|Military Operations Continue in Afghanistan|
Military Operations Continue in Afghanistan
Source: News Transcript from the United States Department of Defense. DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Wednesday, May 1, 2002 -- 12:30 p.m. EDT. Also participating was General Peter Pace, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Question: Welcome home.
Rumsfeld: Thank you. Good afternoon.
We returned Monday, I guess, from meetings in Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan and "Houstan" and Russia. Central Asia is an important region, and countries we were visiting are making contributions, important contributions, to Operation Enduring Freedom. Kyrgyzstan is hosting U.S. and coalition forces at the Manas Airfield. Turkmenistan has been assisting coalition forces and facilitating the delivery of sizable amounts of humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people. Kazakhstan has provided more than 600 overflights for coalition aircraft and has just announced that they're going to be sending liaison folks down to Tampa to the Central Command. And needless to say, the -- we appreciate each of those countries' support in the war on terrorism and look forward to continuing to strengthen our security ties with them.
In Afghanistan, I had meetings with the chairman, Mr. Karzai, a number of other government and ethnic leaders. Notwithstanding the periodic flare-ups, the security situation in the country is generally good and seems to be improving modestly, a fact that is confirmed by what I consider to be an encouraging movement of refugees and internally displaced persons back towards their homes. I have a friend who says if you want to know what's really going on, give it the gate test. You lift up the gate and see which way things are moving. And people are voting with their feet, which is an encouraging thing, it seems to me. They're making a judgment that they'd prefer to be where they're going, back towards Afghanistan and back towards their homes, rather than in the displaced persons' locations inside the country or in the refugee camps outside the country.
We made a stop in Herat and met with Governor Ismail Khan.
Finally, we stopped in Moscow for meetings with Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov, discussed a broad range of issues, including our progress in the war on terrorism, Afghanistan, and then a number of issues that relate to the upcoming meeting between President Putin and President Bush.
Secretary Powell and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov will be continuing those discussions later this week, I believe here in Washington.
The highlight for me was the -- several visits I had with troops and coalition forces in Afghanistan and the surrounding countries. They are dedicated, courageous men and women, and our country can be enormously proud of them. I was delighted to have a chance to tell them that in person.
Today marks the first day of Military Appreciation Month, a chance for all Americans to recognize the sacrifice that our men and women in uniform are making to defend this country. In time of war, needless to say, we are particularly grateful for their dedication and for their selfless service.
On Monday, the department launched its train-and-equip program with the Republic of Georgia. DOD will be training Georgian military, border guard and other security services to help develop their counterterrorism capabilities and their ability to address the terrorist problem in the Pankisi gorge. Our country will be helping to train Georgian battalions in light infantry tactics, platoon-level offensive and defensive operations, and individual combat skills. The program will also involve staff training and the transfer of some military equipment to Georgia, including some small arms and ammunition, communications gear, training equipment, medical equipment, fuel and some construction materials.
Georgia has been a friend, a partner in the war on terrorism and in promoting peace and stability in the region. The program that we're undertaking thus far has a very small number of people. It's just in the process of starting. But it does underscore the growing security ties between our two countries and our support for their sovereignty and their independence, and just -- not to say our concern and interest in the global war on terrorism.
Finally, NATO has announced that the allied AWACS crews deployed here to assist in aerial surveillance after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11th will be returning home on May 16th. Operation Eagle Assist, as the mission was called, marked the very first time that NATO had deployed assets in direct support of operations in the continental United States. I'm told that to date some 830 crew members from some 13 different NATO nations have patrolled the U.S. skies. They have flown nearly 4,300 hours and over 360 operational sorties. And I certainly want to express my full appreciation and the appreciation of our country to our NATO allies and to the many dedicated air crews that have helped to defend our country in the immediate aftermath of September 11th.
General Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Pace: Thank you, sir.
Well, military operations continue in Afghanistan, the eastern portion -- nothing significant to report there.
