CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and British Defense Minister Geoffrey Hoon Deliver a Press Briefing
Aired October 30, 2001 - 13:43 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Sorry to interrupt that report from David Ensor, but at the Pentagon defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld with the British defense minister, Geoffrey Hoon.
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Good afternoon.
Minister Hoon is visiting the United States. He has been here a number of times. Indeed, we've met a number of times in the months since I've been serving in this post. And as always, we're delighted to have this representative of such a wonderful friend and ally of so many decades.
We have been visiting about a host of issues, not the least of which is the effort against terrorism and terrorist networks, but also some other subjects of interest to the United States and to NATO.
GEOFFREY HOON, BRITISH DEFENCE MINISTER: I am going to say how much I welcome this opportunity to set out, yet again, the United Kingdom's support for the United States leadership of the world's campaign against international terrorism.
We all saw in the moving memorial service in New York on Sunday, echoed in the United Kingdom at Westminster Cathedral, as a reminder, if anyone needed, of why such a campaign is so necessary. Our two countries have long enjoyed uniquely close ties. The appalling tragedies of the 11th of September and our response to that has brought us still closer.
The United Kingdom has been involved in that campaign right from the start, primarily through the agreement to use the base at Diego Garcia and in supporting American strike aircraft by providing air-to- air refueling tankers and reconnaissance aircraft, and we've also launched cruise missiles against terrorist camps.
Last Friday, we announced that all of Britain's aircraft carriers be equipped to carry helicopters to join these forces together with an assault ship, two escorts, raw (ph) marines, naval auxiliary vessels and maritime reconnaissance and transport aircraft.
Overall, we will assign something like 4,200 of our forces, Cooperation Veritas, the United Kingdom's military contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom. It's a clear demonstration of our commitment to stand by our closest ally for as long as it takes. We're prepared for that long haul.
RUMSFELD: We would be happy to respond to questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Minister, you said yesterday and again today that Muslim sensibilities over Ramadan must be addressed.
And Mr. Secretary, you said yesterday that history is replete with examples of Muslims fighting each other during Ramadan.
Will your two countries continue the air campaign, bombing campaign during Ramadan?
HOON: What I actually said was that, "we must take those sensitivities into account," and we will take them into account. But it does not make sense to indicate up front what might be our military intentions during that period. And that still remains my position.
RUMSFELD: And I said the same thing, I said that we clearly are interested in the views and opinions and sensitivities and that each country has their own circumstance and their own neighborhood they live in, and we're respectful of those.
QUESTION: Will it make military sense to halt the bombing during Ramadan?
HOON: It wouldn't make military sense to announce up-front what our intentions were during that period. It certainly wouldn't make military sense to afford the Taliban regime, which has been under very considerable pressure in recent times, the opportunity of regrouping, reorganizing during a predictable period of time. And it's not a sensible way to run a military operation.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I need to take my one question today and ask you to address some of the sentiments expressed, some of the editorial pages across the country. Particularly, in the Washington Post today, where William Kristol says, "you're pursuing the wrong strategy"; Charles Krauthammer says, "without enough might."
Kristol says, for instance, "that the administration's plan is shaped by three self-imposed constraints, no ground troops in Afghanistan, no confrontation with Iraq, no alarm at home." Krauthammer writing, "that the war is not going well, and it's time to say why it's being fought with half-measures." He criticizes you for holding back on bombing front-line troops, et cetera.
Are these editorial writers or pundits delusional or are you in denial as he suggests?
RUMSFELD: Well, first, I'll be happy to respond. First of all, they're not editorial writers, I don't believe. I think technically they're op-ed pieces -- opinion writers -- and they're not necessarily connected with the newspaper editorial office, as much as they are their own views. And we have a lot of those in America and I would just be dumbfounded if I found that everyone agreed with everything that we did.
We expect that there will be differences of views. I must say that I find those differences of views often helpful and interesting and informative and educational. So I do read them.
Second, we have been devoting a considerably more than 50 percent of our air effort to opposition forces and any suggestion that we've been not addressing the front line troops that are opposing the opposition forces -- that is to say the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces -- would be a misunderstanding of what we're doing. We are very aggressively doing that. I would think for today, for example, I think the intention was to have something like 80 percent of our effort addressed to the front line troops.
Last, we do have a very modest number of ground troops in the country and they are there for liaison purposes and have been doing an excellent job of assisting with the coordination for resupply of various type as well as targeting. It is true we do not have anything like the ground forces we had in World War II or in Korea or in the Gulf War, but nor have we ruled that out. So I think it's helpful for people to write articles like that and have views and offer them.
QUESTION: Would you respond to the general criticism, though, that the strategy is wrong and that it's being fought with half measures under political constraints?
HOON: Well, I see no sign of that at all. And the United Kingdom, obviously, has been willing to play its part. I indicated the level of support that we were able to offer militarily. And certainly we have not ruled out further military interventions as and when appropriate.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary?
QUESTION: You mentioned a moment ago that 80 percent of today's bombing effort was directed at front line positions.
RUMSFELD: Planned to be.
QUESTION: Planned to be. Are there indications you're seeing in the last few days that the opposition forces are, in fact, approaching the moment when they can and will make moves in that direction?
RUMSFELD: You never know until they do it.
QUESTION: Are they making preparations for it?
RUMSFELD: There certainly are preparations that are being made. Those people are independent operators, and when they decide to move forward is really within their control. We are doing what we can to see that they have the kind of ammunition they need and the food supplies they need, and we're doing what we can to assist with targeting some of the forces that oppose them. But in the last analysis, they are their own forces and they'll make those judgments themselves.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, President Musharraf is saying today that he sees clear splits in the Taliban. You have been shying away from making those kinds of statements. Are there more cracks in their front than have been readily apparent? And why is he saying it and you aren't?
RUMSFELD: Well, he lives in the neighborhood. They know an awful lot of those folks. And they've known them over a period of time. And they've had diplomatic relations with them. And if I were to go with someone's view, I'd probably be inclined to go with his.
Our problem is that we hear a lot of scraps of information. How you take them and then validate them and connect them is a very difficult thing to do.
RUMSFELD: And therefore, I'm kind of a conservative guy, and I'm slow to make assumptions that are rosy. All I can say is, we hear rumors to that effect. I've not seen personally, anything that I could validate that...
WOODRUFF: We are going to interrupt Secretary Rumsfeld to take you to President Bush speaking at Wootton High School in Rockville, Maryland.
(INTERRUPTED FOR CNN COVERAGE OF A LIVE EVENT)
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