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Secretary Rumsfeld, General Myers Hold Daily Defense Briefing

Aired October 25, 2001 - 12:14   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Secretary Rumsfeld about to brief here at the Pentagon with General Myers, so we'll go to that.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ... struck this building and the World Trade Centers, murdering thousands of innocent men, women and children. We all know that terrorist networks are operating in dozens of countries around the world, with the tacit or direct support in some cases of the governments.

We know that a number of countries supporting terrorists and terrorist networks are the same countries that have weaponized chemical and biological weapons, agents, some of which are working to acquire nuclear weapons and to develop ballistic missiles capable of striking the United States, its friends and allies.

Last month, terrorist took civilian airliners and turned them into missiles, killing thousands. If they had ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction capable of killing hundreds of thousands, I don't think anyone can doubt but that they would have willingly used them.

We've been awakened in recent weeks to new and previously unimaginable dangers. That is why as we prosecute today's war on terrorism, the president has made clear that we also need to be prepared to defend against other emerging asymmetric threats, including the threat of ballistic missile attack against our cities and people.

As you know, we have redesigned the U.S. ballistic missile defense research, development and testing program to be unconstrained by the ABM Treaty -- a treaty that of course was left over from the Cold War and, after September 11, is even less relevant today.

We have said we will not violate the treaty while it remains in force. In recent days, to keep from having it suggested that we might not be keeping that commitment, we have voluntarily restrained our ballistic missile defense test program. Specifically, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization has refrained from conducting several test activities, each of which some lawyers could debate might have been a violation of the treaty were we to have proceeded.

As we all know, treaties and most legal documents have vagueness to them. We've said we won't violate it, therefore we do not want to be in a position of having even a small minority of people suggesting that we in fact are violating it. So we have on the following instances decided not to go forward.

On October 24, an Aegis radar on a surface ship was scheduled to track a strategic ballistic missile test target, which it did not do.

In a separate operation, the Aegis radar was to have tracked a Titan 2 space launch vehicle scheduled for launch November 14.

During the October 24 test, the Aegis radar was scheduled to have tracked the defensive interceptor. And during the same test, the multiple object tracking radar at Vandenberg was to have tracked the strategic ballistic missile target.

On test activities such as these, as I indicated, it is possible that someone could raise an issue, because of ambiguities in the treaty, and we do not want to get into that to date. For sometime now, we've advised the Congress and the government of the Russian Federation that the planned missile defense testing program that we had was going to bump up against the ABM Treaty. That has now happened.

This was fact, this reality, it seems to me, provides an impetus for the discussions that President Bush has been having with President Putin, and which will continue here in Washington early next month.

General Myers?


Our campaign against terrorism continues. Much of yesterday's efforts were again geared toward degrading Taliban forces arrayed against opposition forces. We struck in nine planned target areas and operated against targets of opportunity in several engagement zones throughout Afghanistan.

We used a total of about 80 strike aircraft, with about 65 of them tactical jets off our carriers and between six and 10 land-based tactical aircraft, including the AC-130s, with the remainder of the sorties being flown by long-range bombers.

We continued our C-17 humanitarian air drop missions yesterday, delivering approximately 30,000 rations and bringing the total to well-over 800,000 so far.

I have no new reports to share regarding potential tampering with humanitarian food supplies. I noted that some questioned our warning yesterday because we wouldn't reveal the relevant sources and methods of our intelligence. We anticipated this, but we felt that we needed to highlight the reports for the safety of the food distribution system.

We also flew Commando Solo broadcast missions yesterday and conducted several leaflet drops as well. Principally these were in the north and northeast regions of Afghanistan.

Today we have a pair of images from Tuesday depicting a company of Taliban tanks arrayed tactically in ravines and wadis outside of Herat in western Afghanistan. Our aircraft found the tanks and hit seven or eight of them. And the arrows point to where the tanks were.

Our video clips are all from yesterday's operations from Navy F- 14 and F-18 aircraft. Yesterday, we showed you a strike on a motor transport facility outside of Kabul. On our first clip, at the far left side of the screen, you can see the warehouses we destroyed Tuesday. And yesterday, you can see we hit another building in this expansive maintenance complex.

