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DoD News Briefing: Friday, January 11, 2002

DoD News Briefing: Friday, January 11, 2002

News Transcript from the United States Department of Defense: DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Friday, January 11, 2002 - 2:10 p.m. EST. Also participating is General Richard B. Myers, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. The -- we're sorry we're a little late. We held up while the service concluded.

The Taliban have been obviously driven from governmental power, but the campaign in Afghanistan is far from over. There is still unrest in many parts of the country. A number of senior Taliban and al Qaeda officials are still at large. There are unquestionably a number of pockets of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters that remain and have to be dealt with. They continue to pose a threat to coalition forces, as well as the Afghan people.

Coalition forces will continue to deal with the Taliban and al Qaeda targets, both from the air and on the ground, as we find them, and they are doing so.

We continue to conduct intelligence gathering operations, combing through the tunnels, caves, bunkers, houses, terrorist camps, and interrogating detainees, searching for information that will help us disrupt terrorist networks and prevent further terrorist acts.

I think it's noteworthy that some four months to the day that the terrorists attacked the United States, the first group of al Qaeda and Taliban detainees are arriving or have arrived at a detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Our operations are working. We've captured or killed a number of senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders. And as we interrogate more detainees, we are being told of terrorists who they believe were killed in earlier bombing raids over the past several months. We are in the process of trying to evaluate these reports that we're receiving from detainees about the deaths of some other senior people, and as we are able to validate them, we'll undoubtedly make that information available.

But needless to say, one of our goals is the capture of Osama bin Laden and Omar and other senior al Qaeda and Taliban people. But it is not our only goal, as one might assume from the public focus on those two individuals. In my view, equally or more important is the goal of stopping terrorist networks from being able to continue to threaten the United States, our friends and allies.

And towards that end, it is of great urgency that we access all of the intelligence information that we can. These are the suspected weapons of mass destruction sites that we've been examining, Taliban and al Qaeda safe houses, looking for documents, computers and the like, as well as the information and materials that we're obtaining from the interrogation of now hundreds of detainees. It's from these activities that we are most likely to gain the information that will help us prevent future attacks.

In addition, we have the goal of finding and dealing with the remaining pockets of Taliban and al Qaeda resistance. Finally, we have the goal of assisting the interim government of Afghanistan in assuring that it continues to help in the war on terrorism, that we are supportive of their goal to achieve stability and to resist any external influences on them, including, as the president pointed out yesterday, excessive Iranian influence, and that, finally, we work with other countries to assist in providing the humanitarian assistance that the people of Afghanistan clearly need.

In the course of recent operations, we have obtained a great deal of materials, literally hundreds of weapons and ordnance, pieces of ordnance. I think it probably is even more than hundreds, the last tally I saw, plus an enormous number of documents and videotapes and computer discs and hard drive and laptops and portable phones and address books and the like. And these are providing insights into the activities of the Taliban and the al Qaeda. Some of the information we've gathered, we already knew. Other information adds credence to what we already knew. Still other information is brand new and helpful. And all of it is helping us to put together a multidimensional puzzle, and the more pieces we get, the more it begins to reveal a story of the al Qaeda terrorist network, its capabilities, its reach, and the other networks with which it collaborates. But needless to say, there are still many missing pieces to the puzzle.

Finally, we want to keep in mind that our goal is not simply to capture one or two or more terrorist leaders in Afghanistan or to put one terrorist network out of business. It is to tackle terrorism wherever it exists so that Americans can live in peace and free from fear.

General Myers.

Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And good afternoon, everyone.

Yesterday our forces struck buildings and caves and tunnels in the Zhawar Kili area. In those strikes, we used 44 precision weapons that were called in by our forces that are still operating in the area. A total of nine bombers and tactical aircraft were used during these strikes, which lasted from about 8:00 yesterday till 15:30 yesterday, Eastern Standard Time.