But the coalition forces are continuing their search operations and it is still dangerous. So although it's nothing significant right now that could change at any time, and we're very, very appreciative of all that not only the U.S. soldiers are doing, but our coalition partners.
In Guantanamo Bay, as I think you know, the new facility for the detainees has been brought on line. And the movement of the detainees from the old facility to the new has been completed; that went very smoothly. We appreciate all the hard work that U.S. Southern Command is doing in that regard.
And with that I'll stop and join the secretary in answering questions.
Question: Mr. Secretary, the general said "nothing significant to report" on movement of troops in Afghanistan, and yet there are reports that at least several hundred members of the 101st have been moved into the area around Khost. Does this signify a new operation, and are there signs in recent days of possible resurgent regrouping by al Qaeda and the Taliban?
Rumsfeld: I think what -- I know what I've said, and as I recall, what General Franks has said on several occasions is that the United States and coalition forces are in -- will be, have been, are and will be engaged in a variety of operations in Afghanistan for the purpose of a variety of tasks. They include sweeps through areas to assure that the al Qaeda and the Taliban have not returned, sweeps through areas where they have information that conceivably Taliban or al Qaeda might be, investigations of tunnels and caves and sensitive sites that intelligence suggests might be worth looking at, and in other cases simply presence.
Second, as General Franks has said repeatedly, we don't talk about operations or activities. But you can be pretty certain that on a fairly regular basis there are going to be U.S. forces and coalition forces and Afghan forces that are continuing the process of assuring that the country has reasonable security, that Taliban and al Qaeda do not reassemble, and that to the extent intelligence enables us, that we track down scraps of information to determine what the actual facts are.
Question: Well, if I could press just a little, both London and Washington confirmed when several hundred British marines were sent into the area to lead an operation. Why wouldn't you confirm that a large number, or several hundred U.S. troops have now been moved in there?
Rumsfeld: Because, first of all, we don't talk about numbers of people.
It is helpful to the other side rather than to us to discuss how many of any category of people are involved in things, and it seems to me I'd rather be helpful to our side than to their side.
Question: How about the resurgence of Taliban and al Qaeda with warmer weather? Have you seen any signs of it, regrouping?
Rumsfeld: Well, let me just say that -- say this; that the situation in Afghanistan is far from over. It is a situation where we know there are al Qaeda and Taliban who in some instances have not left the country and in some instances if they've left the country, they haven't left very far. And they do have it in mind that they would like to return, and they do have it in mind they'd like to destable (sic) and, if possible, defeat the Interim Afghan Authority. And so we know that and we expect that. It is not a surprise. And it's our task to see that that does doesn't happen.
Question: Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: But whether there's been any measurable change because of the weather warming, I've not seen any measurable change.
Question: Mr. Secretary, I would switch -- for a minute to Moscow, the discussions on the nuclear arms reduction. You've said that U.S. reductions will be made regardless of when an agreement is reached, or even if an agreement is reached with the Russians. What is the value of this process of negotiating a written agreement, from the U.S. point of view? What's the value of doing that?
Rumsfeld: Well, when the president made his announcement, he indicated that the United States of America was going to do what he said; namely, bring down strategic offensive nuclear weapons down into the 1,700 to 2,200 level. That was a statement based on our own national security interests. The president of Russia, on a subsequent occasion, announced that they, too, intended to go down to roughly that level.
What's taking place between the United States and Russia is the development of a new relationship, a new framework between our two countries. Does it all have to be in writing? No. Will some portions of it end up in writing? Very likely. Is it strictly security? Of course not. It is political, it's economic, it is also from a security standpoint.
And there are multiple elements to the security piece of it. One aspect of it happens to be the rather dramatic drawdown in deployed offensive strategic nuclear weapons, but there are other aspects to it, the goal of transparency and predictability between the two sides so we have a good sense of what each is doing.
And what -- the Department of State with the president will decide which portions of those things ought or ought not to be in writing is yet to be seen.
Question: Did you get the sense from your discussions on this topic in Moscow that it will be accomplished by the time the president leaves?