The second clip shows a direct hit on the Taliban central corps armored vehicle set up in a defensive position to defend against Northern Alliance attacks near the capital area.

And finally, we have a clip that shows a direct hit on a wheeled vehicle. What's noteworthy here is the size of the explosion which indicates this vehicle may have been a munitions resupply vehicle of some type or a truck mounted multiple rocket launcher.

We have responded in the past few days as best we could to Taliban numbers of alleged civilian casualties that have been linked to our strikes.

Now, we've also made every effort to report accurately on the very few occurrences where our weapons have gone astray. And though we are concerned about any number of unintended civilian casualties, to be honest, the one horrific number that stands foremost in my mind is the over 5,000 men, women and children that were killed on September 11, intentionally killed by the terrorists.

But even in light of this atrocity, the United States will never stoop to the level of our enemies in our response. We will continue to plan and to target and to weaponeer this campaign to eliminate Al Qaeda and the Taliban who support them while making every effort to avoid harming other victims, specifically the Afghan people.

With that, we're ready to take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you have said repeatedly that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was outdated and should no longer be in effect. And you said you would not allow it to keep you from going ahead with a robust R&D and testing program for ballistic missile defense. Why then, have you decided not to go ahead with these tests rather than tell the Russians simply that you intend to no longer be a part of the treaty, to withdraw from the treaty?

RUMSFELD: The discussions with the Russians, as you know, have been taking place between President Bush and President Putin and between Secretary Powell and Igor Ivanov and between me and Sergei Ivanov, the defense minister. And they are continuing. The president of Russia is due to be in New York and Washington and then Crawford, Texas, early next month. And certainly, those subjects will continue to be discussed. What we have said is that -- the president has said it, Secretary Powell has said it, I've said it -- that the treaty needs to be set aside and that the United States needs to go forward with a test program so that at some point in the period ahead we'll have determined what's the best way to deploy ballistic missile defenses.

We are continuing with many aspects of the very robust test development program. But as I've indicated, there are some things that some people could raise, and we do not -- I do not want to put the United States in a position of having someone raise a question about whether or not something is a violation of a treaty. I don't think that's the position the United States wants to be in.

So what we're doing is we're continuing with our program. To the extent some things are not going to be able to go forward until we have set that treaty aside and have arrangements whereby we can go forward without people making that allegation, we'll just have to do that. And it seemed to me it was appropriate to acknowledge the fact that we have now arrived at that point.

QUESTION: Very briefly, are you still maintaining the treaty must be set aside or withdrawn from or do you think some kind of accommodation could be made with the Russians in conjunction with deep cuts in nuclear arsenals?

RUMSFELD: I think that those positions are not inconsistent. I don't think it's either/or. I think it could be that all of those things are on the table, as the president of the United States has indicated. Those are things he has...


QUESTION: ... accommodation on the treaty rather than withdraw from it (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: I just don't know. We'll have to see what happens. But certainly those discussions are going forward. And the one thing that's clear is that the United States cannot stay bound to the constraints of that treaty and still do what we've indicated we believe very sincerely we must do, and that is to develop effective ballistic missile defenses.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, with regard to the Afghanistan part of the overall campaign against terrorism, is it enough to keep Al Qaeda on the run, as you've been doing, or is it necessary to eliminate them, to eventually bring them to justice, the leadership?

RUMSFELD: The latter. Keeping them on the run is better than not keeping them on the run, but the Taliban have clearly demonstrated that they are harmful to the Afghan people; that they are determined to stay in league with the Al Qaeda invaders in their country, to the great detriment of the Afghan people; that they are determined to be supportive and cooperative with the terrorist activities of Al Qaeda; and that for that reason they simply have to be replaced.

QUESTION: So you won't be able to claim success in this part of the campaign until you've eliminated the leadership of Al Qaeda?

RUMSFELD: I think that success in this campaign is by creating a situation where the Al Qaeda and the Taliban are no longer committing terrorist acts or harboring terrorists in that country, and creating a threat to the rest of the world. It seems to me that means that we simply must continue the pressure on Al Qaeda and on the Taliban until we've been successful in achieving that goal.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, yesterday Rear Admiral Stufflebeem said that he was surprised at how doggedly the Taliban leadership was holding on to power. Are you surprised? Is this turning out to be harder than you thought?