The number of al Qaeda and Taliban detainees transferred to U.S. forces in Afghanistan has continued to grow and now stands at 445. As the secretary said, the first plane with 20 detainees arrived in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We got the -- we were notified here at approximately 13:50 our time. As the plane departed Kandahar yesterday, there were reports of some small arms fired. This occurred over the span of about an hour, around the time the aircraft was departing. The Marines at the airport launched a quick reaction force to investigate the shots. The approach of our forces apparently caused those who were responsible for the shooting to flee, and a sweep afterward did not uncover significant material nor the folks that were doing the shooting.

Most importantly, I'd like to offer my condolences, along with those of many others, of course, to the families of the Marines who were killed in the KC-130 plane crash the other day. These men, and the one woman, were volunteers. Now they're heroes. Their families will miss them, and we'll miss them. Most importantly, we'll miss their service, their great service to our country.

And with that, we'll take your questions.

Rumsfeld: Charlie?

Q: Mr. Secretary, now that the first planeload of detainees has landed in Cuba, how do you respond to charges from some non-governmental organizations that hooding, shaving, chaining, perhaps even --

Rumsfeld: What are the words?

Q: Hooding, putting hoods on, shaving, chaining, perhaps even tranquilizing some of these people is violating their civil rights?

Rumsfeld: That -- that's not correct.

Q: That you've done it or that --

Q: That you've done it or that it violates --

Rumsfeld: That it's a violation of their rights. It simply isn't. And the -- I asked if anyone had had to be sedated and the answer was that there was one person who was sedated during the course of the trip from Kandahar to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But that's all.

And the prisoners -- all one has to do is look at television any day of the week, and you can see that when prisoners are being moved between locations, they're frequently restrained in some way with handcuffs or some sort of restraints.

That is not new, it is not in any way inappropriate, and I think one ought to go and ask about the source of those kinds of comments, rather than the substance of them.

Q: Will these people be given -- will the International Red Cross and perhaps other nongovernmental organizations be given to these people?

Rumsfeld: Be --

Q: Be given -- will they be given access to these detainees?

Rumsfeld: I think that we're in the process of sorting through precisely the right way to handle them, and they will be handled in the right way.

They will be handled not as prisoners of wars, because they're not, but as unlawful combatants. The -- as I understand it, technically unlawful combatants do not have any rights under the Geneva Convention. We have indicated that we do plan to, for the most part, treat them in a manner that is reasonably consistent with the Geneva Conventions, to the extent they are appropriate, and that is exactly what we have been doing.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Yes?

Q: John Walker -- as we understand it, he's still being held aboard the Bataan in the Arabian Sea. What does the United States intend to do with him? Is he being held incommunicado? Can he talk to his family and his attorney? How long do you intend to hold him? What can you tell us about John Walker, please?

Rumsfeld: That his case is being addressed by the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, and at some point in the period ahead, we'll have a recommendation.

Q: But not imminent?

Rumsfeld: I don't set deadlines. Who knows? I know it's being addressed actively, and a decision will be made at some point in the period ahead.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you've spent a lot of time today talking in your statement about the amount of intelligence that you've gathered. Can you tell us what role that played in the arrests in Singapore? Was this one of the success stories of this operation? And what was the nature of the threat in Singapore against U.S. military interests that was apparently thwarted? Can you tell us anything about that?

Rumsfeld: Well, I apologize that I've not had a chance today to see television, but I understand that there are some things being said by the Singapore government about the fact that they have rolled up a network or a number of people who were -- are suspected of having been terrorists of some sort. And I don't know what else they've said, and I am -- I know the answer to your question, but it's not clear that it's for me to get into it.

Q: They said that it was -- that they caught these people because of a tape that was found in an al Qaeda leader's house in Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld: Who said that, the government of Singapore?

Q: The government of Singapore.

Rumsfeld: Well, if the government of Singapore said that, I'd go with it.

Q: Can you say, are there other countries where arrests have been made based on evidence that's been found in Afghanistan?

Rumsfeld: I am reasonably sure there are, although I can't name one, so I ought not to say that. But there is so much intelligence coming in and so much intelligence moving through law enforcement and intelligence circles, and through the CENTCOM circles, to provide additional information as to what we might do and where we might go, to the extent it's in Afghanistan, obviously CENTCOM and others of us are involved in that. To the extent it is in other countries, it tends to be law enforcement officials. And I just don't -- I lose track of them after that happens, to be perfectly honest, because I have so much going on here at this department.