Rumsfeld: You never know. Something's not over till it's over. It's -- I'm not going to try to put a smile or a frown on it. It is a process, it's been going along very well. I've had numerous meetings with the defense minister of Russia. Colin Powell has had numerous meetings with the foreign minister of Russia. And the president has had several meetings with President Putin. And there are more ahead of us.
So we just stay on the track. It's a constructive, useful process. And I enjoyed my stop in Moscow.
Question: Mr. Secretary --
Question: Mr. Secretary, since you have come from the area -- going back to Afghanistan, sir -- you have been next door. I mean, when you said that al Qaeda, Taliban, they have left, they may have left Afghanistan, but not far from Afghanistan. Can you confirm, sir, today, and since you have admitted there are U.S. troops in the area, that U.S. troops are now inside Pakistan finding or hunting for those wanted terrorists, the most wanted terrorists, al Qaeda and Taliban? And if you spoken with anybody -- any one of them, or their leader?
Rumsfeld: As you know, my policy is to have other countries characterize what it is they're doing rather than we characterize it for them. And I have really nothing to say except that the borders of Afghanistan, around 360 degrees, tended to be relatively porous over the decades. And we recognize that, and therefore we're attentive to the fact that folks could move back and forth.
Question: Can you confirm that U.S. troops are inside Pakistan looking for, hunting for al Qaeda and Taliban?
Rumsfeld: I responded the best I can. I like to leave those things to the -- anything that involves another country, I think it's better for those countries to characterize what it is they're doing. And from the beginning I've said that. It has nothing to do with this particular question. And anyone who walks away assuming that therefore I'm implying one thing or another could be mistaken.
Question: Sir, one more, please --
Rumsfeld: Let -- let -- let --
Question: Mr. Secretary, in your meetings this afternoon with the Chinese vice president will you raise the issue of America's concern and this building's concern over the shifting of Chinese medium-range missiles to an area where they now threaten Taiwan and apparently a buildup of some size, up to 300 or more, we're told by press reports?
Rumsfeld: I have not met the vice president of the People's Republic of China. He's coming in this afternoon. I look forward to it. And I don't really think it's appropriate to discuss what he or I might or might not bring up in the course of the discussion.
Question: Is it a concern to you, sir, that these missiles are being shifted?
Rumsfeld: (Pause) How would one answer that on the eve of a visit? (Laughter.) My instinct is to leave it where I left it and not, you know, preview things that might or might not be discussed.
Question: Sir, can I follow up on China?
Question: Sir, there are representatives of your office that are supposedly -- have begun a process of notifying various members of Congress that the administration's made a decision to kill the Army's Crusader artillery system. Is that so? Have you made a decision?
Rumsfeld: The defense planning guidance process has been going along for several months. It is a -- an iterative process where the -- where Pete Pace and Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Myers meet with the chiefs and meet with the vice chiefs and meet with the service secretaries. And they then have meetings down, and it goes back and forth for a good period of time. That document is A, classified, and B, still in draft form. And it has not been signed or issued. What the process as it proceeds, needless to say -- and you get closer to the end, the draft changes from time to time. And when things begin to jell, there's no question but that consultations with Capitol Hill take place of various types. But until the document is concluded, until it's been signed, until the discussions that have to take place on these complicated issues are concluded, I think it would be a mistake to think that it's final.
Question: (Off mike) -- certainly not deny that your office is now telling members of Congress that that system is dead in guidance that you are providing?
Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know what you mean by "my office." You mean the Department of Defense or the office of the secretary of Defense,
Question: Office of the secretary of Defense
Rumsfeld: -- including everybody in it? Which one -- how would that -- come on, John.
Question: Very high-ranking --
Rumsfeld: I don't have to deny or confirm; I just said that, in fact, the document is unsigned and that consultations are, in fact, taking place with a variety of different people.
Question: Mr. Secretary?
Question: Mr. Secretary, without characterizing what any particular country is doing to help in the war on terrorism, would it be safe to infer from your comment that the search for al Qaeda, Taliban, perhaps even senior people, is not limited to Afghanistan, in that --
Rumsfeld: We're looking all over the world.
