people -- we don't want weapons we don't need. The United States certainly doesn't. I suspect most countries don't feel they want weapons that they don't need. Therefore, their calibration about what they need is based, I suppose, partly on what the capabilities of their neighbors may be, and also how they assess the intent of people who they believe could threaten them.
I've talked to an awful lot of countries in my long life about this subject and it is in the last analysis, it is a country, a people, a leadership that makes those judgments for themselves.
Q: Don't you think that it's necessary that South Asia should give regional stability in order to move towards attack on terrorism?
Rumsfeld: Well we need stability across the globe to effectively deal with all of our problems, our economic problems as well as our threats from terrorism. And I think it's important that the parties in the region work towards a more stable situation and a more peaceful circumstance and better understanding between the countries. And I've been encouraged from time to time when meetings have been held and talks have been held, and I think that in the last analysis other countries can be helpful, but only if the principal nations want their help. And then in the last analysis people on the ground have to sort through those things and they have to do it in the way that's in the best interest of their people. Peace is critical to the economic well being of the people of both of those countries.
Q: Mr. Secretary, India and Pakistan are locked in a dispute on Kashmir ever since the inception. The resolution of this dispute can enable these countries to give a united response to the incidents of terror. What is your comment on this?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that I have a comment any other than the President has been on that subject. It seems to me that Secretary Powell and the President have been quite clear that they're interested in peaceful resolutions of disputes and differences there as elsewhere in the world, and they are certainly far more knowledgeable than I on that subject.
Q: Increasing violence and lawlessness is leading towards grave human tragedy in Afghanistan. Are there any ways avoid disaster and safeguard the lives of people?
Rumsfeld: I'm not sure you're right that I would say that the lawlessness is increasing and the violence is increasing. I think that if you look at the Afghan people and the relief they feel to have Taliban gone from a significant portion of that country and out of power, that was a particularly violent regime, a repressive regime. People were killed. A great many people were killed by the Taliban. The al Qaeda is a particularly fierce group of fighters and many of the people who came from other nations were quite fierce and brutal.
You're right in the sense that when there's a conflict people die and there's no question but that that's the case, and it's always sad and unfortunate.
We're currently seeing some Taliban and al Qaeda and foreign fighters refusing to surrender. That is to say deciding for themselves that rather than surrender, they would prefer to fight it out. When that happens, then ultimately they're going to fight it out and they're going to die, but it is their choice. It is not a choice that anyone else is making for them because the Taliban people have been told that if they surrender and turn in their weapons for the most part, except for the leadership, they're blending back into their community or they're joining the opposition forces. Not so with the foreign fighters. It would be unfair to the neighboring countries and other countries in the world to allow people who are self-confessed terrorists and killers, mass murderers, to then keep their weapons and go off into another country and kill more people, including people in the United States.
So I think that while there's always a deep concern when you see the loss of life, and there was an unfortunate loss of life yesterday with a food drop that went astray, and your heart breaks when that happens. On the other hand the food drops are important because they're saving the lives of people who were starving. So you're in a dilemma.
Q: Yeah, this fight against terrorism in Afghanistan is the first phase. What will the second phase be like when the development efforts are to be needed and coordinated in Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: Well I think there's a great many countries that are ready and willing and eager to assist the people of Afghanistan. They've had a terrible circumstance. They've had three years of drought, they've had the Taliban rule, they've had conflicts -- the Soviet Union pounded that country for a long period. They fought among themselves for a long period. And I think, fortunately, there's a lot of countries and a lot of wonderful people in those countries who are ready and willing and able to supply food and medicine. I know that Jordan is interested in providing some medical assistance and any number of other countries are lined up to begin bringing in food for the winter.
Q: Turning back to the peacekeeping effort in Afghanistan, do you think there are other ideas being considered other than the UN peacekeeping force?
Rumsfeld: Well, I've heard all kinds of suggestions. I've heard suggestions that the forces that are on the ground would prefer to provide security for the cities and the neighborhood. I've heard the suggestion that the U.N. work up a force of some kind. But my impression is the U.N. is not terribly eager to do that.
I've also heard the phrase "a coalition of the willing" where a collection of countries come together and put some forces on the ground in various places for reasonably short periods of time to allow things to settle down, and to allow people to be disarmed.
With respect to the small number of locations where we are, we're providing force protection for our own forces.
I think they're all good ideas and I don't have an opinion on what's best to do. I do think the important thing is that we reduce the violence in the country as soon as we can get the al Qaeda, the foreign invaders, out of there, and the leadership of the Taliban out of there.
Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for being with us today.
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