Q: Mr. Secretary, Jamie's follow-up was -- (laughter) --

Rumsfeld: Jamie doesn't need help!

Q: -- how specific the threat was to U.S. forces in Singapore. Could you talk about that?

Rumsfeld: It was specific.

Q: Well, could you elaborate on that?

Rumsfeld: Well, no, I could, but I don't think I should. I mean, there's no question but -- I mean, there's going to be -- obviously, these people are going to be tried and -- or correction -- they're going to be interrogated, and then to the extent charges are appropriate, charges will be filed; to the extent charges are filed, they'll be tried, according to Singapore law, one would think. And I don't know that I should get into it.

But we do have vessels in the area and we do have people in the area, and so do other countries, coalition countries, and the government of Singapore. There are all kinds of targets that exist in that area. And I think that the government of Singapore has acted with dispatch, and we're very pleased that they have been able to do what they've done.

Q: Mr. Secretary -- can I take my shot back, Ian? -- you said earlier that you're putting together a multi-dimensional picture of al Qaeda based on the information you're collecting in Afghanistan, and that some of the insights you've gained are, you said, brand new. I'm wondering if you can tell us what you've learned about al Qaeda that you didn't know before?

Rumsfeld: I don't know that I will. It is -- when I say -- I shouldn't say "we're" putting it together; it is all of the government together is piecing together a picture of this organization, and as new pieces are brought into it, one gets a better understanding of the breadth and the depth and the dimension of their activities. And it is a very interesting and helpful process that we're going through.

And because we've been so fortunate to get access to so much information, particularly in Afghanistan, where places were left in great haste, it has been particularly helpful. Almost every arrest -- not all, because some just don't talk, but almost every arrest leads to additional pieces of information. It may be scraps of information in their pockets, it may be things they say, it may be other connections that occur.

Q: Is it, for example, to tell you that they're operating in some countries that you didn't know, or more countries or fewer countries than you thought before?

Rumsfeld: I think I've probably answered it as fully as I'm inclined to.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said that some of the detainees provided information in terms of al Qaeda leaders who may have been killed in --

Rumsfeld: True.

Q: -- some of the American bombing. Can you share with us the identities or even the numbers of al Qaeda and leadership, whether --

Rumsfeld: I think I heard of, what, two today?

Myers: Yes, sir.

Rumsfeld: I think we heard of two more today that we're told -- we were told that in the interrogations, reasonably authoritative comments were made by al Qaeda and/or Taliban people to the effect that relatively senior people, two of them, had, in fact, died, one in December and I think one before that. What we're doing is we're -- as I indicated, I think, before, we're in the process of pulling together a list of a relatively small number of people, senior Taliban, senior al Qaeda, and with their names and the spelling and their nationalities and their titles to the extent we have them, and what we think their current disposition is. And it would be that they're either dead or probably dead, or captured and currently being detained, or unlocated, unknown, whatever. And we're trying to do that in a way that we can ultimately declassify it. And when we have that done -- it's been through several iterations at this stage.

Q: Could you give us numbers of --

Rumsfeld: Well, for the sake of argument, you know, a few handfuls, a couple of handfuls, three, four, 10, 15 people of senior al Qaeda and senior Taliban, something like that.

Q: Are you disappointed that number is not higher at this point?

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Rumsfeld: No. No. You could list hundreds. We've got hundreds of detainees. What the list is, is the more senior people involved. It's designed to be at that size, rather than trying to list hundreds of people, don't you see? We're not disappointed, no.

Q: But there were more than 15 senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders combined after --

Rumsfeld: Well, give us their names. (Laughter.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said that you have a lot of work to do to get the senior al Qaeda and senior Taliban still on the loose. What's your reaction to the release of seven Taliban leaders in Kandahar, and some of them senior?

