|DoD News Briefing: Thursday, October 18, 2001 |
DoD News Briefing: Thursday, October 18, 2001
DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Thursday, October 18, 2001 - 2:00 p.m. EDT. Also participating General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Slides and videos shown in this briefing are on the Web. Source: News Transcript from the United States Department of Defense.
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon.
The military campaign continued yesterday. Chairman Myers will provide some details on battle damage. We continue to make progress in striking al Qaeda and Taliban targets across Afghanistan in the north and in the south, and in creating conditions that we believe will be necessary for sustained anti-terror operations in the country.
We are grateful to many nations for contributing to this effort. I'll be meeting with the Italian minister of defense this afternoon to thank him for his country's support and to discuss the way ahead. The support of allies like Italy and other friendly countries around the world, certainly including the NATO nations and the AWACS that's now flying over the United States is critical to the success of what will be a long and sustained campaign to liquidate terrorist networks that threaten all of our people.
From time to time, I see references in the press to "the coalition" -- singular. And let me reiterate that there is no single coalition in this effort. This campaign involves a number of flexible coalitions that will change and evolve as we proceed through the coming period. Let me reemphasize that the mission determines the coalition, and the coalition must not determine the mission. As President Bush has said, the mission is to take the battle to the terrorists, to their networks, and to those states and organizations that harbor and assist terrorist networks.
A month from now, I expect someone somewhere might report that a particular nation is not doing something or has stopped doing something, and the speculation could be "Is the coalition coming apart or unraveling?"
Well, let me make clear: No single coalition has "raveled," therefore, it's unlikely to unravel. It is, as I say, a series of efforts that will involve different nations at different times doing different things -- some will be open, some will be less open. As far as we're concerned, that's fine. We want their help, and we're much more interested in their assistance than we are in exactly how they do it. Some nations, as you know, are contributing to the military effort. Others are helping in the financial or economic, diplomatic fronts. Some are assisting by filling roles that we otherwise would have to fill.
Tomorrow I'll have a chance in Missouri to visit with some of the men and women in uniform and to thank them at Whiteman Air Force Base and the home of the 509th bomber wing that's flying B-2 missions over Afghanistan almost on a daily basis. Each time we report on the progress of the war, we are talking about the accomplishments of young men and women, brave Americans who each day risk their lives so that the rest of us can live in freedom. The American people are certainly proud of the pilots, the crews, the teams on the ground that support these aircraft and these missions, as well as all the men and women who are involved here at home and overseas. We're grateful for their courage, their sacrifice, and I look forward to having a chance to thank some of them tomorrow afternoon.
Gen. Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
As the secretary said, we're well into the second week of the military portion of our campaign against terrorism, and our operations continue today. We've made progress in destroying or degrading the Taliban infrastructure and setting the conditions for future operations, as well as furthering humanitarian relief efforts.
Yesterday, U.S. forces struck in more than a dozen target areas that included terrorist camps and forces; Taliban military facilities, including missile, vehicle and armor maintenance and storage sites; airfields; troop deployment and garrison areas; and command and control facilities.
We used tactical aircraft, primarily carrier based, although we did use a small number of F-15Es that operated from facilities in the region. And we employed a few long-range bombers. We also used the AC-130 gunship again yesterday. The carrier, USS Theodore Roosevelt, recently arrived on station in the region, and her aircraft participated in yesterday's strikes.
We completed four more C-17 humanitarian airdrop missions yesterday, delivering approximately 53,000 rations, and bringing the total number of rations to over 450,000. And we dropped leaflets in two separate locations in northeastern Afghanistan, and we continued our Commando Solo radio broadcast missions in conjunction with yesterday's operations.
We have three video clips to show today. In the first clip, we see a headquarters building at the Kabul deployment area in central Afghanistan. This facility consists of buildings, training and firing ranges, vehicle maintenance and storage for central Taliban corps. As you can see, the weapon hits the center of the headquarters building.
The second clip shows an armored vehicle in the open and the Kandahar barracks in southern Afghanistan, one of the training facilities and garrisons for the Taliban forces.
