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DoD News Briefing: Monday, October 15, 2001

DoD News Briefing: Monday, October 15, 2001

DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Monday, October 15, 2001 - 12:30 p.m. EDT. Also participating: Air Force General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Slides and videos shown in this briefing are on the Web. Source: News Transcript from the United States Department of Defense. Pol E Charkhi Vehicle Maintenance

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. The military campaign continued through the weekend. We're making some progress in our efforts to create the conditions for sustained anti-terrorist operations inside Afghanistan. Chairman Myers will provide some details on battle damage. We continue to use all appropriate means to root out and find and destroy al Qaeda and Taliban targets throughout the country.

In addition to the military campaign, we are continuing our humanitarian efforts on behalf of the Afghan people. Over the weekend, we dropped another 68,000-plus rations into Afghanistan, for a total of some 275,000 rations since the effort began. This is bringing needed food to hungry Afghan people, as well as a message of friendship from the American people.

Many, if not most Afghans, I believe, want little or nothing to do with the Taliban, who have turned their nation into a base from which foreign terrorists wage war on the rest of the world while they starve or are displaced. Through leaflet drops, which began this weekend, and radio broadcasts into Afghanistan, we're working to make clear to the Afghan people that we support them, and we want to help free their nation from the grip of the Taliban and their foreign terrorist allies.

The war is being fought on many fronts, as you know -- military, humanitarian, information, diplomatic, financial, as well as economic. All of these are critical elements in a long, sustained campaign that will continue until we have finished the job of rooting out terrorist networks and putting them out of the business, not just the Taliban and the al Qaeda, but other networks in other nations as well.

General Myers?

Gen. Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

As the secretary said, we did conduct operations against al Qaeda, and those who support them, on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday we struck about 17 planned target areas that included terrorist camps, military training facilities, airfields, air defenses, and command and control facilities. Approximately 25 aircraft were planned for Saturday's strikes, including about 15 carrier-based tactical aircraft and about eight to ten long-range bombers. Additionally, we fired approximately 15 Tomahawks from both U.S. and British ships and submarines.

Yesterday we struck in seven planned target areas that included military training facilities, surface-to-air missile storage sites, garrison areas, troop staging areas, and al Qaeda infrastructure. We used approximately the same number of aircraft that we used on Saturday.

We also dropped leaflets for the first time, and the areas are marked on the map that I think they're going to put up now. And we have copies of these leaflets for everyone afterwards. (Click for Arabic version)

Today we have two sets of pre- and post-strike images to show you from facilities near Charkhi, Afghanistan.

The first pre-strike image is of Taliban facilities used to repair and store military vehicles. And in the post-strike image, you can see that we were successful in destroying or damaging several of these facilities.

The second pre-strike image depicts another facility. This one was used to repair and store both armored military vehicles and ordnance.

The post-strike imagery shows we had considerable success here as well.

Now I'd like to show you some camera footage showing target destruction. Can we roll the tape, please? The first clip here depicts a hit on a terrorist training camp consisting of a series of buildings, bunkers and training areas. Al Qaeda uses such facilities for training individual terrorists and for small-unit training. The second clip depicts a hit on a surface-to-air missile support site used for storing, maintaining and repairing missiles and their components. As you can see, we hit the SAM [surface-to-air-missile]canisters here between the earth berms. And the final clip shows us striking one of a number of Taliban fighter aircraft. We continue to take out these aircraft as we find them.

Finally, I want to note that we have used hundreds of munitions in the first week of our visible military operation. Saturday, of course, we had an unfortunate case where we missed the target near the Kabul airfield. Our planners, in fact, do everything they can to avoid such mishaps, but sometimes these things, unfortunately, happen. Operations continue.

And with that, I think we're ready to take your questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary, might I ask, or General, I know you don't discuss the current operations, but are cruise missiles being used again today? And if you're running out of targets in Afghanistan, how come the heaviest raids of the war to date, daylight raids, are yesterday and today?

Rumsfeld: Well, actually, the target set that existed at the outset has been significantly enhanced by additional information from the ground and by additional attention from the air. And as a result, the numbers of targets that are available have continued to be roughly the number that they were the day before, notwithstanding the kinds of film you've just seen where we've had success. We're hopeful, as relationships with people on the ground develop and evolve, that the targeting information will be still better. And indeed, that seems to be proving to be the case.

Q: And cruise missiles, are you using cruise missiles again today?