Rumsfeld: I've read those reports and I've tracked them down two days in a row, and we can't verify that that ever happened, that there were ever those people in custody, that anyone -- it's hard to be released if you were never in custody.

Q: So you're saying it didn't happen?

Rumsfeld: I'm not saying it didn't happen.

Q: Oh.

Rumsfeld: I'm saying precisely what I said.

Q: Okay.

Rumsfeld: That for two days, I've tried to track down these fascinating stories I've been reading in the press and hearing debated on television, and I am not able to do so. I find -- I keep pursuing it and saying, "My goodness. They can't all be wrong. Please see if you can't find what they're writing about."

And they come back to me with something like this; that it may be that there are some senior Taliban somewhere, not necessarily in any area or any country, but it may be that there are some, a handful, maybe even that right number, and it may be that one or more or them called and talked to some subordinate in one of the Taliban elements in Afghanistan and said, "Hey, there's a few of us around who might like to turn ourselves in if the deal was right, but we're not going to tell you where we are, and we want to see about how this might work." And it might be that that got reported up and rejected, and someone could say, "Gee, x number were in custody and released, because the deal was never made."

Now, how many times is that going on in Afghanistan today? I would guess a dozen. At any given moment, there are people who are in the mountains or in neighboring countries saying, "Gee, I'd like to come back to Afghanistan someday. I think I'll call up my old friend. I used to fight with what's his name, and I'll give him a call and say, `Gee, if you can work out this deal that we can come on back in there and everything will be all right, we might do that. We might even join your army.'"

But I can't find what people have been writing about and talking about on television. I can't find it. But this does not say it didn't happen.

Q: If I can follow up, is there any level of frustration or concern that the new Afghan government may be lenient as far as handing over Taliban leaders?

Rumsfeld: No. I'm not frustrated or concerned. I am finding the government very cooperative. I speak to Mr. Karzai, the interim chairman, from day to day on various things. I find him uniformly cooperative, sharing the same goals. He's interested

-- he and his associates are interested in -- as we are -- in ridding that country of al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. We're interested in stopping terrorism. Is it a perfectly tidy place? No. Is everyone doing exactly what one might hope they might do? No. But is the interim government focused on this problem roughly the way we are? You bet they are. And I feel quite good about it.

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Rumsfeld: Wait a second. If there's anyone in this room who can give me any more information about these people who were supposed to be in custody, whether you've written about it or not -- (laughter) -- I'll be available after the meeting.

Myers: Let me just add something. Let me just add --

Q: It is the foreign ministry. These are our allies that are saying this. It is on-the-record people in the foreign ministry. Are they wrong? All I'm saying is we have pressed to try to find if it's true, and we have not been able to provide

-- find any evidence that would validate it.

Excuse me.

Myers: I would only add, Mr. Secretary, that you've got to be very careful when you see names because there are similarities of names, there are aliases used.

Rumsfeld: Oh, yeah.

Myers: And it gets very, very confusing.

Q: Is that what makes it so difficult to come up with a list of the al Qaeda?

Rumsfeld: There's so many aliases and usages; they'll use one name instead of two, or reverse them.

Yes, Barbara?

Q: I'd like to just ask General Myers -- go back to the issue of Singapore, General Myers, and ask you, the documents released officially by the government of Singapore now, and the videotape released by the government of Singapore, clearly and absolutely indicate that the U.S. Navy was being targeted in Singapore by this al Qaeda cell, that Navy ships, Navy personnel and facilities used by the U.S. Navy. So, if that was the case and the United States was clearly aware of this back through the December timeframe when these arrests were being made, could you just explain to us a little bit more about why it was that you guys felt confident enough to allow U.S. Navy ships to continue to make port calls in Singapore and continue to allow sailors to move through Singapore? What led you to have the confidence that you could do that, unlike in Yemen?

Myers: Sure. Sure. Obviously, with a country like Singapore, we have very close relationships. And our unified commander, our combatant commander in the Pacific, Admiral Blair, closely monitors the force protection and the threat conditions in the region, and works very closely with host governments. They are pretty much aware of threats, and so forth, and they'll take appropriate measures. So, as long as they feel they can take appropriate measures, ships will be allowed to visit, and so forth.

