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DoD Newsbriefing: Tuesday, March 12, 2002

DoD Newsbriefing: Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Source: News Transcript from the United States Department of Defense. DoD News Briefing: Victoria Clarke, ASD PA, Tuesday, March 12, 2002 - 11:30 a.m. EST. Also participating was Air Force Brigadier General John W. Rosa, Jr., deputy director for current operations, Operations Directorate, the Joint Staff.

Clarke: Good afternoon, everybody -- good morning. It has been six months since September 11th, when we were first attacked. And it is always important to remember what we are about. Our mission is to destroy terrorism around the world, the threat to our security, to our people, to our freedom. We will continue to seek out and destroy terrorist networks. As the secretary and the president have talked about recently, we will equip and train and help friendly nations who are seeking to confront domestic terrorist threats. And we will use all the fronts necessary: economic, diplomatic, legal, financial and military.

As we all know very well, this campaign cannot be conducted just by us alone. And yesterday President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld welcomed the representatives from dozens of coalitions from around the world. And we thank them for their support, for their contributions, for their commitment, and we will continue to work closely with them as we go forward. And today we welcome the Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Ivanov on his first official visit to the United States.

Russia has been a valuable partner and an ally in the war on terrorism. Minister Ivanov and his team will be here for meetings with Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Powell and other officials. He will go the White House this afternoon as we prepare the way for the upcoming summit in May. We thank them for their support. We're glad they're here.

And I'll turn it over to General Rosa.

Rosa: Thank you.

Good morning. Operation Anaconda continues. With much fewer in number, al Qaeda forces are still holed up in small pockets scattered throughout the area. In the last 24 hours we've flown more than 180 sorties over Afghanistan and dropped more than a hundred bombs, bringing the total bombs dropped in this operation to more than 2,500.

Many of you have been asking about an area called "The Whale" or "The Whale's Back" that the secretary referred to yesterday. We've got an area photo of this area, which provides a nice picture of the terrain we've been operating in and clearly depicts the hill mass you've heard referred to.

Today we have two videos of strikes in support of Operation Anaconda.

The first video's of an F-16 strike from Sunday, March the 10th. The weapon destroyed the cave, which has been identified as occupying al Qaeda troops (sic).

The final video is of an F-14 strike on an al Qaeda forces dug into the positions near the whaleback. This strike is also from the 10th of March.

And with that, we'll take your questions.

Clarke: Charlie.

Question: Torie and the general, a senior Afghan general has been quoted in Gardez as saying that this battle is, for all intents and purposes, virtually over -- that U.S. and Afghan forces have taken over the Shahi-Kot Valley and that remaining al Qaeda are fleeing. What do you have to say to that?

Rosa: I wouldn't characterize it as being over. Certainly the heaviest of fighting we've seen in the early days. The last 72 hours has been more sporadic, focused on smaller pockets of Taliban and al Qaeda. But in an area this big and this -- this diverse, with as many caves, I would say that there is still work to be done.

Question: The significance of the whaleback -- is that the primary objective -- where the largest concentration is?

Rosa: No, it's a -- it's an area that's just probably west of the most heavily fought area. It's kind of -- there's a saddle in between there that had some objectives in it, and I think it's not uncharacteristic. When we fly, when we do operations, folks come up with names, so there's no significance to the name except that it does look like a whale's back, out of the water.

Question: The operations there continuing, or is that --

Rosa: There are -- as we speak, we are clearing the back of the whale's back.

Clarke: I think the characterizations we feel comfortable with are "winding down." I think the secretary used "mopping up." But there clearly is still work to be done, and there clearly are other pockets of resistance we expect will pop in other parts of Afghanistan.

Question: Torie, can I do a follow-up on that? There are reports from the scene saying that some of the Afghan military leaders are trying to negotiate with the al Qaeda and Taliban still there. In effect, if they will throw down their weapons, they can take their marbles and go home. One, is that true? And two, if it is, how does that sit with the word "destroy," used by both you and the secretary -- to destroy the al Qaeda and the Taliban?