And the final clip shows a Taliban security post in southern Afghanistan. This is an example of a target within an engagement zone, as we discussed yesterday, and the target, a tank, is in a defensive position and is struck with a single weapon.
Finally, I'd like to talk directly to the troops that, as the secretary said, are supporting this effort so well, and to the American people.
I firmly believe that this is the most important tasking the U.S. military has been handed since the second World War. And what's at stake here is no less than our freedom to exist as an American people. So there's no option but success. We owe it to our families, and to the families of peace-loving nations to prevail in this fight.
So, to every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman and DOD civilian, and our allies and friends, I say let's stay ready, let's stay focused. Our victory will be the nation's victory; in a sense, it will be the world's victory, or for sure, those who love freedom.
We're ready to take your questions. Tony?
Q: Mr. Secretary, are unmanned but armed Predators now flying over Afghanistan? And if so, is this a kind of a watershed toward a future possible larger unmanned aerial weapon?
Rumsfeld: At the moment, we've decided not to discuss exactly everything we're doing with respect to Afghanistan. There is no question but that over recent years, a number of countries have interested themselves in unmanned aerial vehicles and that they have taken on a variety of roles. We're all aware that there was a flight from the United States to Australia by the unmanned Global Hawk that completed that flight successfully. They, for the most part, are engaged in intelligence gathering, as we all know. And it seems to me that you might be right that as we go forward, we may find that there are a variety of unmanned vehicles of different types in different mediums that will be used by militaries for a variety of purposes that previously had been solely conducted by human beings.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you've said several times since this began that Special Operations forces are likely to play a role in this conflict. Could you discuss a little bit what it is about the Special Operations that brings something unique to this conflict at this juncture?
Rumsfeld: Well, yes. If you think of what one's options are, they're relatively limited. The al Qaeda and the Taliban and terrorist networks anywhere in the world are without armies and navies and air forces; therefore, one cannot deal directly with those capabilities. Terrorist networks for the most part even lack countries, although countries do harbor and facilitate and assist them. Therefore, when -- one has to ask the question, "How do you deal with that?"
We know we can't deal with it through defense. The only defense against terrorism is offense. You have to simply take the battle to them because everything -- every advantage accrues to the attacker in the case of a terrorist. The choice of when to do it, the choice of what instruments to use and the choice of where to do it, all of those things are advantages of the attacker.
That means that we simply must go and find them.
How do you do that? You don't do it with conventional capabilities, you do it with unconventional capabilities. And therefore, the United States and other countries in the coalition simply have to fashion ways to use the kinds of technologies that we have and the kinds of capabilities that we've developed over years to accomplish the task. And that means it's going to be a variety of different things, as I say, some that are open and some that are less open.
Q: So you don't find them from the air. In other words, the activities that we've seen so far have been strictly from the air.
Rumsfeld: There are things you can find from the air. You can find clusters of forces. You can find, as General Myers just pointed out, certain types of weaponry, tanks or what have you. You can find buildings that are used as headquarters or are storage areas for artillery and the like.
But you cannot really do sufficient damage in that regard, particularly in a country that has been at war for ages and ages, and has been pummeled. So what you have to do is you have to find ways to take all of these capabilities -- financial, economic, political, diplomatic, military, overt and covert -- and create enough pressure that they have to move, that they can't -- that they're in a situation that's uncomfortable, that's undesirable; it's either dangerous, or the people there don't want them there, or the people that were there with them are no longer with them. And it will be a series of small incremental things that will alter the circumstance for those folks, and they'll end up having to do things differently than they've been doing it, and they'll have to stay on the run. And ultimately we'll find them.
Gen. Myers: Could I just --
Q: Mr. Secretary, could I just follow up on that, please?
Gen. Myers: Let me just emphasize a point here the secretary has made. We have said earlier that we're going to use the full spectrum of our military capability, and the trick is trying to match capabilities to the effects that we want to have on the war on terrorism. And that's something that General Franks considers, you know, every day, all day long, trying to find the right capability. And that's what it's all about.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Gen. Myers: And so it can be very conventional, like you're seeing now a more conventional sort of thing; it can be unconventional, as the secretary said. It's going to be this wide spectrum. And on any given day, it could be one or the other or both.