Question: But also --
Rumsfeld: There's no --
Question: -- there's an area of Pakistan that's right over the -- right near the border area.
Rumsfeld: Well, my goodness, Pakistan has -- had a raid on 11 different sites and gathered up 50 people within the last period of weeks. We've -- people have been arrested in Singapore. People have been arrested in Western Europe. People have been arrested in the United States. We're doing it all over the globe.
Question: Have there been any credible sightings of senior Taliban or al Qaeda in that area of Pakistan, that you're aware of?
Rumsfeld: You know, you never know if something's credible until you have run it to ground and have somebody in hand. So I wouldn't want to suggest that people who provide us intelligence are providing us intelligence that's not credible. But people do their best, and until somebody's been grabbed, you don't have him.
I do not know, in direct answer to your question, of any intelligence that I would personally say is actionable with respect to very senior people at the moment, although my views change on that from day to day, as I see additional pieces of intelligence.
Question: Can we follow up there?
Question: Mr. Secretary, on another budget question, have you come to a fundamental decision that there's not going to be enough money for the Defense Department in coming years to buy all of the fighter aircraft that are planned at the moment -- F-22, F-18, Joint Strike Fighter -- without saying what might be done about what --
Rumsfeld: I think -- I'm trying to think of what's public and what isn't public. I know that the services have addressed this question on their own, as to what is the appropriate number, because they have to make trade-offs as well. And if you look at the current budget and then you look at the five-year plan, your -- the forward-year defense plan, I should say -- a couple of more years come into it this year, and you're faced with a bow wave out there. And resources are always finite, and therefore one has to look clearly at the immediate year ahead -- that in this case would be '03 and '04 -- and then you have to look at the forward-year defense plan, which is, I guess, six years, starting in the next cycle. And then you have to look at what's beyond it. And to the extent people keep slipping things to the right, what you see is an enormous bow wave that can occur unless people look at it today and say, "That isn't really how I want it to be. I don't want that to crowd out everything else." And therefore they begin to start making decisions each year that favorably affect the remaining years in the forward-year defense plan, plus the years beyond the forward-year defense plan.
What will ultimately be decided with respect to numbers of aircraft is -- as with the other weapons systems, there's several ways we're doing this.
And I don't know if I have indicated here or not, but what we decided -- and Paul Wolfowitz has been managing the bulk of this as I've been doing some other things, but what we agreed upon some weeks ago was that in the defense planning guidance, to the extent we had enough data and facts and analysis, we would make a decision. And the defense planning guidance would reflect that. And it would say, Do this, this and this. To the extent we didn't, we would say in a second category, With respect to this subject, come back to us with several options, whatever you think are the reasonable options as to how to address this particular problem, or outcome that you want to achieve. And it may be multiple services addressing it. But be sure you include this one option.
The third category was, go out, address this subject, and come back with whatever options you think make sense. And we don't require that a specific option be addressed. And the latter would be, we're concerned about this; address it, come back with a plan as to how we can develop some conviction as to what our country and what the department ought to do with respect to it.
So a whole series of issues were put in those four categories. And the defense planning guidance, when it comes out, will in some cases deal with a problem with the first one, in some cases the second, the third or the fourth.
Question: It sounds like those three programs I mentioned -- the F- 22, F-18, Joint Strike Fighter -- some or all of them are going to face some major cuts. Is that the --
Rumsfeld: Oh, I think you're making a mistake to draw a conclusion. I haven't indicated anything in my response that it will or won't. It will have to get finished in the next few days. It will get finished. When it's available, it'll be available with the information, and everyone will know it. There are no big secrets, it's just that it hasn't been signed, it hasn't been concluded.
Question: Mr. Secretary --
Question: Mr. Secretary, you knew about this issue last year when we were doing the QDR. The bow wave is not something that just drowned you recently.
Rumsfeld: No, no, it keeps moving to the right. (Laughter.)