Clarke: Give it a shot and then let General Rosa address it.

What we've seen, and we've seen consistently, is the Afghans working with us to pursue the al Qaeda and the Taliban and working closely with us to make sure numbers of them don't escape, don't go back across the border, aren't free to continue to wreak the havoc in the country that they have been.

I'd be surprised if there weren't some reports of that. But what we've seen in general is close cooperation with the Afghans to make sure we can pursue these people.

Question: But no major deals, as far as you know?

Clarke: Not -- not as far as I know.

Rosa: No. We haven't -- we haven't heard any of that. I've been -- they -- in the last 24 hours the Afghan forces have been fighting hand in hand with us. In fact, they're doing a lot of the missions right now up and around The Whale. So they're still engaged.

Question: But is the U.S. willing to negotiate for surrender of these forces?

Clarke: There are not negotiations for surrender. They can still have the means to surrender if they want. But we haven't seen any indications that they're inclined to do that.

Question: In other words, there's no pause in the U.S. offensive here for any kind of negotiation.

Rosa: That is correct. There is no pause.

Question: And in terms of numbers that may have been able to escape this 60, 70-square mile box, given the terrain, it's probably inevitable that some have escaped.

Rosa: Sure.

Question: What do you know about numbers of even who they may have been who have already escaped that area?

Rosa: That's a good question, Jim. What we know is the large numbers of folks grouped up, the 150, 200-group people that we saw initially in the onset, we haven't seen that in the last 72 hours. We've seen smaller pockets. And where we've been able to engage them, we've engaged them. And as you say, in an area this rugged, you think about an area that runs from, say, Boulder, out in Colorado, all the way to Denver. That's about 60 miles, and is square. And in rugged terrain, to think that onesie, twosie small pockets of folks couldn't get out of that area I think would be naive. But we're not seeing large numbers of folks. We've got troops in position in the high ground and in the -- guarding the escape routes, and I think we're doing a pretty good job.

Question: Are there any estimates on how many may have been able to slip this --

Rosa: I haven't seen any estimates.

Clarke: If it's any, it's very small numbers.

Question: Have U.S. forces ever made it to the large tunnel complex that was described as having smoke coming out a mile away, and --

Rosa: I'm not -- I'm not sure, Jack, which one you're describing, but I know that there are upwards of 40 caves in that area. And we have started, but are nowhere near, completing entering the large majority of those caves. You can imagine there -- with the booby traps, with land mines, with unexpended ordnance, we've got to go very slow, very calculating, very carefully.

Question: Have you found things in those caves beyond what was described almost 10 days ago when you first got into the caves?

Rosa: I was curious and I asked that question this morning to the folks in CENTCOM. They have not found any other evidence that they're telling me about.

Clarke: Pam?

Question: Does the battle plan remain the same, with U.S. forces in the center of the circle and Afghan forces doing blocking positions, or has that switched? And have there been any new casualties on either side that you know of in the last 72 hours?

Rosa: No new casualties. The casualty figures remain eight killed in action, and these are U.S. troops; 49 wounded; and then this morning, 34 of those 49 are back on duty.

Question: And has there been a change in that basic battle plan, with those U.S. forces in the center and Afghans blocking them?

Rosa: I think the way you characterize it is still pretty much intact.

Question: Do you have any current numbers on how many folks are there on either side fighting?

Rosa: The numbers are still around 1,200 U.S. But again, you see -- you saw reports yesterday of 400 that came out and refit and regroup. We're still moving folks back and forth. Some of those folks have been out eight, nine days to bring them back and to get them refit and rearmed. So at any one time it would be difficult for me to say there's this many people, but we've had upwards of 1,200 Americans in there.

Question: General?

Clarke: Jamie? In the back.