Q: Mr. Secretary, we were told yesterday by a deputy director of operations for the Joint Staff that the aerial -- the air tasking order is still being sent back to Central Command in Florida, that the range of targets is being set there before it's being sent out to the air controllers.
And yet you have told us that you were trying to streamline the operation. And it does seem to many of us that maybe it's cumbersome, and maybe the business of the command structure is not working. Are you going to move Central Command or some authority closer to fray to have decisions made faster and closer to the scene?
Rumsfeld: General Myers and I have talked about that with General Franks. General Franks is comfortable where he is at the present time. He is planning at some point to possibly visit some aspects or elements of the forces in the region and some of the important people who are cooperating with us there. But at the present time, there's no chance -- there's no plan to permanently move his headquarters from Florida to the region.
Gen. Myers: The only thing I would say to that is I think certainly as far as we're concerned, we've got the technology that they are linked very well with the in-theater forces and the command- and-control elements that are in theater. And I know of no instance where that has slowed anything down.
Rumsfeld: I agree, and I think the characterization that some have suggested, that you're reflecting, that it's cumbersome, I think has not proven to be the case.
Gen. Myers: And I would just only add that we do have one military commander that has the responsibility, and that's General Franks down at CENTCOM, and everybody understands that.
Q: Mr. Secretary, in 1993, U.S. Army Rangers were attacked by forces in Somalia. Now, eight years after the fact, is there evidence that that was -- that there was a connection between that event and Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network? Are there still al Qaeda forces in Somalia, and would Somalia be a possible future area where you might be forced to take action?
Rumsfeld: Well, Dick, calibrate me if I'm wrong. But I think that there is considerable speculation that al Qaeda might have been involved. There is no question -- but I can't prove that. I'd have to go back and check and see. But I've read the same speculation.
There is no question but that al Qaeda is still involved in Somalia. And we don't discuss future operations.
Q: Mr. Secretary, as you break down the Taliban's military capability, and other parts of the U.S. government are looking for a way to create something, and you keep referring to the "post-Taliban era", is the Pentagon prepared to continue to go about its business even if there is not any kind of organized power-sharing organization in Afghanistan? You're going to continue to pursue al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, regardless whether or not there is chaos on the ground in Afghanistan? Can you help us with your vision of --
Rumsfeld: Well, of course, that is kind of a hypothetical question assuming the worst. First of all, I don't know how you would characterize how Afghanistan has been doing in the last five years.
So you have to realize what the base is. It was a nation that was pummeled by the Soviet Union. It's a nation that's been in civil war. It's a nation where people are starving. It's a nation where much of major cities are rubble. It's a nation where there has been substantial out-migration within the country and outside the country. So, to suggest that it was a happy situation, of course, would not be correct, as you know well.
The situation on the ground is what it is. Our task is to go in and get the terrorist networks and end that threat from Afghanistan. That's the Department of Defense. The interest of the United States, of course, is much broader. We're a nation that cares about human beings. It's not an accident that we were the largest food provider in that country prior to September 11th, and there's no question but that the United States would have an interest in helping a post- Taliban Afghanistan because we do care about the Afghan people.
How that might shake out, how it might evolve, whether or not the U.N. or some other multinational organization might have a role, I have no idea. And those are things that would have to be thought through, and thoughtful, caring people will be involved in that.
Q: Would it be safe to say that your mission, as you define it, is going to continue to focus and continue to operate regardless of what the post-Taliban world looks like? You're going after your targets whether there is a coalition government, power sharing, or chaos. You're focused like a laser on what you need to do.
Rumsfeld: I don't know that I understand the question, but there's no question but the president has asked us, the government of the United States and our friends and allies around the world to go after terrorist networks, and we intend to do that. There's also no question but the situation in Afghanistan has been a terribly difficult one for years and years and years. And there's also no question but that the United States and other nations would want to try to make that better and do what we could to assist them at that point where Taliban and al Qaeda have been dealt with. And I don't know how I can answer it better than that.