Question: Why wasn't this dealt with last year during the QDR process? Why are you doing it a year later when there's momentum for a Crusader and Commanche has built up? It's going to be hard to kill those programs or cut them, if that's an option.
Rumsfeld: Well -- it's an interesting question: Why didn't you do it last year.
Question: Deal with it, simply -- (laughter).
Rumsfeld: The -- yeah. What have you been doing? (Laughter.) Why don't you get to work? Come up with something. (Laughter.) What's the matter with you? (Laughter.)
Question: We were ready to make those decisions last year.
Rumsfeld: Sure. You're ready to make them before they're decidable -- if there is such a word.
Question: Mr. Secretary -- (laughter) -- (inaudible).
Rumsfeld: Well, I'm still debating whether I want to try to answer it or not. I might come back to it. (Laughter.)
Question: Mr. Secretary, you did address a lot of those issues before September 11th, before you had a major crisis on your hands. And this department spent a good part of last year looking at those issues. So I think it is a fair question.
Rumsfeld: I didn't say it wasn't fair. (Laughter.) I just said I didn't know if I wanted to answer it. (Pause.) Well, let me just pause. I'll answer a couple other, and I'll come back.
Question: (Inaudible) --
Rumsfeld: Remind me. Don't let me -- don't let me leave without answering that.
Question: With British troops among the coalition forces on the front lines in eastern Afghanistan, and now British military leaders saying that if their troops capture a senior al Qaeda member, they would not hand them over to the U.S., they would hand them over to the Afghan government, does that present any problems? And why or why not?
Rumsfeld: Not at all, at least not for me. Each sovereign nation has its own set of laws, its own attorney generals, its own procedures, its own political judgments to make. And it seems to me that when one embarks on projects with other countries, you recognize that. You get up in the morning and say, "Sure, they have their own constitution, their own body of laws." In the case of England, as I recall, it's unwritten, but they have one. And it seems perfectly fine to me.
Question: If they capture Osama bin Laden, what happens?
Rumsfeld: Well, they would adhere to the laws of their land and their procedures, just as every other country in the coalition would.
I'll tell you what. Do me a favor and ask Pete a question so I can think about how I want to answer that one. (Laughter.)
Question: If they capture --
Question: General Pace, why don't you tell us -- (inaudible)?
(Laughter.) You're part of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council. You're supposed to look at these types of issues. Why --
Pace: Actually, part of my responsibility is to sit as the chair of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, consisting of myself and the vice-chiefs of each of the services. To answer your question in part, there is a term that we're using now called "operational availability." What military capability does this nation want to deliver anywhere in the world and in what time? Inside of that is the part where you want to be able to destroy things, and you may want to destroy them with artillery or airplanes and the like.
You need, then, to be able to take the amount of power you want to be able to deliver and then discretely talk about how much of that should be airplanes, and of those airplanes, how much of that should be sea-based and how much should be air-based? How much should be artillery? How much should be tanks? So it's not an easy place just to plug in and pluck out airplanes, because you have not only the airplanes themselves, but the balance of that capability with the rest of the force that you want to bring to bear.
And then, of course, you have your budget numbers inside of which you're going to work.
So it is very much an iterative process. You got to get on this train someplace. Last year's QDR was very, very useful in helping us understand what we needed to understand better, if I could say it that way, and we're working through this year's defense planning guidance. And we'll continue with this year's defense planning guidance to do the studies and inform ourselves to be able to come back with recommendations next year.
Question: Is it fair to say you're trying to quantify the costs of last year's QDR now by this exercising, getting a handle on the bow wave in '09 or -- '08 or '09? Is that a fair way to look at it?
Pace: I'm not sure exactly what you mean by that. Let me just say it differently.