Question: How would you characterize the role of U.S. troops that will be going to Yemen? Will they be limited to training and equipping, such as the mission under contemplation in Georgia? Will it be more like the Philippines, where the troops are actually able to go out near the front lines and be closer to combat?

Clarke: Details are still being worked out. We clearly have a commitment to work with the government. The government of Yemen has made it clear they want to work with us; they want assistance in fighting the terrorism in their own backyard. We have about 20 people over there right now, a small team from Central Command that's working out the details of what will be done. But the details, the final decisions of exactly what they'll be doing are being worked out.

Question: You don't have numbers?

Clarke: No. No.

Question: Just to clarify on the Afghan and U.S. forces, when the Afghan commanders say they are making a final push and they're going into the mountains, you're still saying it's the U.S. forces that are doing the heavy fighting on the inside; is that correct? I mean, can you further describe the relationship between the two?

Rosa: I'll try. The term "heavy fighting" in the last 36 to 72 hours would probably be -- I wouldn't characterize it that way. There has been sporadic fighting, but fighting continues. And I can't speak for the Afghanis. But I will tell you that we are fighting together. In many cases, we're fighting side by side. And to say that we're going to go up into the mountains and clear, I think that's probably -- I probably and you probably wouldn't say it that way. It's slow going.

I don't think any forces -- us, the Afghanis -- are going to rush up there and clear it.

Clarke: Jim?

Question: General, can I do a follow-up on that, just -- same subject --

Clarke: Sure.

Question: Some of the confusion is that there's this group of Afghans who came down from Kabul to sort of have a wrap party or something after it was all over, that were not part of the plan. And those are some of the same people who say there's a pause in the fighting, you know, they say there are negotiations going on, and various things. Are those people fighting with U.S. forces, or are U.S. forces fighting with the same Afghan forces that were present from the beginning, the three commanders and so on and so forth?

Rosa: The group that you're talking about, that kind of came in the last couple of days -- they are fighting, and we're fighting with them. It's, I think, two or three groups of Afghan leaders that we're fighting with right now.

Clarke: Mm-hmm. Tom? Tom?

Question: Somebody in the Karzai government mentioned yesterday some additional pockets. I think he identified four areas where he said there were additional pockets and that Afghan troops were going out to engage. Do you know what he's talking about and have anything on that?

Rosa: I -- it doesn't surprise me that there are additional pockets. And we've talked from up here over the last couple of weeks about those pockets. Which pockets he's talking about and who made those comments I hadn't seen.

Question: But he's also talking, if I'm not mistaken, that there supposedly are U.S. Special Forces already out, and these are areas different than where this latest Gardez combat has been going.

Rosa: Right.

Question: They are areas around Kabul, for example, and supposedly Afghan forces are joining U.S. Special Forces for additional potential combat. Is that happening?

Clarke: I think we've said all along, one, there would be additional pockets of resistance, that we would look for them, we would use surveillance, we would use intel, we would work with the Afghans to find them and to seek them out, and we'd work with them in an effort to end them and end their activity, one way or the other. Exactly where they are I don't know. Exactly where the Special Forces are at any given time -- if we knew, I doubt we'd be saying from up here. But it is exactly what we've said all along -- that there's still a lot of work to be done in Afghanistan, and there are still pockets of resistance that we'll have to root out.


Question: Torie, there are recent reports that Iraq may be holding an American pilot, presumably Lieutenant Commander Scott Speicher. What's the Pentagon's current assessment as to whether or not an American pilot is being held in Iraq?

Clarke: Since 1991 the government's been working very hard, trying to determine what happened to him.

He is currently listed as MIA. The only thing I can add to the conversation is, Iraq could be more helpful, if it wanted to, in determining the fate.

Question: Well, do you believe that he's being held? Or is it possible that he's alive?

Clarke: We believe he's MIA. That means you don't know.

Question: Is there any new or recent evidence to indicate more strongly that he might be alive?

Clarke: I've not seen any recent or new evidence.