Q: General, yesterday the admiral said that Northern Alliance troops were very close to taking over the airfield there in Mazer-e- Sharif. Can you give us an update on that? And can you tell us if U.S. forces have directly attacked Northern Alliance -- or areas where they're facing Taliban troops?
Rumsfeld: I thought you said "General," didn't you?
Q: I said "General."
Rumsfeld: Oh, good! Oh!
I'm the secretary, you're the general. Right. (Laughter.)
Gen. Myers: Finally got that straight. I've been confused! (More laughter.)
I think we've indicated in previous briefings -- and some of the targets that I read out talked about the Taliban forces that we're going after, and some of those are arrayed against the Northern Alliance. So the answer to the second part of your question is yes.
Q: Okay, if I could follow up. Why is it taking so long, do you think, for the Northern Alliance to maybe have success there in Mazar-e Sharif? And are the U.S. forces helping at all?
Gen. Myers: Why is it taking so long? I mean, they've been at it for years. It seems like they've made a little bit more success -- at least we hear they have. But information is imperfect, and that's one of the issues that we have with this whole effort; the intelligence is imperfect. It is in most conflicts; it is particularly in this conflict. So we get scraps and we get bits, and we think they're making progress. And beyond that, I'd rather not comment.
Rumsfeld: I don't know that I would say 10 or 11 days is long.
Q: General, there were some reports coming from Iran saying that ground troops were -- have been moved to Afghanistan, into Afghanistan. Can you tell us if you have some information about it?
And also, how important do you think has been in this war the artificial intelligence and how it's going to help to modernize and transform the U.S. military in the future?
Gen. Myers: Well, in terms of troops, I'll just go back to what I've continued to say. We are prepared to use the full spectrum of our military capabilities. Obviously, that's not just bombers, that's just not carrier-based aircraft, that's other assets as well. We talked earlier about special forces. So that's one piece.
The other piece is that in terms of the ongoing operation, I'm not going to comment specifically on what we're doing because if it has the potential to bring harm to our forces that are engaged, I'm just not going to do that.
On the second part, I think, obviously, artificial intelligence, it will be important as we transform. I mean, I think that's pretty obvious. I don't think we want to go into much more on that.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I wonder if you can give us an update on the Pentagon's anthrax vaccine program? The sole manufacture in Michigan hasn't produced vaccine for quite some time, and it could be months before they can start producing again. You have a minimal amount of vaccine, and you're only doing a certain number of troops, small numbers of troops.
And finally, last week there was a petition sent to FDA by military officers, and others, calling for them to pull the license and destroy the stockpiles of the vaccine.
Can this program be saved, do you think, or are you going to look at alternatives to the vaccine?
Rumsfeld: We're going to try and save it. There have been other efforts that have failed over a period of years. And it may or may not be savable, but I met this morning with Pete Aldridge and David Chu, and we discussed this at some length. And they or their representatives are going to be meeting with people from HHS and Secretary Thompson's office and try to fashion some sort of an arrangement whereby we give one more crack at getting the job done with that outfit. It's the only outfit that -- in this country that has anything underway, and it's not very well underway, as you point out. We're trying to fashion a way that the -- it's a combination of things, but they have not been approved by the FDA, as I understand it. They do not have what looks to be -- well, I shouldn't be characterizing a private entity that way, but things have not been going swimmingly for them. And what we're trying to do is figure out a way where we might get some help so that they might improve their performance.
Q: Can you give us a sense of what the options are here to speed up the approval process? What do we -- what's the sense?
Rumsfeld: Until they come back after meeting with the folks at HHS and meeting with the folks at the company and thinking through some ways that the company might have a better prospect of success, I'd be disinclined to --
Q: Okay, what about alternatives? Are you looking at buying more antibiotics or --
Rumsfeld: I think you'd have to talk to Dr. Chu.