Gen. Myers: It's quite possible. You know, we use a full range, and it just -- it depends on the particular target. There are some collateral damage concerns that might dictate one munition over another as we plan to minimize that. So it all goes into the equation.

(Cross talk.)

Rumsfeld: (Inaudible) -- today's still going on. And second, you can't know that because as emerging targets evolve, it's the kind of an answer that could be wrong five minutes ago.

Q: Are you hitting more and more troop positions?

Rumsfeld: I don't know more and more, but there have been troop concentrations that have been attacked every day of the last three or four that I can recall.

Gen. Myers: Yes, sir. That's correct.

Q: Mr. Secretary, what do your assessments tell you about the various reports of civilian casualties?

Rumsfeld: The -- General Myers mentioned one where we believe four civilians were the unintended casualties of an errant missile fire. Most of the Taliban activity has been shepherding journalists around to things they claim caused civilian damage. We do not have information that validates any of that. Indeed, some of the numbers are ridiculous.

And -- but I would say this, that we have been going after ammunition-storage areas. And on occasion, when we've been highly successful, the result has been that there have been a number of quite powerful secondary explosions that have occurred.

And in at least one of those cases, there's no question but that people who were in close proximity to these isolated ammunition dumps -- who very likely were there for a good reason, because they were a part of that activity -- may very well have been casualties.

Q: Mr. Secretary, could you --

Q: Mr. Secretary, a follow-up. Saudi Arabia's Interior minister today criticized these casualties and thought -- I want to understand. You're saying you don't have any confirmation on this 200 at Karam, and maybe don't know still about the four U.N. workers? Is that what you're saying?

Rumsfeld: No, I think that we --

Q: And overall, do you feel that this will weaken the support that you're getting for your campaign in Afghanistan?

Rumsfeld: I think that we know of certain knowledge that the Taliban leadership and al Qaeda are accomplished liars; that they go on television, and they say things that we know are absolutely not true. We know they are taking journalists -- to the extent there are journalists in the area -- into areas that they want to take them, and not into areas that they want to go.

Now, do we have pretty good information about where the weaponry that's being fired is going? You bet we do. Do we have perfect knowledge from the ground? Of course we don't. Are we stating each instance when we have reason to believe that there was some unintended casualties? Yes, we are. Will we continue to do that? Yes.

One has to keep in mind the basic, and the basic is that thousands of people were killed in the United States by terrorist attacks. More are threatened every day. And any time that the Department of Defense is engaged from the air or on the ground, we have to know that there are going to be people hurt. Overwhelmingly, they will be people who we intend to hurt. On occasion, there will be people hurt that one wished had not been. I don't think there is any way in the world to avoid that and defend the United States from the kinds of terrorist attacks which we've experienced.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you tell us specifically what was the target at Karam, and what do you think the U.S. hit there when it went after that target at Karam?

Rumsfeld: I can't off-hand.

(To General Myers) Can you?

Gen. Myers: I think that the target were the caves.

Rumsfeld: Oh, that's the one.

Q: What did the targeters think was in the cave, and what do they think now was in the cave?

Gen. Myers: I think -- I think there is still speculation.

I think everybody was surprised by the length of the fire afterwards. It went on for 3-1/2 to four hours. And I think it's still speculation on exactly what that was.

Rumsfeld: They were not cooking cookies inside those tunnels. I mean, let's face it, you do not spend that kind of money, and dig that far in, and store that many weapons and munitions that it would cause that kind of sustained secondary explosions unless you have very serious purposes for doing it. And the people in the vicinity clearly were connected to those activities.

Q: And is it believed that if there were civilians killed there, they would have been killed by a secondary explosion, as opposed to U.S. ordnance?

Rumsfeld: We simply do not have the kind of information from the ground that could prove that. Clearly, the targeting was unambiguous.

Gen. Myers: Right --

Rumsfeld: It was into the tunnels, and it worked.

Gen. Myers: There are no bomb craters on that village. And furthermore, intelligence would tell us, from our photographs, that the village was not heavily occupied, if at all, during that strike. So that's our information. But again, we have imperfect information on the ground. That's the best we know.

Q: And are you saying the weapon actually went into the tunnel, into the cave? Do they have that --

Rumsfeld: There was more than one tunnel. My recollection is there were at least two.

Gen. Myers: Yes, sir.

Q: And they actually penetrated inside the tunnel?

Gen. Myers: Right.