The years that are being uncovered now in the future because of the budgeting process are uncovering the years where the amount of money that would need to be spent to buy everything that's in all the programs is just prohibitive. So we now are grappling with, okay, there's a finite amount of money here; what is the capability we want to be able to provide to the nation, and how do we balance the various ways of providing that? It's not only the kinds of weapons you have, but it goes to everything, such as forward basing, or forward positioning of stocks, or things that you put at sea, or keeping your forces home and developing different kinds of airplanes and different kinds of sea transport that'll allow you to get that capability there. So trying to reach in and just pluck one piece is really difficult.
Question: Sir, a question --
Rumsfeld: Keep talking, I'm making some -- (scattered laughter) --
Question: Were U.S. forces rocketed in Pakistan in the last day or two?
Pace: I know for a fact that we have had no U.S. or coalition casualties due to rockets, or due to anything, in the last several days. Whether or not anybody has tried to lob a mortar or rockets into various places, I don't have that fidelity. But I do know that if there's been any firings, it has not impacted where our troops have been.
Question: The Brookings Institution yesterday released a report on homeland security in which they call for a national comprehensive plan. Several members of Congress, Intelligence Committees -- Fred Thompson, Jane Harman were there, said it made sense. The one thing that came up at several points was that they need to do what Don Rumsfeld's done at the Pentagon, this kind of transformational approach in which they go from a threat-based or capabilities-based approach, otherwise we'll keep fighting the last war: i.e., anthrax and airplane hijackings. Does that make any sense to you?
Rumsfeld: I have not seen the report. I think that from our standpoint, both from our conventional threats and our Nuclear Posture Statement, we did come to that conclusion, that it is increasingly difficult to determine exactly where a threat's going to come from, but it is possible to know the kinds of capabilities that can be used against you, and therefore the kinds of capabilities one ought to have to be able to defend against those potential threats.
Given the size of the world and the ability of terrorists to operate in secrecy and in ways that are surprising, the approach we -- the conclusions we came to were exactly what you said. I'm trying to -- there's certainly portions of it that are applicable to homeland security, although I'd want to put my head on that a little bit more and maybe read the report, which I should do.
Question: Do you think we're a little overfocused on preventing, in homeland security, the same kinds ofthings that happened September 11th, with all this resource spending on airports and so on, and not working enough in other --
Rumsfeld: I don't think it would be fair for me to make that judgment off the knowledge base I currently have. I -- Paul Wolfowitz has been spending a lot of time on the Homeland Security Council meetings. I'm reasonably knowledgeable, but to suggest that there's an imbalance in it -- it's not clear to me I would want to do that.
We've gone past a half hour here. Why don't we make -- take one more question and then -- or two more questions, one here and then Tom -- I thought you had a question, Tom.
Question: I blurted out one, but I haven't asked you a question --
Rumsfeld: Well, then we'll take two here. Right. Okay.
Question: Okay. On the Philippines -- on the Philippines -- they're now threatening to stop negotiations and to kill the Burnhams, and I wondered what now your thinking might be for the role of U.S. forces. And what are your thoughts about allowing U.S. forces to go on patrols with Filipino forces?
Rumsfeld: The arrangements we have with the Philippine government are ones that are consistent with their constitution and their policies, and they have been worked out with the government. The government has been very pleased with our degree of involvement, and we have been pleased with the degree of involvement we've had.
I don't know that -- terrorists and hostage-takers make threats and claims continuously. That's part of the technique of terrorizing people and attempting to achieve their goals.
I -- for myself, at the moment, I'm comfortable with where we are and what our current plans are with respect to the Philippines.
Question: Because -- (inaudible) -- there is a report today saying that some U.S. forces in the Philippines are dissatisfied with not being able to get out on patrol, and they think it's hampering their ability to be able to look for the captured missionaries.
Rumsfeld: Well, I haven't seen the reports. I don't know who said them. I know the nature of Americans has always been that we're can-do people. When we get involved in something, we want to do the best we can. And it wouldn't surprise me a bit if some soldier somewhere in the Philippines said "Gee, I wish we could go do this." The situation is that we have an arrangement with the government of the Philippines that fits their constitution. And it is to do that which we're doing. I don't know what one else -- what else I could say. Needless to say, our heart goes out to the Burnhams. They've been there a log time, and from every report it is a difficult captivity for them. And we would hope and pray that they'd be released.