Rosa: There -- obviously, there was an article in the paper yesterday, and it came out with -- I can't remember which news service. That is still -- (laughter) -- that information, Charlie, was not -- to my knowledge, was not new information.

And it's important, I think, that the American people understand that we have in the Pentagon a special group of people that work all unaccounted-for folks. This is a front-burner issue for us. We take this very seriously.

Clarke: Let's go way in the back -- behind Jamie.

Question: Have you had any further indications of women and children in the mountains there? And of those several hundred figures that have been used as people killed, is that all al Qaeda and Taliban, or does that include women and children who may have been with them?

Rosa: I have heard no reports of women and children either in and around those caves or in the killed in action.

Clarke: I do remember some time ago -- I've lost track of days or weeks -- there was some speculations they might be --

Rosa: Early on.

Clarke: -- but we haven't seen reports of it. Mm-mm.


Question: Well, have you gotten any information about any al Qaeda or Taliban leaders that might've been in the area, might've been killed either in the Gardez fighting or even further back that you might be willing to talk about? For instance, that Predator strike in the mountains in that region.

Clarke: Talking about the recent activity -- General Rosa can pile on here -- I haven't seen any names, ranks, serial numbers given on any of those that we thought were killed.

Question: Have there been any al Qaeda, Taliban fighters taken prisoner in the fighting to date?

Clarke: (To Gen. Rosa.) You have detainee information?

Rosa: Right.

We have -- we've detained less than 20 folks --

Clarke: -- in the Operation Anaconda.

Rosa: -- in the Operation Anaconda. And it's important to realize that some of those folks will be simple farmers, will be citizens. And until the operations's over and we complete our assessions (sic) [assessments], it'd probably be too early to tell who those folks are. But we've certainly detained them.

Question: Can you tell us what the threshold was for detaining them -- what would have led a commander or U.S. soldier to detain a particular person?

Rosa: Some of them were captured in the fighting as we progressed.

Question: Right. But these were people that were threatening U.S. soldiers, or were they -- you said that some of them may turn out to be just simple farmers --

Rosa: Right. There was an initial group of four before the heavy fighting started, I think, that we came across.

And in an operation like that, probably for their own safety we would take them. But several of those folks that I characterized were taken after fighting.

Question: How -- how many were captured in the fighting?

Rosa: I can't tell you. It's less than 20.

Question: How many killed? Any idea?

Rosa: Several hundred, Ivan. But again, we're not characterizing it as numbers.

Question: There have been reports that some of them were Iranians. Do you have any information clarifying that?

Rosa: I'd heard that, and we have no confirmation.

Clarke: I haven't seen anything on identifications of the recent detainees. I saw a report, but I haven't seen --

Question: I'm sorry, can you tell us -- just to follow that up, can you tell us anything about where they're being held, whether they're being interrogated, what their current status is?

Rosa: No.

Clarke: I don't know where they're being held, but beginning to question them would be a logical part of the process to determine do you keep them, do you let them go.

Rosa: You remember we have two holding facilities: one in Kandahar, and one in Bagram. But I don't know where those folks are.

Clarke: Bill.

Question: Back on Commander Speicher for a moment. Senator Pat Robertson has written a letter asking that he be re-classified as a POW as opposed to MIA. Is that under active consideration, and what would lead you to do that if you decided to do it?

Clarke: Well, you get into areas I don't know. I know it was information analysis over the last several years that led the Navy to declare him MIA. And I know again we work very hard to try to resolve the fate. I used to work for a POW and know that community fairly well. The general has some familiarity with the issues. And for the sake of the family, for the sake of people in uniform, we want to try to resolve those cases. But I go back to what I said before: the question should be posed to the Iraqis, because they can and should provide more information as to his fate.


Question: Sir, can you talk to us a little bit now about how many al Qaeda does the U.S. believe were actually in the area at the beginning of Operation Anaconda, and how does that square with your going-in assumptions? A continual thing we've read from troops who were there was that "We were told one thing and it turned out to be another." After all the dust settles, how many al Qaeda was the U.S. facing, how does that square with your going-in position?