Rumsfeld: When an explosion occurs in the photograph -- you've seen them -- suddenly there's a plume and a blossom --

Gen. Myers: They hit the tunnel area, they did not hit short.

Rumsfeld: We're reasonably certain they hit inside the tunnel, but they certainly hit the tunnel area, and they certainly caused damage inside. But at least my imperfect ability to read those photographs and the camera film suggests that if they weren't in the tunnel, they were darn close.

Q: Can we get that camera film today?

Q: Why don't you release that film, that --

Rumsfeld: Hadn't thought about it. They must have a reason.

Gen. Myers: We may not have it available. I mean, it's not -- you know, some of that is just not available. We can check on that and see.

Q: Are you going to provide us with any of the gun camera where you know you missed?

Rumsfeld: The gun camera where we missed was not aimed

-- it was aimed at target, as I said the other day; it was aimed at the helicopter. And because of a targeting error, it went in and hit a small house. But it is -- my recollection is -- and I could be wrong on this, but my recollection is that the house that was hit is not in the gun camera --

Gen. Myers: That's correct.

Rumsfeld: -- area of view.

Q: Secondly, the -- you are doing radio broadcasts daily now in several different chunks of time.

Will you release to us what the message is that you are sending to the Afghan people so we have some idea of how the U.S. communicating with them?

Rumsfeld: I would guess we could do that. I have not read it myself, but it's -- I can't imagine why we wouldn't. It's out there in the air floating around.

Q: But it hasn't -- is it stuck somewhere in the --

Rumsfeld: Probably in my office along with 85 other things.

Q: Have you also dropped -- sir, have you also dropped radios, Mr. Secretary, so they can pick up the --

Rumsfeld: I don't think we have yet. There was talk about that, but I don't think it's happened.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the --

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Rumsfeld: Go ahead. Yes, right here.

Q: Question: You're still hitting aircraft out on runways. Any idea why they Taliban hasn't made more of an effort to conceal these visible targets?

Rumsfeld: Well, I think they have. Indeed, I would go so far as to say I'm confident they have both aircraft and helicopters that we've not found, that we don't know exist, if you will. We also know that there are some that exist that we have not gotten yet. But I also believe there are some that we just don't know about.

Q: And they may be in the kind of hardened bunkers the we've seen in past conflicts so far?

Rumsfeld: They've certainly -- every one I've seen has revetments and protection around the sides. But we just don't know. Helicopters, you know, they can hide those relatively easily.

Q: Mr. Secretary.

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld.

Q: Mr. Secretary. You were saying when you were talking about a -- of the action that you were saying that thousands were killed at Wall Street and the Pentagon, and you said more are threatened every day. I wonder what you might be referring to. Is it the latest, Daschle? Or what might you -- what else might you be talking about?

Rumsfeld: Well, I was referring to the statements that are being made by the al Qaeda people when they come out of their caves and send something to the television stations and talk about it and the various threat information that we receive on a daily basis from across the globe.

Q: Mr. Secretary.

Q: What is your reaction to the latest anthrax report in Daschle's office?

Rumsfeld: I was not aware of it when I -- till I walked down the hall and it was mentioned to me, and I'm just knowledgeable about it.

Q: But I mean, your own reaction to it. I mean, is it another worrisome thing or more each day?

Rumsfeld: I really do tend not to talk about things that I don't know -- I don't know if it's been validated, for example, so why would I opine on it?

Obviously, it's not something we want to have happen in our country, or in anyone's country, that someone would be mailing anthrax in an envelope. I think that Secretary Thompson has been very thoughtful on this subject and is knowledgeable about it and has been aggressively dealing with it.

Q There have been reports that the Taliban troops feel

that the safest place for them is on the front lines because the United States has not hit them in areas of conflict between them and the Northern Alliance. I'm wondering if you could talk about that.

Rumsfeld: Well, I've read things like that that have been said in the press. I can assure you that's not a conscious pattern on our part. Our conscious pattern is to try to be helpful to the forces on the ground that are anti-al Qaeda and anti-Taliban. And we are doing it aggressively everywhere we have decent targeting information. And at the moment, we have had less than perfect targeting information in the areas I think people are speculating about.

And you asked what my comment might be. My comment might be that I suspect that in the period ahead, that's not going to be a very safe place to be.

Q Does that mean you are going to, in fact, start

targeting Taliban front lines and perhaps increasing the coordination with the Northern Front?