Question: Sir, to be more specific: Filipino officials say that you haven't approved the next phase of the operation because of domestic concerns here about the War Powers Act. And they say --
Rumsfeld: Oh, I've read that. It never crossed my mind -- the War Powers Act.
Question: There's been no issue with the Hill on the War Powers Act?
Rumsfeld: No -- well, not to my knowledge. I mean, the reference I saw was not correct -- that I am delaying something because of some discussions taking place with respect to the War Powers Act. If that is, in fact, taking place, I didn't know it.
(To Gen. Pace.) Have you ever heard of it?
Pace: No, sir. I have not.
Rumsfeld: Gosh, it's hard enough just to keep track of the things that are really happening -- (laughter) -- without having to worry about all the things that aren't really happening.
Question: What about --
Rumsfeld: Now, no no -- (makes sound to cut off reporter).
Question: What about last year?
Question: Thank you.
Rumsfeld: There's the last question. I'm coming to last year. Don't -- listen, I've just been warming up for that. I can't wait to get at it. (Soft laughter.)
Question: Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: I got a whole bloody page of notes here on -- (laughter). Yeah.
Question: Taking you back to Afghanistan for a minute: You said a little while ago that you didn't know of any intelligence that was actionable against senior al Qaeda. But then you said something very interesting; you said your views on that change day to day. So my question is, in fact, has there been a recent or not-so-recent indication to you, in fact, of actionable intelligence? Have you seen something that has led you to change your views day to day? And the --
Rumsfeld: Let me elaborate on that first.
Rumsfeld: I can understand that you would go away with that possible interpretation or question.
Hope springs eternal. We see dozens of pieces of intelligence every day. Every once in a while, one of them looks pretty good and you get hopeful. You say, "My goodness gracious, let's run that one down, for sure." And folks go out and they start running it down, and it turns out that there is something other than success at the end of that rundown. Does that mean the intelligence was bad? No. Could the intelligence have been bad? Yes. But my hopes vary depending on my personal assessment of how good I think a piece of intelligence is. But that is simply hope, it isn't anything intellectual.
I mean, I'm realistic. I know darn well, until we actually accomplish it, it isn't done, and therefore, we simply have to -- that's the nature of this business. This isn't military business, this is law enforcement business. This is intelligence business. It's gathering pieces of intelligence, scraps of intelligence. This is what the FBI and the CIA and sheriff's offices and intelligence organizations around the world do, and they live their lives doing that. They gather this information, they run down leads and they run down leads, they hope, and sometimes it works and sometimes you find something like that. But that was the only reason for my seeming oscillations from day to day.
Question: Understood. So as you look at the al Qaeda that are left in this general region, what is your assessment? Is it your feeling that they still can pose a threat because they can communicate, because they can plan? Can they interact with each other? Can they only stage guerrilla raids against our troops? What are their capabilities that we should really be worried about?
Rumsfeld: Well, first of all, there are a lot of them around the world. Second, they were very well trained. We've seen what some of them can do. We've looked at their training manuals. We've managed to have visits with folks who have been through their training school. And there is no question but that, A, there were a lot of them, and B, they were very well trained. Third, there's also no question but that they have been reasonably well financed. Now, that combination is lethal and dangerous.
Question: (Off mike) -- in Afghanistan, is this whole region that you're looking at right now?
Rumsfeld: There is no question but that in the two locations I've said, in the country and over the borders, there still are a non-trivial number of those folks that would very much like to take back the country. They would very much like to attack coalition forces. They would like to destabilize the Karzai government. And anyone who thinks that's not the case doesn't really understand the situation there. It is our task to see that that doesn't happen.
Question: For those of us who may have not have paid attention, what two locations are we talking about?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I'm sorry. Inside the country, the ones that have (melded/melted ?) into the villages, and then the others who have gone over the borders.