Q: General Myers.
Q: Mr. Secretary, on the subject of anthrax --
Q: Mr. Secretary, could I ask about the level of damage done so far to al Qaeda itself in these military strikes? We hear a lot about the Taliban, but what about what the military strikes have accomplished where al Qaeda's concerned? And there are also some reports today of a senior lieutenant to bin Laden who may have been been killed in the strikes. Is that accurate?
Rumsfeld: Well, is it accurate that a senior lieutenant of al Qaeda might have been killed? Yes. It might have happened.
(Laughter.) Do I know it of certain knowledge? No, I've not been on the ground. But it would be a good thing for the world.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Q: And the level of damage to al Qaeda more broadly?
Rumsfeld: It's tough to say. Do you want to?
Gen. Myers: No, I -- the only thing I would say is that the emphasis at first here, as we've talked about, is to set the conditions for exactly, Tammy, what you're asking about, and that is to take out the terrorist network. Where we see emerging targets that we think are al Qaeda, we go after them. And of course, we have done some of that with their training camps and so forth. We have undoubtedly -- there have been some al Qaeda personnel no doubt caught up in some of those raids.
In terms of the major personalities, 10, 15, 20? As the secretary says, we don't know for sure. But what we're doing today is trying to set the conditions for our efforts against al Qaeda. So it'll come.
Q: General? Does the Pentagon have a clear idea of the size of the Taliban's arsenal of Stinger and other shoulder-firing missiles?
And up to this point, do you know if any of those missiles have been fired during the current operation?
Gen. Myers: I would say that we don't have a perfectly clear idea of how many they have. We have a pretty good estimate, and we've said in the past that it's been in the low hundreds, 2(00) to 300. Whether or not they've been fired or not, I do not know.
Q: How successful, sir, have you been at targeting the 55th Brigade, which is the part of al Qaeda devoted to strictly to Taliban support?
Gen. Myers: Again, specific bomb damage assessment for units on the ground is yet to be determined for those kind of units. So I'd just -- I hesitate to say how successful we've been.
Rumsfeld: I will say this. We do see snippets of information, intelligence information, that suggests that the level of effect has improved in recent days, and that we're seeing some people as -- part of Taliban starting to decide that they'd prefer not to be part of Taliban. And we have seen some movement of what we believe to be the al Qaeda forces, and they have been specifically targeted while they were moving.
Q: Sir, you call this the most significant war since World War II. Can you expand on why you reached that conclusion and why you chose now to convey that message to the troops?
Gen. Myers: Well, I've conveyed it before to the troops, and I've said things like that before. But I thought this forum, since this gets pretty good distribution -- that I would say it again, because I think it's important for our troops to understand, if they're in uniform today, it's different than being in uniform any other time, I think, except for that World War II period, because this is clearly -- as September 11th has showed, it's a direct threat on the United States and, for that matter, all peoples who love freedom and live in freedom.
They passed the weapons of mass destruction barrier on September 11th for sure, at least in my mind. So -- and it's global in scale, and it's going to be a tough fight.
So I think, at least in my 36 years of wearing this uniform, this is the most significant task I've ever been asked to undertake, and I think for our country it is as well.
Q: Sir, as I understand it, the limitations of these briefings are that you discuss not today's operations nor tomorrow's, but previous -- yesterday and previous. Am I correct about that?
Rumsfeld: Uh-oh, I have a feeling something's going to happen next. (Laughter.)
Gen. Myers: I think the hook -- well, I think we just got the -- the hook is being set. (Laughter continues.)
Rumsfeld: I don't know. I mean --
Q: You give me too much credit, sir. (Laughter.) My question is, has there been yesterday or previously U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan in this operation?
Rumsfeld: We have decided that until we have an activity that is significant and noticeable, that it's probably not useful to get into those kinds of questions, because they can change from time to time.
Q: What about forward air controllers?
Rumsfeld: The answer can change from time to time.
Q: Forward air controllers, Mr. Secretary, on the ground.
Rumsfeld: I'll stick with my answer. I liked it.