Q: So while this threat was going on, you felt it was -- just to understand more clearly --

Myers: I don't want to get into details of how we do that, but

-- and in fact, some of this is for the Singapore government to tell you, and so you'll have to ask them. But with the -- the videotape that the Singapore government says they got from Afghanistan was not the first indication that we had threats against our forces, okay?

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: A question for General Myers.

Rumsfeld: Just a second.

Q: Sir, when you opened up your statement, you said in your view it's equally or more important the goal of stopping terrorist networks and it's of great urgency that we access all of the intelligence information that we can.

From that, should we take that there's been a shift in emphasis in the military's mission there to get away from the manhunt and put more man hours into exploiting what you find?

Rumsfeld: No, we still have folks in the air and on the ground, pursuing the senior Taliban and al Qaeda leadership. I wouldn't want to leave the impression we're not.

If one thinks about it, those leaders are not at the present time able to function very effectively. We have disrupted their communication. We've got them on the move. And while they remain important and we continue to put assets and, as I say, aircraft and people on that task, which is an important task, I would say that the -- equally or even more important is the task of gathering this intelligence, which has now just become available in large amounts, and pursuing it aggressively, it -- with the thought that you can conceivably stop something from happening, as is the case in Singapore and other places.

I mean, if you think about the September 11th event here and in New York, and the value of that information, and to the extent we can put this thing together even a day or two or five days faster, by putting great effort on it, we may very well prevent a terrorist attack involving not thousands but more than thousands.

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Q: But are you putting more manpower or something to that end?

Rumsfeld: There's a lot of manpower being put on it. We're sending --

Q: Any increase now that all the intelligence is becoming available?

Rumsfeld: Well, we've got people all over involved in evaluating the intelligence information. That is to say, you locate it, and then you put it where expert people can analyze it -- in some cases, do the translations; in other cases, do the evaluations -- and the same thing's true on the interrogations. The faster we can interrogate these people and identify them, and get what they have in them out of them, in as graceful a way as is possible -- needless to say, we have a better chance of saving some people's lives.

Q: Mr. Secretary, if we can go back to General Myers, for a moment, and to your beginning comments, you mentioned the strikes on Zhawar Kili, again in that area. What are you finding there? And it seems to continuous. What are you finding intelligence-wise there and otherwise to help you continue?

Myers: Well, I think the secretary covered some of that. This was the sixth strike in that area. As we talked about before, it's a large area. I think there are over 60 above-ground structures. There are over 50 caves, some of which have been closed, some of which have been exploited. And they're finding lots and lots of military equipment and other items that, as the secretary said, will lead us down the paths we want to go.

Q: (Off mike) --

Rumsfeld: Let me just take a minute and say something about the intelligence information.

If I stood up here and told you precisely that in city X we found item X or Y and are accessing it, it would tell anyone out there that there's a likelihood that we now know something that we previously didn't know that could put them in jeopardy. There are those who are so pleased with all that we're gathering that they're anxious to say what they're gathering, and they're anxious to say the numbers of things we've gathered and what locations we've gathered them from and who gathered them.

I'm not. I am much more interested in stopping terrorists. And to the extent that laying all of that out is going to make us look like we're good gatherers, it does not -- it does not begin to weigh as much as having us be good and successful in stopping terrorists from killing people.

Q: But based on what --

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said, that for the most part, the detainees will be treated in a manner consistent with the Geneva Convention. Exactly which parts, which rights, privileges of the Geneva Convention will they have, and who will decide, and when will it be decided on an ad hoc basis? And just as a follow-up, can you say if there's been any --

Rumsfeld: Well, let me work on that one for a minute. That's a mouthful.

What we've said from the beginning is that these are unlawful combatants in our view, and we're detaining them. We call them detainees, not prisoners of war. We call them detainees. We have said that, you know, being the kind of a country we are, it's our intention to recognize that there are certain standards that are generally appropriate for treating people who were -- are prisoners are war, which these people are not, and -- in our view -- but there -- and, you know, to the extent that it's reasonable, we will end up using roughly that standard. And that's what we're doing. I don't -- I wouldn't want to say that I know in any instance where we would deviate from that or where we might exceed it. But I'm sure we'll probably be on both sides of it modestly.