RUMSFELD: No. I think he's correct that they are dogged. On the other hand, I guess it's all a question of what your level of expectation was. But anyone I think who has watched the history in that country and seen the fact that the people who are still in that country and who still have power in that country seem perfectly willing to spend year after year fighting each other, one ought not to be surprised, at least I'm not surprised, that they are good at that task of fighting each other.

One ought not to be surprised, at least I'm not surprised, that they are good at that task of fighting each other. And I guess my expectation was that -- that they would be determined and that we have to do what we can to assist the forces on the ground to defeat them. And that's what we're doing.

QUESTION: Can you also just clarify the statement you made to USA Today editorial board which quotes you as saying the U.S. may never get bin Laden. How likely do you think it is that the U.S. may never get bin Laden?

RUMSFELD: I think that was a headline in USA Today, as opposed to a quote from Rumsfeld, but I've not studied my remarks and from time to time I suppose things come out of my mouth not quite the right way.

But in this instance, I will simply say that there's no question but that Osama bin Laden is a leader, if not the leader of Al Qaeda. We have said repeatedly that we have to either bring him and his associates to justice or bring justice to them. We fully intend to find them and chase them to ground and root them out and stop them from doing what they're doing.

You know, I think we were in one of those semantic discussions with USA Today. And my comment was, "Well, are you sure you'll get them?" Well, I'm sure we're sure trying. And do I expect to get them? You bet we expect to get them. Can I know of certain knowledge what will happen in the future? I think I said something like it's hard. It's like looking for a needle in a haystack. I suspect it's easier to change the Taliban leadership over time than necessarily to simultaneously or before the fact find a specific person. But we certainly intend to find him and we're doing everything humanly possible to do that, as well as not just him, but the whole array of Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership. So I have a feeling that the headline writer wasn't in the meeting.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, who wrote the semantics, Mr. Secretary? Is the success of this mission dependent on getting Osama bin Laden? And do you believe it's possible the U.S. may never get Osama bin Laden?

RUMSFELD: Oh, you're trying to get me to do it again.

QUESTION: I'm just trying to clear up the semantics of this.

RUMSFELD: Are you? Well, I think we're going to get him. How's that?

QUESTION: Is the success of the mission dependent on getting him?

RUMSFELD: The success of the mission, as I've defined it repeatedly, is to stop terrorists from terrorizing the world and to stop countries from harboring terrorists. There's a nexus there between what I just said and getting the leadership of Taliban and the leadership of Al Qaeda and stopping them.

What is really important, however, is the outcome. And if the outcome is that we have stopped terrorism and we have stopped terrorist networks and we have stopped countries from harboring terrorists, I suspect that it will involve bringing those people, including UBL, to justice or bringing justice to them.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, for the last nearly three weeks now we've been expending tons of ordnance on the Taliban in Afghanistan. What will you tell people that we have actually accomplished? I mean, the Taliban is still there; they've gone to ground. Al Qaeda is still there. Bin Laden is still there -- Osama's still there. And the Northern Alliance doesn't seem to have made any real headway. What have we actually accomplished?

RUMSFELD: Well, it is, as I think we have all indicated, not something that one measures by the number of bombs dropped or the amount of ordnance expended. It is going to be measured over time as to whether or not we are successful in stopping the Taliban leadership from harboring Al Qaeda and stopping the Al Qaeda organization from committing acts of terrorism that kill thousands of people.

The fact that the forces in the north and south have not moved dramatically, although they have moved some, it's my understanding, it seems to me does not mean that the effort that's been expended has been wasted.

You've seen visually any number of instances where capabilities of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda have been destroyed. We know that we've taken out a large faction of what we believe to have been their original number of surface-to-air missiles. We know they still have some. We know we've taken out a large number of the total aircraft, transport helicopters and some MiGs. We've taken out a reasonable fraction of those. I could go through each category. What does that mean? Well, it means that the Taliban's ability to effectively oppose the forces on the ground that are opposition to the Taliban is degraded and diminished. And that's a good thing. And that means that the circumstance for those forces on the ground has been advantaged. They're better off today than they were before. They're in a position to be more successful.