Rosa: Well, I think you said it: the dust has to settle. I've not been part of an operation that we went in and told troops exactly what we thought. You know, we never really know. We characterize it. But I'm not sure what those young people were told. But all indications were that there was a -- it was a large mass of -- a large pocket of enemy. And I'm not sure what numbers they were told.

Question: Well, what numbers do you have now, or can you share? Is it in about the thousand to 1,500 range, or -- ?

Rosa: I'd say it's less than a thousand.

Question: Less than a thousand. More than five, or -- can you -- ? (Laughter.)

Clarke: It's all estimates. It's all approximate.

Rosa: To stand here and try to tell you an exact number, I think I would be fooling myself.

Clarke: Mm-hmm. But the important point -- I don't know if this is where you're headed -- but the important point is the need to be adaptable, the need to be flexible, the need to adjust according to the changing circumstances that are the very essence of Afghanistan. And that's what they're doing.

I don't think, I mean, unless -- I don't think we'll ever get hard and fast numbers that will satisfy some people. So we try to do ballpark estimates, and we try to give it our best estimate.

Question: Sir, are there similar pockets throughout the country, though, of under a thousand range, or was this fairly unique?

Rosa: I don't know. I think that the pockets are still out there, as we've always said. And you have to go and treat each one of these pockets individually. I mean, you can't just say, "Well, there's a pocket there of probably 3(00) or 400." You've got to do the intelligence assessment, use our all-source intelligence, to determine what you think. And I think that to try and characterize all those pockets the same, you've got to look at each one independently. But those pockets are there.

Clarke: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. To the middle.

Question: Torie, to follow up on detainees, has the Pakistani military detained anyone trying to cross the border yet? And if so, are they going to be turned over to the U.S.? Will they be held by Pakistan? What will be the arrangement there?

Rosa: To my knowledge, the Pakistanis have not killed or captured any -- from -- (inaudible) --

Clarke: You mean from the most recent round of activity?

Question: Yes -- (off mike) --

Clarke: I have not seen reports, but they've been very, very cooperative thus far. They've been very helpful on the border and been very cooperative with us in terms of how we detain certain people and not detain others.

Question: Would they then turn them over to the U.S. military?

Clarke: I think it depends on the kinds of people who might get detained. But you're getting into hypotheticals. The best thing is to look at the track record and say they've been very helpful and very cooperative on all aspects, including the disposition of detainees.

Question: Can we return to the surrender issue again? There are reports that the Afghan government, Karzai -- a representative of his government is trying to negotiate an end to the fighting with the remaining people in Gardez and, according to what he is saying, that a negotiated end or surrender would involve letting these people go. Is -- first of all, do you know that such conversations are happening? And what would be your position on them surrendering and being allowed to go?

Clarke: I'm not aware of those conversations or those negotiations. However you're characterizing them, I'm just not aware of them. The al Qaeda, the Taliban know if they want to surrender, they can.

Question: But --

Clarke: That is not about negotiations.

Question: They can surrender, but that doesn't mean they're going to walk, right? Or does it?

Clarke: It's very clear what their choices are. They can surrender. They can fight. We have made it very clear what our intent is. We have made it very and are working very closely, in a transparent fashion, with the Afghan interim government about what our expectations are.

And they have worked with us very cooperatively on that front. I'm not aware of those reports. So I just don't want to speculate about what the implications of them might be.

Question: Does the United States oppose the freeing of these people if they surrender?

Clarke: I think you're talking about hypotheticals when you say "these people". I don't know which "these people" you're talking about. We've made --

(Cross talk.)

Clarke: I think they've made it very clear that we haven't seen any evidence of their desire or willingness to surrender. They have -- most of them have made it very clear, their willingness and desire to fight it to the end.