Q: For instance, will we be allowed to see a list of exactly who the detainees are?

Rumsfeld: I don't know. I've got -- there are a bunch of lawyers who are looking at all these treaties and conventions and everything, trying to figure out what's appropriate. The only thing, I did notice that you can't take pictures of them. That's considered embarrassing for them, and they can't be interviewed, according to the Geneva Convention.

Myers: Let me add a couple --

Rumsfeld: Yeah, sure.

Myers: Let me just add a couple of things to that. We've got to remember that these are very, very dangerous people. And, as I think Charlie, you asked the first question about, well, why were they shackled? I mean, these are --

Q: I'm just passing on the -- (off mike.)

Myers: Well, I'm not.

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.)

Myers: Charlie, I'm coming right back to you. I said you asked the question; I didn't say anything else. (Laughter.)

But if you remember the situation in Mazar --

Rumsfeld: A little sensitive!

Did you notice how sensitive Charlie is? (Laughs; laughter.) Do you want to stand up and give your full name and your organization? (Laughs; laughter.)

Myers: But if you remember the situation in Mazar, where the start of the rebellion was one of them that had explosives, a grenade or something, and killed himself, and it sort of started. I mean, these are people that would gnaw hydraulic lines in the back of a C-17 to bring it down. I mean, so this is -- these are very, very dangerous people, and that's how they're being treated.

At the same time, let me give you a little context on how they're going to be handled when they hit the -- Guantanamo Bay. The meals they're going to be served are going to be culturally appropriate for them. And so, mean, we're going to try to do our best to treat them humanely, at the same time realizing that they're very, very dangerous people.

Q: Could you describe the incident that occurred aboard the plane? You mentioned that one --

Rumsfeld: I can't.

Q: Oh, okay.

Rumsfeld: I just asked the question, was anyone sedated before, during or in either leg of the trip. And the answer was no, expect one person was -- had to be sedated, and I don't know --

Myers: And we might find out after -- and that was -- and we might find out later on the last part of the trip. We haven't gotten a report yet. There might have been --

Q: They didn't try to gnaw through a hydraulic line?

Rumsfeld: No, no. (Laughter.) Hyperbole.

Myers: That was hyperbole. (More laughter.)

Q: Yesterday, you met with the prime minister of Greece. And may we have a kind of readout of your talks? Yesterday you met him.

Rumsfeld: We did. We had a very good meeting at the Blair House. And it was -- we're, of course, NATO allies and friends of long-standing. We discussed the war against terrorism, which they're assisting with as a NATO ally. And we discussed the upcoming Olympics here in the United States and prospectively in Greece, and the security implications that that holds. And I believe he gave some press report after the meeting about other aspects of it.

Q: A follow-up. Mr. Secretary --

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Rumsfeld: Yes?

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about the prisoners who arrived today? I mean, who they were, what --

Rumsfeld: They're just a group that they picked and decided to bring -- they're the first 20. I don't even know their names.

Q: Are they people who were chosen because they're senior people, because --

Rumsfeld: No, I think it probably has more to do with getting the thing started, and people who probably had reached a certain phase of interrogation that -- they may very well have been early detainees and people who have reached a certain phase of the interrogation that it was appropriate to move them to the other location to free up openings there. Because as Afghan detainees -- correction -- people being detained by Afghans and people being detained in Pakistan get released to us, obviously we need space at Kandahar, and we need space at Bagram and different places.

So we just have to keep the flow going, and that's what's taking place.


Q: If these guys are so dangerous and they're so --

Rumsfeld: The implication being they're not?

Q: No, no, no.

Rumsfeld: Oh.

Q: I'm just saying, since they are, how is it that we're able to get specific information on, you know, al Qaeda leaders? In other words, they're obviously not willing to give us that kind of information. Are some of them just deciding that it's best for them to give us the information? Is there a large number of them that are willing to do the interviews?