Rumsfeld: It means exactly what I said, that we hope to have improved targeting information in the period ahead.


Q: Mr. Secretary, Seymour Hersh, writing in the New Yorker, quotes sources as saying that the United States had Mullah Omar in its sights early in the campaign, and that because of the time it took and the advice of military lawyers, no action was taken. And he reported that this distressed you somewhat. What can you say about the truth of any of these -- of these reports?

Rumsfeld: Well, first, it is just -- I'm going to respond generically to this. It is practically impossible to know with certainty who is on the ground in any given location by name and serial number. It is possible from time to time to see what look to be military leadership elements moving, by the size of the group, by the kinds of vehicles, by the way they conduct themselves; you can make an educated guess that that is very likely a military leadership and command element. So with respect to that element of that report, which I have not had a chance to read, I must say, I would answer that way.

Second, it is true that there are, for reasonably valid reasons, lawyers who get engaged, not in specific targets so much but in the question of the appropriateness of categories, and offer their advice from time to time at various levels. They do it at the level of a CINC, they do it at the Joint Staff level and they do it at the OSD level, and I suspect they may do it in other places that I'm not aware of.

I have not experienced -- first of all, I'm not intimately knowledgeable about what preceded my awareness of that particular event, and I very likely will check. But I can assure you there was no -- nothing other than a desire to deal aggressively with command and control -- military command-and-control activities on the ground at the Dick Myers and Don Rumsfeld level.

Q One quick follow-up. Does the United States have the

capability to put munitions or armaments on unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles? And have you done that in this case?

Rumsfeld: We don't get into that type of issue.


Q: You began this press conference and many other ones by saying the goal here is to create conditions favorable for sustained anti-terrorist operations inside Afghanistan. Could you describe what those conditions are?

Rumsfeld: Yes. The first, as you'll recall, was the desire to be able to operate in the air in a way that advantaged the forces on the ground, to do that given the non-trivial Stinger population on the ground and the SAMs and the aircraft, jet aircraft as well as helicopters. The first order of the day was to attempt to deal with the air defense capability that existed on the ground, and we have been diligently pursuing that and have had measurable success but have not completed that assignment. We still believe there are some SAM -- at least one or more SAM sites. We still know of certain knowledge there's any number of Stingers and manned portable ground-to-air missiles.

We believe there are still a number of aircraft that we know of, and we believe there are still more of those. So that's kind of the first thing that needed to be done.

The second thing that needed to be done was to develop relationships and communication with the forces on the ground that do not favor Taliban or al Qaeda or the Taliban leadership. And that process is going forward, and it is still incomplete, if you will.

And the third thing to do would be to find ways in your communication with people on the ground to develop a capability to provide the much more precise information as to potential targets so that they can be dealt with aggressively from the air. And that is something that is evolving and improving, but has not reached full flower, one would hope.

Q: So once all of these are achieved, then you will have your ability to carry out counterterrorism operations inside Afghanistan?

Rumsfeld: Then one would think that the people on the ground would be more successful against the Taliban and al Qaeda forces; that the environment for the terrorists would be less hospitable; that people would be less inclined to be supporting them; and that they would be more inclined to have to move and find that their numbers are being attritted in a way that is going to be discouraging for them.

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, do you believe that the prohibition against assassination, that's part of United States code now, includes leadership during a military engagement?

Rumsfeld: There's no question in my mind but -- or I would not be standing up here saying what I have been saying, but that it is certainly within the president's power to direct that in our self- defense, we take this battle to the terrorists, and that means to the leadership and command-and-control capabilities of terrorist networks.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the skipper of the Enterprise yesterday used the phrase "clean-up mode" to describe the state of the airstrikes, sort of suggesting that they're almost wrapped up. You seem to be suggesting they could go on for a while longer than you expected at the beginning --

Rumsfeld: Go with me! (Laughter.)

Q: And to follow -- to follow up -- if I could just follow up on that, sir, given the political price the United States seems to be paying in some areas of the Islamic world for these strikes, are they worth it, when you look at what appears to be, by comparison with past air campaigns, a fairly limited air campaign?

Rumsfeld: Well, I guess one has to put on a scale and say how many thousands or tens of thousands of Americans or friends and allies around the world are you willing to lose to make it worth it.

It seems to me that there have been demonstrations, in the countries that are having demonstrations, well before September 11th and well before a week ago. This is not something new.