Question: But Torie, as --

Question: I understand that. But we're asking a specific question here: is it U.S. policy that these people, if they surrender, would be -- is it U.S. policy that the United States would oppose them being allowed to leave the scene of the battle, or is it U.S. policy that these people be turned in to United States forces as captives?

Clarke: The U.S. policy depends on the people. And I don't think you can make a generalization. You know, we found in the last few weeks that there were a farmer, or at least a few farmers who were mixed up with the crowd, and we let them go. I don't think you can make a blanket assessment of the people who are there. I do think you can make a generalization about the kind of people who are there who have made it very, very clear their intent thus far to fight to the end and to kill and wound our people and the Afghans who are fighting with us.

Question: Those are the people we're talking about. Those people are the people we're talking about.

Question: If al Qaeda surrender or are captured, are you willing to let them go? You said before --

Clarke: I said it depends -- it depends on the individual. There may be - [Please see clarification after the briefing]

Question: Are you aware, is there any position by Hamid Karzai to allow any of these people involved in this battle to be set free?

Clarke: I'm not. I'm not.

Question: Could you --

Question: On the summit, going back to the conference, the secretary said a week or so ago that he was working the whole package of CINCs [commanders in chief], of commanders for appointment. Admiral Blair's time runs out in April, Congress will be going on their Easter vacation. So, we're kind of getting around to a time crunch here. Is there any -- do you have any feeling as to when the PAC -- the CINCPAC [Commander in Chief Pacific Command] nomination or any others is going to come down?

Clarke: I don't have a sense of timing. I know he's working a lot on it. I know he considers it one of his priorities. He has said a few times, including from this podium, he thinks one of the most effective things we can do in the transformation going forward is to have the right kind of people heading up those efforts. So I know it's a top priority for him, but I don't have a sense of timing for you.

Question: So he hasn't sent a list to the White House yet of his choices.

Clarke: I am not aware of a list that has been sent.


Question: Can you give us any sense of when the majority of the detainees were taken? You said in the last 72 hours: was it in the first days of the fighting --

Rosa: I don't know. I know we had some -- I'd say four or five -- in the early days. But I don't know which days those folks were taken.

Clarke: Let's go way in the back.

Question: General, there was a report in the London Observer over the weekend that the U.S. has begun a discreet military buildup in the Persian Gulf region, including the deployment of a battalion of Apache helicopters to Kuwait. Can you say anything about

that? Is there such a buildup underway?

Rosa: We've got forces there that have been there since 1990 And to characterize it as a buildup -- I'm certainly not aware of it.

Question: Torie?

Clarke: Right there.

Question: Could I ask about the Nuclear Posture Review again? Could you explain: On what basis did China make the candidate list?

Clarke: I think it's important to say a couple of things about the Nuclear Posture Review: One, it is a review. It is one of many reviews of nuclear weapons over many years. It is required by Congress. It is not an operational plan. It is not a plan of any kind. The current Nuclear Posture Review, which is required by Congress, I think reflects the world in which we find ourselves -- that it's changed. It's changed significantly. It is hardly likely that we face an all-out nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. It is more likely that we have to face very real and growing and changing threats -- weapons of mass destruction -- from a variety of places. So the Nuclear Posture reflects that. It is not an operational document of any kind; it is not a targeting document of any kind.

And let's do --

Question: Can I follow up?

Question: Could I follow up on that? Because there's a prevalent perception, based on the press reporting on this issue, that this document somehow lowers the threshold for nuclear war for the United States. Could you address whether that perception is accurate or not?

Clarke: I think there were some headlines that were misleading and incorrect -- misleading and incorrect and somewhat sensational. If you actually look at what Nuclear Posture Review is, it's an assessment -- it's a reflection of the world in which we find ourselves. It also includes a focus on conventional weapons. It also includes a focus on missile defense. And what it does is, it raises the bar for broad deterrence strategies that reflects the world in which we find ourselves. So I think if you actually look at what it is and not necessarily look at the headlines, then you get a better picture and reflection of what it is.