Rumsfeld: There's several aspects to it, and one aspect is that there are Taliban who know things about al Qaeda. And they may not be as hard-core as the al Qaeda, but they may have worked in close proximity with them. They may have been functionaries for them. They may have been couriers for them. They may have been whatever. And so that's one location.

Some other people just may decide that the better -- you know, that -- "that's enough of that, and maybe I'll just go ahead and cooperate and see if I can get myself in a better circumstance."


Q: Can you tell us whether that's a large number or large proportion of these guys?

Rumsfeld: I can't.


Q: Mr. Secretary, has the government of Pakistan told our government that we may need to draw down forces in Pakistan, bases, because of the escalating tensions with India?

Rumsfeld: There have been a number of mixed reports about that, and I -- rather than get into the detail of whether or not someone in the government may have said something to someone, because it may very well have happened, I do know that the president of Pakistan is addressing the matter personally and that he is retaining forces on the Afghan border at our request. And we have -- and we have found him very cooperative in this regard.

Q: But in terms of American assets and the Pakistani bases, have they said they might need those bases and that therefore we would have to move those aircraft or personnel?

Rumsfeld: I think that at -- there has been discussion about aircraft and apron space and fuel and a variety of other things.

Needless to say, if you have two countries, India and Pakistan, that clearly gone from a circumstance of not being mobilized to a circumstance of some higher level of mobilization, in that process, they begin to move their capabilities around. And as they do, in the case of Pakistan, they find us in various locations and -- that had not been part of their plan.

So needless to say, discussions take place; they take place between the Pakistan military and the CENTCOM military and we discuss these things and work it out -- how do you do this, and what if they need to bring more people -- more aircraft into some airport, for example, how would that handle?

Another issue that comes up is in the event of a conflict, obviously, Pakistan would have a very different view about the use of its airspace than it does now, not in a conflict. Right now we have the ability to move things in across that country. And there would be the whole issue of deconfliction or no flying and -- so there's lots of complex things that get discussed, and they're being discussed in a very orderly and sensible way. And as I stated at the outset, a way -- the president of Pakistan has been exceedingly cooperative.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can I follow that?

Q: Mr. Secretary, you cited the goal of keeping Iran --

Q: Can I just follow, sir?

Q: -- keeping Afghanistan free of outside influence, including you cited Iran, as the president did. Given that, to what extent are you concerned about Iran supplying weapons to some of the factions within Afghanistan? Is that something that's of concern to you?

Rumsfeld: Well, if one got up in the morning and said, what is the thing that Afghanistan needs most, it is not weapons.

(Laughter.) They have ample weapons. I think that the interim

-- it is not for me to say, it's for the interim government and the chairman of the interim government, during the first six months, and his associates -- in the case of military things, Fahim Khan, the acting defense minister -- to address those issues and decide how they want to do that. And they're going to have to negotiate that, I suspect, with the other, quote, "armies" or elements throughout that country. And those elements have a history of having had relationships with other countries, neighboring countries, for the most part, and having received weaponry and training and assistance. And things don't just stop instantaneously. My guess is that that's something that the government will be working with and thinking about.

But I guess the short answer is, I don't think there's a need for countries to be supplying a lot of weapons at the present time.

Q: General Myers?

Q: Mr. Secretary? Mr. Secretary?

Q: General Myers, is there still work to be done in Zhawar Kili? And just to clarify, when you talk about recent operations and a large amount of intelligence, is that the operation you're talking about that's been so fruitful, as far as providing intelligence operation (sic)?

Myers: I was not referring to a specific area when I mentioned that. And, I mean, I don't want to go into future operations, I mean, I just think --

Q: Well, maybe you could clarify, though. The airstrikes, those are designed to destroy equipment that's being found?

Myers: They're to do several things. And again, I'm just not going to get into the specifics of the operation.

Q: Is it live people, or is it just destruction of things that have been found in that complex?