Second, that the sizes of those demonstrations have been, relative to the populations, not something that is startling.

Third, there is no question but that we have a job to do as a country to make sure that the entire world understands that this is not against any religion, it is not against any country, it's not against any people; it is against terrorists. And to the extent that people who understand are unhappy about the fact that we're against terrorists, it's just too bad. To the extent we need to do a better job to make sure that people are not confused as to what this is about, then we darn well ought to do a better job.

And to the extent there are people out around the world actively trying to mislead populations into believing that this is about a race or a religion or a people, then they are not telling the truth, and we need to make darn sure that we're very clear on that, and that all of our behavior in our country and in our behavior around the world sends not any mixed signals about that, but that it is exactly and truly what I just said. And we can do that. Once we start saying, gee, the people who tell lies are going to prevail and cause people to do things that are harmful to our country, therefore, we have to stop doing things that would help us defend ourself against this, then we're done. And we're not going to be done.

Q: General, from a military aspect, the winter is -- it's winter in Afghanistan. Within a month or so, there will probably be heavy snow on the ground. Does that give you just a small window to work with, particularly in what you keep referring to as "the invisible" part of your operation?

Gen. Myers: Well, I don't -- Jamie, I don't want to go into the specifics of potential tactics that are going to happen in a month or two months from now. Let me just say that we have an all-weather force, and that visible and probably invisible things are going to happen off and on for a very long period of time, as the secretary has said. So we're well aware that winter is coming on, and we're planning around and through that.

Q: Is the military --

(Cross talk.)

Rumsfeld: We'll make this the last question.

Q: Why have you not yet struck at any of the Taliban drug infrastructure? Does it not exist to the extent you thought it did? Can you --

Rumsfeld: Give us some coordinates. (Laughter.)

Q: So you cannot find it?

Rumsfeld: It is -- there's a lot of information that's contradictory. There's no question but that Afghanistan was an enormous contributor to, particularly, as I recall, heroin trade in the world. There is speculation that some months back, that started to change and that the -- for whatever reason, that the stocks and warehouses or so-called factories that were engaged in this trade are, for whatever reason, not manifesting the kinds of indicators that suggest that it's still active.

But were we to find that, clearly that had been a significant source of funding, and we would be happy to address it.


Q: Mr. Secretary, you speak in some detail about the air attacks by the United States on Afghanistan. My question is, can you speak about -- in any detail or in any way -- about the ground component? Does it exist yet?

Rumsfeld: We are not going to discuss that.

Q: General Myers.

Q: Mr. Secretary.

Rumsfeld: Whoops, I thought we had the last one. No? We'll make this the last one.

Q: There are reports aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise yesterday they were very much carefully going through the mail, concern about anthrax-tainted mail.

Rumsfeld: Good.

Q: What are you doing in terms of the entire armed forces on any new security measures to ensure that -- there's an anthrax letter that apparently, according to the president, was send to the Senate majority leaders -- tht it's not being sent here to the Pentagon or any of the places.

Rumsfeld: Everyone in the world is sensitive to the anthrax issue, particularly sensitive to the method of using the mails to transmit anthrax. And I think that there are things being done in the Pentagon, I suspect, and in military forces around the world, to be, as the president said, on a state of heightened awareness and to see that we do everything we can to avoid having anyone come in contact with it.

Q: Do you have any indication at this point that any of that such mail has breached the Pentagon at this point or anyone who's being tested here or --

Rumsfeld: I would suspect that it would be public if it had happened. I don't recall hearing anything to that effect.

Thank you, folks.

Q Mr. Secretary, you just said earlier that the message

needed to be gotten out better. Condoleezza Rice is being, I understand, interviewed by Al Jazeera today, and you're considering such an interview. Is that part of a new public relations offensive to more clearly get the message out to the Arab world?

Rumsfeld: Well, Condi told me this morning she was going to do that, and I didn't know I was. (Laughs.)

(Laughter.) But she only -- she is afraid to tell me these things beyond one day ahead, I guess.

Q But do you want to more clearly get the message out --

Rumsfeld: You bet. Well, we have to. We have to. We have to do a better job. I mean, our cause is just, what we're doing is right, and we have absolutely nothing to hide. The other folks don't function in free systems. They don't function with free press. They are trying to manipulate world opinion in a way that is advantageous to them and disadvantageous to us. And we need to do everything we can to make sure that the truth gets out.

Q Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.


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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).