Question: Can you really --

Question: But --

(Cross talk.)

Clarke: You're the only one that didn't get it. We will be happy to have J.D. Crouch [assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy] come back down and brief those portions of it that he can. Tony's shaking his head "No."

Question: (Off mike) -- in Afghanistan. You can't give it to everybody. Give it to us --

Question: Is China on the current list of potential U.S. nuclear targets in the Nuclear Posture?

Clarke: It's not a targeting document. It's not a targeting list. It just isn't. If you look at what it is, that's not what it is about. It is a reflection of the fact that we're in a very different world and that we face different kinds of threats from a variety of sources, and so we should adjust accordingly.

But it's a review. It's what it is.

Question: So it's a policy -- contains policy recommendations. It may not necessarily be a targeting list, but it's not just a piece of paper that floats around in a vacuum. It reflects philosophy and it reflects policy recommendations. On what basis does the administration plan to act on the recommendations -- the reported recommendations -- contained in that document?

Clarke: Well, it's for people at a higher pay grade than mine to decide what they may do with this policy reflection. But I think, if you take a step back, it is absolute common sense that it should reflect and be sensitive to the very different world in which we find ourselves.

Question: Can I ask that in a different way? The previous administration concluded confidence-building measures with both Russia and China, detargeting their nuclear weapons. Has this posture review affected that, or are those still in effect?

Clarke: I don't know. Again, I'd be happy to have J.D. Crouch come down and give you yet another briefing on those aspects, if he can.

Let's do two more and then wrap this up.

Question: A quick one. The meeting with Minister Ivanov -- can you give us a few details on what they're going to be discussing today and tomorrow?

Clarke: It's meetings -- plural. And it is another in a very active and robust schedule of meetings, phone calls that Secretary Rumsfeld has had with his counterpart from Russia. They discussed the way forward with Russia on a broad range of issues --

Question: Is that --

Clarke: -- for example, the war on terrorism; for example, more transparency in our relationship overall. They will be down here tomorrow, and I would feel far better having the two of them brief you on their conversations. Okay.

Question: Georgia, Chechnya?

Clarke: On a broad range of issues --

Question: Nuclear --

Clarke: -- broad range of issues, including -- and a heavy focus, obviously, on the war on terrorism. As I said, they've been very helpful.

We are going to do one more. Pam?

Question: Could you explain why you're unwilling to make an unequivocal policy statement with regard to the surrender issue? You guys have been very clear from that podium that al Qaeda and Taliban that are fighting U.S. forces should not be set free. Is it -- is the reason why, in the event that they do let

-- in the event that they are let go by Afghans, you don't want to have to say that the Afghans did the wrong thing? I mean, you don't want there to be any daylight between the two of you?

Clarke: I think you're reading too much into it. We have made it very clear what we expect and want to have happen, and we have made it very clear that those --

Question: (Off mike) -- why you won't make it clear right now, saying --

Clarke: Because of the -- however many -- we don't know exact number -- however many people who may still be there, I don't know how many of them are farmers. I just don't know. And so I'm not going to make a blanket assessment about each one of them.

Question: (Off mike) -- that have been shooting at Americans and Afghan soldiers in Operation Anaconda? Why won't you all just say, unequivocally, they should not be allowed to --

Clarke: It is highly unlikely we would want them to go free. It is very, very unlikely we would want them to go free. If they have been threatening us, if they have been shooting us, if they have been trying to kill us or the Afghans with whom we are fighting, we would not want them to go free, because obviously they would pose a threat to us and others.

Question: Can you clarify one more thing -- just one more thing? Earlier I cut off another reporter, whose voice is not nearly as loud as mine. She's been trying desperately to get a clarification. Could you just take the question? (Laughter.)

Clarke: That was the last question. Thank you.

This transcript was prepared by the Federal News Service Inc., Washington, D.C. Federal News Service is a private company for other Defense related transcripts not available through this site, contact (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).