Myers: To my knowledge, there are no longer al Qaeda present in that specific area. Now --

Q: There have not been strikes against people --

Myers: There were earlier. There were earlier -- we briefed --

Q: Earlier there were?

Myers: Right. Yeah.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: I do know there have been some strikes that were solely for the purpose of destroying weaponry. Okay.

Q: A lot of them -- (off mike).

Q: Mr. Secretary, can we go back a little bit to the terrorists that you say were killed -- three, four, 10, 15? Can you just elaborate a little bit? Would you say that number would be out of the top 25, and how significant would you say that is?

Rumsfeld: What I had reference to was, this day, I was told that there were two senior -- I believe Taliban -- I'm almost sure they were Taliban -- officials in the top -- people in the top 20, something like that -- who, we were told by people that we were interrogating, had been killed weeks ago in attacks in various parts of the country, which we did not know.

And of course, as I've said all along, there's a great deal we don't know. When you go into an airstrike in an al Qaeda camp or a tunnel or a cave or something and close it up, you don't -- unless you had personal relationships and personal knowledge of what was in there, you're unlikely to know that. And these people apparently did and have said that.

Now the reason I'm kind of cautious and careful is not just that I'm a conservative person; it's that there is always the problem of disinformation. And you do have to wonder if maybe somebody would want us to think somebody was dead, and that's why we're being -- we're using qualifiers -- because I think it's the only responsible thing to do, and, first of all, it's more accurate from your standpoint, but, more important, it doesn't fool us. In other words, we lack certainty; therefore, we ought not to necessarily assume that what we receive by way of information like that is true.

We'll make this the last question.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you explain why combatants who are on the enemy side and were captured -- in some cases, combat -- in wartime should not be considered prisoners of war?

Rumsfeld: It is a technical matter for lawyers, and there are a series of things that common usage looks for -- uniforms -- I'm trying to think of what some -- how one carries their weapons -- visibly or invisibly. These kind -- there's a whole series of things that are used as a template for people to determine whether or not somebody was functioning in a visibly clear military manner or whether they were not. And to the extent they were not, I'm told by lawyers that they fit in another category.

It may very well be one of the reasons that the United States is quite careful about that.

Q: But why is it important that you not consider them -- in other words, why not just treat them as prisoners of war? If prisoners of war get additional rights and protections, why not just treat them that way?

Rumsfeld: That's basically what we're doing. That's what I've said. We're generally conforming to the Geneva Convention as it applies to prisoners of war. That's what that --

Q: Why not let it officially apply?

Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, we don't have to. And second, I

-- we're still in the very early stages of this, and we're in the process of trying to figure out the answers to all of this and how -- what's the best way to do it? What's the proper way to do it? How will we feel good about having done it a certain way? And what is appropriate? And those are the kinds of things that we're going through, because, as I say, there's hundreds of these people, and more coming from the ones that are being detained by our friends.

And so we're trying to rapidly build detention areas that are appropriate, and we're trying to train people to -- military people to handle hard-case detainees, and -- when that isn't what they normally do when they get up in the morning. And we're just trying to do it right.

Q: If U.S. troops which were not wearing uniforms were captured, would you expect them to be treated with -- in conjunction with the Geneva Convention?

Rumsfeld: I would expect that other countries in -- if they were captured by Taliban? No, I'd expect they'd have been killed -- or the al Qaeda -- they'd have just been shot summarily, as happened with any number of people. I don't know if you were referring to that. You probably weren't.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can we just quickly go --

(Cross talk.)

Rumsfeld: I would expect that U.S. military people would be treated in a manner that was appropriate to their circumstance and -- as we are treating others in a manner that's appropriate to their circumstance. There's nothing unusual about it or unique. It's very --

(Cross talk.) We'll go -- no, no, no, no --

Q: Will tribunals be held at Guantanamo? Will tribunals be held at Guantanamo, sir? (Cross talk)


Rumsfeld: I'm plucky, but I'm not stupid. I'm going to -- (laughter). (Laughs.) Thank you.

Q: Thank you.

This Transcript was prepared by the Federal News Service Inc. (202) 347-1400.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).