Q: Mr. Secretary, on the subject of --
Q: Mr. Secretary, I wanted to ask you to go back a minute. You had said something about that you had seen the movement of al Qaeda troops. Can you expand on that --
Rumsfeld: We believe.
Q: Well, you're --
Rumsfeld: It's hard from the air, but we believe.
Q: Well, what do you -- all right. What have you seen, or what do you think possibly may be going on? Where are they moving? And I guess the ultimate question, then, is, if you do believe that's happening, if you do believe there are Taliban defections, what would you advise Taliban or al Qaeda forces who don't want to be killed and who don't want to defect to the Northern Alliance, what should they do?
Rumsfeld: Well, we're giving them some suggestions in leaflets, and radio, and other ways, that it would be highly desirable for them to not be involved with al Qaeda and not be involved with the foreign invaders and not be involved with terrorists and not be involved with the Taliban leadership that has made the country so hospitable for those folks. And what happens is, you get bits of information as to where people might be -- al Qaeda forces -- and you then try to find them. And to the extent you, in that process, see people moving, that then you attempt to attend to that.
Q: But are you offering them any option for surrendering to custody of any forces, or do they just stop their activities, or what is it --
Rumsfeld: These folks are pros. They're clever. They've been around a long time. They're survivors. They've changed sides three or four times probably before and may again. They don't need me to give them a road map.
Q: Mr. Secretary, is there any evidence that the anthrax that's come in letters to the United States is from Iraq? Do you have any evidence -- and in retrospect, might it have been a mistake in 1998, during Operation Desert Fox, not to have targeted facilities that would produce anthrax?
Rumsfeld: That's pretty much an issue for intelligence and for law enforcement, and I'm going to leave it to those folks.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you've expressed, and others in this building have expressed some frustration that these daily briefings tend to put the focus on what you can talk about -- the bombing raids and what not, and you've repeatedly stressed that covert operations are going to be significant. I wonder if you can give us some perspective as to what fraction of the ongoing military operations are te sort of things that you can talk about, what fraction are things that you simply cannot.
Rumsfeld: Boy that's a tough question. I think the way to think of it is, everyone here in the Pentagon press corps is knowledgeable about the capabilities of the aircraft and weapons that are currently being used, and you know they're powerful and they know they can do certain things within reasonable degrees of accuracy. And we also know they can't do other things. They can't crawl around on the ground and find people.
That being the case, what one has to do is to start out by trying to create an environment in the air that our forces can function in reasonable safety, and second, then to develop interaction with the ground so that one can develop targets and get good information that is better than one can get from the air, and coordinate an air-ground effort. And there are clearly forces on the ground that are anxious to rid the country of al Qaeda and to rid the country of Taliban, and they've been trying to do that before September 11th, and they're still trying to do it.
And what's different today is they have some help. They're going to have some help in food, they're going to have some help in ammunition, they're going to have some help in air support and assistance. And one would think that if it's done reasonably well and over a period of time, that they may have more success than they were able to have prior to getting that kind of assistance.
And it is impossible for me to reach in and grab a fraction, a percentage, and say this is more important than something else. I think it's going to be a combined effort that is going to create an environment that's inhospitable for the people we want to have out of there.
Q: Mr. Secretary, does that mean that your optimal scenario is one in which you don't really need to put U.S. ground forces into Afghanistan because, as you point out, there are forces on the ground who have been fighting the Taliban for a long time?
Rumsfeld: No. The optimal scenario would be that they would all decide to leave the country and turn themselves in. And that would be --
Q: Well, the next --
Rumsfeld: Just below that?
Q: Just below that. (Laughter.)
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: Yesterday President Bush was saying that they were -- you were paving the way to the entrance of friendly troops. What troops he meant?
Rumsfeld: I beg your pardon?
Q: President Bush have mentioned yesterday that the U.S. forces were paving the way for the entrance of ground troops, friendly ground troops. What forces he was referring to?