The calibrations they make as to when they want to move and how far they want to move and what they want to put at risk in any given day, week or month are judgments they make. And we try to encourage those judgments by providing ammunition, providing food, providing better targeting, doing what can humanly be done from the air to reduce the opposition forces in front of them. And that's what's been going on.

So I think that there is progress that's been made.

QUESTION: What can the Pentagon do to keep the American public engaged in this so it doesn't -- since this is going to be a long operation, a certain amount of boredom doesn't set in as with Iraq, you know. Every now and then we go and we bomb a little something and everybody yawns. Unless there is a bombing here every month, how do we really keep the public engaged?

RUMSFELD: Well, don't underestimate the American people. They have a pretty good center of gravity and good judgment.

And they understand, I think, the truth that we've repeated over and over that this is not simply a military campaign; that the hundreds of people that are being arrested across the globe are in fact providing enormously important intelligence information for us; that the number of bank accounts that have been frozen is drying up the capability of these people to function; and that in the case of Afghanistan, I've just said the kinds of progress we have made.

You know, some people think that everyone has a concentration span of 30 seconds. I don't think so. I think people reflect on what happened on September 11. They felt it very deeply. They recognize the threats that exist in our country to their way of life, and they do not think that there is an easy fix today for this problem, and there is no easy fix. There is no silver bullet. We've said that here over and over again, and I think they understand that.

QUESTION: General Myers, on that line, is the U.S. doing all it can with airstrikes to hit the Taliban frontlines? Or is this a piecemeal attack of those positions?

MYERS: Let me talk to that in just a minute, but there was a comment made earlier when you said the Taliban has gone aground. I think that's not exactly right. The Taliban have not gone aground. They are still fighting. And to answer your question, of the missions that we mentioned yesterday and, as you know, it will probably be somewhere in that same level of effort today, that the vast majority of those sorties go against the Taliban forces arrayed against the opposition forces. So... QUESTION: But is it all the U.S. can do? Obviously, there's a lot of firepower there, and there are some saying that this is a piecemeal attack of those positions. Is that inaccurate?

MYERS: Well, I don't know what the definition of "piecemeal" is. One of the things we ask Tom Franks, the Central Command commander, every day is, do you have what you need to prosecute the campaign? And the facts are that he does. I would not characterize them as piecemeal. I think we are setting the conditions that we want to set in that country that prohibits the Taliban from supporting Al Qaeda, and then the hunt for Al Qaeda.

RUMSFELD: You've got to also remember the fact that there are a limited number of targets. To be effective from the air in doing what you wish to do on the ground, you have to have the capability on the ground and from the air coming together so that you can pinpoint targets that have a value. And it is not a country that is rich in targets.

QUESTION: But if the U.S. wanted to go in and get those cities, we could, couldn't we?

RUMSFELD: Oh, destroy the cities?

QUESTION: No. Go in and take them over and wipe out the Taliban -- couldn't we with the firepower that's in place there?

RUMSFELD: Well, the Russians tried to do that -- Soviets -- and had a long struggle with it. We have no intention of going in and bombing civilian cities. We have said repeatedly that we're not going to rule out various types of activities, and we don't rule out, other than making every effort, as we've said, to avoid civilian casualties.


MYERS: I was just going to say just to definitively answer this, this is proceeding according to our plan, and we are at this point. We don't feel this is piecemeal. We feel this is very deliberate, very well-planned. Success is yet to be determined, but we think we're having some success.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, back on the bin Laden question, you said you think you're going to get him. But can you share with us, have you made any progress down that road since September 11? You've laid out the progress you've made in a number of other areas.

RUMSFELD: This is exactly what led to that headline.


RUMSFELD: I was honestly trying to explain the truth. The truth is that we are working on a broad front across the world. One portion of the world is Afghanistan. One portion of the problem in Afghanistan is UBL, Usama bin Laden.