Question: Mr. Secretary, a small point of clarification just so you don't leave somebody with a misimpression.
In -- just following up on Brett's earlier question --
Question: -- if it turned out that Great Britain or some other coalition ally were to capture a senior al Qaeda individual, turn it over to the government in Afghanistan, is there any question in your mind that if that some individual the United States government wanted to take possession of, that you'd have any trouble getting that person?
Rumsfeld: I think the way I'd like to leave it is roughly where I left it: that each sovereign nation does things their way, and that's fair. When one makes a choice, as we did, that we could do a better job tracking down terrorists and defending the American people and preventing more innocent men, women and children in this country from being killed by terrorists, that we would be better off trying to cooperate with a series of other nations -- once you make that decision, you have to accept the benefit and the elements of that arrangement, of a coalition, that are historic. And it isn't even a close call for me, but -- that we did the right thing, that we have asked countries to help us, because we can share intelligence, we can -- their forces can be more effective for us, and the net effect of it is that we have been able to prevent terrorist acts around the world, without question, because of the cooperation from so many nations in so many ways -- financial, political, diplomatic, economic, as well as military.
Question: Last year --
Rumsfeld: Last year --
Rumsfeld: -- why didn't you do everything last year? Well, let me first tell you what we did last year.
Question: (Off mike.) (laughter)
Rumsfeld: We fashioned a new defense strategy, as has been mentioned earlier, that is a capabilities-based strategy. It is a strategy that is more appropriate for the 21st century than what we had, we believe, we are convinced, we are unanimously convinced -- the senior civilian and military leadership. You don't do something like that in five minutes, and you don't do it lightly. If you're going to tear down what is, you darn well better have something better.
And what flows from strategy? One of the things that flows from strategy are weapons capabilities.
Second, we fashioned a new force-sizing construct and moved away from the decade-old two-major-regional-conflict approach to one that without question is going to enable us to size our forces and organize our forces and arrange our forces in ways that will be better for this country.
Next, we have completed a Nuclear Posture Review that is a significant adjustment in how our country's arranged. We fashioned last year's Defense Planning Guidance. We reorganized space responsibilities. We have either -- we have completed our Unified Command Plan, where -- the most significant set of changes in that in General Myers' memory.
We have selected, I'm going to guess, eight, 10, 12, 13 four-star officers, not the least of which is standing next to me. And that is something that is going to have an effect on the defense establishment in the United States for the next decade, because all the people that get arrayed around these new senior leaders will help shape where this department and our armed services go in the period ahead.
We have been involved in the global war on terrorism. We have come close to completing the contingency planning guidance, which is enormously important as to what this country is going to be arranged to do, and how, and in what ways. All those things bear on the questions that you raised.
I look back and say to myself, how is that -- furthermore, we did it with practically no Bush appointees -- none, except me, for the first two months, and after that Paul, and then we dribbled a few more over the next six, eight, 10, 12 months and got the last one confirmed last month.
Now, two things; I'd rather be right than fast. I wish it were possible to do everything at once. The procedures in this department start two years ago and then run, and the freight train comes down the track and it's filled way over there, and until it runs to the end, you can't see what's inside of it. And every time you try to reach in, it's like putting your hand in a gear box, because this depends on that, and this depended on that, and each piece depended on something else. And you think you're making a wise decision if you grab in the middle of it, but in fact, if all the layers that led to those things are not readdressed back up, you end up with a situation that is kind of ad hoc; it is -- it's a perfectly responsible, isolated decision, but if you make a series of them, they end up random; they don't end up with coherence. And so all of this appetite to kill this, or do that, or start this, my attitude is, look, we'll do it the best we can. And as I look back, I say to myself, "Not bad."
Question: Mr. Secretary, could I just ask one thing about Gitmo --
Rumsfeld: Oh, no, no. I love that ending. I -- (laughter). If you think I'm going to mess that one up, you're wrong! No, sir! I'm out of here.
Question: Are you resuming the flights to Gitmo?
Rumsfeld: I'm out of here!