Rumsfeld: I don't know the reference, but I assume what he was saying is what I've been saying, that there are forces on the ground that are opposed to the Taliban and opposed to the al
Qaeda: the Northern Alliance factions, the tribes in the south. And our effort would be to try to make them successful, to do things that are helpful to them so that they have the opportunity to move forward, as they are, towards Mazar-e Sharif; to move forward, as they are, towards the northeast, where there is an al Qaeda unit that they've been working on; to move south towards Kabul, where the Taliban forces are defending between -- to the north of Kabul; to move in the south -- I'll stop. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
Q: Thank you. We're all getting anecdotal tales from the frontlines, and much that is coming across suggests that the United States is not to a large extent going after some of the dug-in forces, particularly on the plain north of Kabul. I understand why the United States is restrained in its military operations when it's regard to -- with regard to civilian casualties and concerns about that. But in other areas, what would be the reason for any kind of restraint, military restraint, in this campaign? The longer it goes on --
Rumsfeld: Deconfliction. Deconfliction. You want --
Gen. Myers: Good intelligence.
Rumsfeld: You need good intelligence so you don't end up doing things to people on the ground who are opposed to the Taliban, and that means you need good communications, as the general said.
Q: Mr. Secretary, what information do you have about civilian casualties at this point, during the entire operation? And collateral damage broadly, but civilian casualties specifically.
Rumsfeld: We've got practically no hard information from the ground because we've been using the weapons in areas that are not controlled by friends. Therefore, the information from the ground tends to be self-serving, and to the extent Taliban wants to show anyone anything, they take them out to something that they contend is a wrong-doing of some kind.
There was what sounded to me to be a reasonably balanced report from somebody that there might have been four people killed in a house, that we talked about on a earlier day here, that was the result of an errant weapon going to the -- not to the helicopter it was aimed at, but to a house that was about a mile away. There's also a report that sounds reasonable that several people were wounded when an errant -- it wasn't errant
-- it hit a building that we had been told was a Taliban warehouse. It turns out it may have had some Red Cross activity in it, and there may have been several people wounded there.
The numbers that Taliban has been floating out in the media are -- we are certain -- false in terms of larger numbers than that. And we also have anecdotal information from the ground that people on the ground are impressed by the fact that they can basically go about their business, in many respects, and not fear from the bombing that's taking place because the bombing that's taking place is, as I say, focused on military targets; it's focused, for the most part, outside of these towns. And when television says we're bombing Kabul, we're not bombing Kabul. We may take out a single location in Kabul, but most of the effort is on the outskirts of Kabul in unpopulated areas and military targets.
Gen. Myers: Let me just talk about the alleged bus incident. They have looked at that very hard in the area that they said the bus was in. They've looked at the targets we struck in that area, and we can find no evidence that the bombs went anywhere other than they were supposed to go, and no evidence of that at this point. So --
Rumsfeld: There's three things you should remember -- there's three places it can come from. One is from the air, which would be coalition forces. Another is from the ground, the ground fire, AAA and ground missiles that are going up and have to come down, and may or may not be well directed. And the third is there are people fighting on the ground. There are opposition forces that are competing against al Qaeda and Taliban. So an assumption that a particular event was the result of one of those three, without very good information, it seems to me, is somewhat speculative.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Q: When you say --
Rumsfeld: Torie has been standing, suggesting that it's --
Q: -- that forces on the ground may get some help from the United States, and you mention ammunition, are you suggesting that --
Q: And air support.
Q: Excuse me. Are you suggesting that you may be supplying the Northern Alliance or other opposition groups with ammunition and supplies? And how would you go about doing that?
Q: And with air support?
Q: (Off mike) -- are supplying them?
Rumsfeld: I am verifying the statement I made the first day, and that was that those that are against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, we would like to be successful. And we have been and will do things that we're capable of doing that are helpful to them in their efforts to try to root out the terrorist and the terrorist network that exists there, and the Taliban government that has brought such terrible, terrible damage and carnage to the Afghan people.
Q: But you mentioned weapons -- you mentioned weapons. Are you supplying them?
(No response from the secretary has he leaves the podium)