Now, have we made progress? And I said -- and I at great risk will say again -- that until you have him, you do not have him. So what is progress? Until he is no longer functioning as a terrorist, he is functioning as a terrorist. There isn't any progress. You either have him or you don't. And so, I don't quite understand how I can answer it any better than that.

QUESTION: Well, I guess, the follow-up to that is, are you satisfied with, number one, the intelligence you're getting about that? Is he on the run? Is he stopped in his tracks at the moment? Is he still functioning?

RUMSFELD: Well, he went on television not too long ago, didn't he? So he's functioning. Does he move? Sure he moves. Have we located him? No, -- in a way that allowed us to anything about it, no. Are we continuing the effort? You bet. Do we expect to get him? Yes.

QUESTION: You just said you haven't located him in a way that allows you to do anything about it. Can you expand a little bit and tell us to what extent you have located him?

RUMSFELD: Well, there's information that's after the fact and there's information that's sufficiently before the fact that allows you to consider it actionable, and it's the latter that is difficult.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you're talking about some clinical detachment about measures of successes here. Is it one that measures to kill as many of the Al Qaeda and Taliban forces as possible? General Myers talked about the 5,000 dead Americans. Is part of this just killing...

RUMSFELD And they're trying to do it every day and in fact they're doing it every day. Those trucks that you saw and those buildings you see hit are not empty.

QUESTION: General Myers, are you using cluster bombs quite a bit or combined effects munitions and that sort of weapon?

MYERS: As we said before, we're going to use the entire spectrum of our (INAUDIBLE) weaponry, and yes we have used cluster bomb units.

QUESTION: Can I follow-up on that cluster bomb question?



QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the bombing campaign, and there are some military analysts who are suggesting you could bomb the Taliban front lines with B-52 strikes, B-2 strikes. Why isn't that being done? And if as you say the Taliban isn't...

RUMSFELD: We're using B-52s and B-1s.

QUESTION: Against the front line troops?

MYERS: Where appropriate, we will use... RUMSFELD: To the extent we have targets that...

QUESTION: What about front line troops though?


QUESTION: In the area bombing?

MYERS: Yes. If the target is appropriate to the kind of bombs we can drop off the B-52, which are generally unguided and in numbers, then we will do that and we have done that.

RUMSFELD: Yesterday.

MYERS: In the case of the B-1, we can do either. We can do precision drops or we can do general purpose bombs. And as the targets make themselves available, we're prepared to do that.

QUESTION: And also, if it is such a tough and tenacious foe, do you see perhaps more of a role for ground forces, particularly since the Taliban is heading into the cities?

RUMSFELD: We don't have anything to announce in regard to that.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you shed any light on this debate in town about whether this latest anthrax attack involves anthrax that has been weaponized or is weapons-grade? Some people say the sort of dividing line is whether it's resistant to antibiotics; others say it's the dispersal capability. What does that imply if this is weapons-grade?

RUMSFELD: I guess my instinct is to leave that to the people who are dealing with the domestic issues.

QUESTION: Over the last several days, there have been reports from the region of several villages that have been hit, and lots of pictures on Al Jazeera and Middle Eastern television of bodies lined up. The Pentagon has been unable to respond to those two named villages. General Myers, today can you give us an explanation of what the intent was? Were there American bombs dropped on those villages? And Mr. Secretary, are you frustrated about the delay in letting those pictures and that message get out, and two days later the U.S. still is having trouble responding to it?

MYERS: As we said earlier, every time there is an allegation of unintended civilian casualties, we go on the hunt to try to figure out what is ground truth the best we can, given that we're generally not there on the ground to do that ourselves. And so we use imagery and other means to try to determine fact from fiction.

On those two villages, I don't know exactly what you're talking about. But every...


MYERS: ... instance of those kind of allegations, we can usually spot bomb craters and there are things that -- and when we make a mistake, we tell you when we make a mistake.

QUESTION: Still, two days later there is no knowledge of whether it was our weapons, their weapons or...

MYERS: Clearly, that is one of the things that is frustrating about this particular conflict. As has been said from here before, the Taliban are not constrained by the same rules that we play by. We saw that in the way they treated the Afghan people when they would shoot women for whatever reason...





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