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Pentagon Briefing: Zawar Kili Buildings Searched, Destroyed

Aired January 14, 2002 - 12:29   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.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Before we get to that we will go to the pentagon where the briefing is about to begin.

VICTORIA CLARKE, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Good afternoon. I just want to say a few things and turn it over to Admiral Stufflebeem.

Today marks the 100th day since military action started in Afghanistan, and as we said from the very beginning, there would be peaks and valleys to the kinds of action that you could actually see. This is a very unconventional war. It is not just about military; it's also economic and diplomatic and financial and legal. In terms of military action that you can see, there would be peaks and valleys as we said.

And so over the last several days, as some of the media have been commenting, although there hasn't been a lot you can actually see, there has been a lot of activity now as the secretary talked about last week. Right now, we have got a lot of people pouring through. There's a huge cash of information that has surfaced in Afghanistan as a result of the efforts there thus far.

So, going forward, we just want to say again, it is unconventional war. There will be actions you can see, there will be actions you can't see, but our intent to prosecute this war very, very aggressively is ongoing.

A couple of things on detainees: As of today, there are 414 detainees in Afghanistan. There are 20 in Guantanamo. When additional detainees arrive there, we will tell you. When the procedures for the questioning of the detainees has been worked through, we'll also talk to you about that. And there have been a lot of questions, obviously, about the treatment of the detainees. So I just wanted to share with you a few of the details of what is going on there.

Each day, the detainees are given three culturally appropriate meals. They have daily opportunities to shower, exercise and receive medical attention. So in accordance with Geneva Convention, they are receiving very humane treatment, and we expect representatives from the ICRC to visit with them later this week.

And with that, Admiral Stufflebeem.

ADMIRAL JOHN STUFFLEBEEM, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Thank you.

Good afternoon everyone. Just a brief update over the weekend's activities.

Central Command and the coalition forces continued strikes in the Zhawar Kili area using precision-guided munitions from B-52s, B-1s and F-18s off the carriers.

STUFFLEBEEM: To help understand why we've hit this area so many times recently, want to just give you a very brief description of what the operations have entailed, or why they have sort of come across as they have.

Zhawar Kili, a very large complex, something on the order of three-by-three miles. More than 60 above-ground structures and at least 50 caves. It was obvious, once we got Special Operating Forces on the ground to be able to look at this complex, that this had been at one time a significant Al Qaeda facility. And therefore, it was taking time to get into the caves and be able to pull out equipment that had been discovered there, some of which were tanks that we talked about last week. And to also determine if these were the type of caves that could be inhabited again if Al Qaeda members or pro- Taliban forces were to try to reconstitute in this area.

And so, systematically, the forces on the ground have been inspecting these facilities and then calling in strikes to be able to either close the cave or to level the above-ground facilities. And with that, this should conclude most of what has happened in this area for now, as most of the cave entrances have been closed and all the above-ground have been destroyed.

Now, that's not to say that this is a unique area. I've mentioned before, or it has been described before, that this entire part of the country is riddled with hillsides and valleys of caves and above-ground structures. And so, as we have been doing, we'll continue to look for where Al Qaeda forces are or pro-Taliban forces are and the facilities that they have used in the past. And when we find them, we'll search them. We'll continue to build intelligence. And then, if appropriate, we'll destroy them.

I think with that, we'll go ahead and take your questions.

QUESTION: Admiral, is there any indication or was there any indication over the weekend that Al Qaeda are still trying to regroup in that Zhawar Kili area? There was some indication from CENTCOM that they might be doing that.

STUFFLEBEEM: I've not see any reports that indicate that Al Qaeda was trying to regroup in the Zhawar Kili area, specifically.

STUFFLEBEEM: There have been reports of individuals in that area. We don't know what they were doing. When taken together with other intelligence sources, it's still obviously a hot area. Hot area may be too strong a word.

The Khost province, the Paktia province have been known to be recent havens where Al Qaeda last was. There are indicators there are elements and pockets that are still in this area. And therefore, our Special Operating Forces and the anti-Taliban forces are working systematically to find these caves, take them away, and if you encounter anybody, to go ahead and engage them.

QUESTION: Does that include the Zhawar Kili area, where the U.S. Special Forces are searching? They are searching those caves?

STUFFLEBEEM: Indeed.

QUESTION: About a month ago, while the focus was on the Tora Bora cave complex and Zhawar Kili was also known as a major cape complex, can you just explain why was so much focus a month ago on Tora Bora and now on Zhawar Kili? Was Al Qaeda concentrated a month ago in the Tora Bora area and then, after that, Zhawar Kili? I'm confused here about the relation between the two.

STUFFLEBEEM: Well, don't mean to confuse you. What we've been talking about in terms of the Zhawar Kili area, of late, is the facility and what we have found in this location.

Tora Bora was of interest sometime ago because it was where Al Qaeda was. And so, we went after Tora Bora, because that's where we knew Al Qaeda forces to be. And they were in some concentration, the numbers I don't know, but they were in some concentration. So we went after Al Qaeda where we knew it to be at. Once we were able to get in there, we did exactly the same thing there as we're doing in Zhawar Kili now.

QUESTION: Were they not in Zhawar Kili at that point, in the same concentration?

STUFFLEBEEM: That's a good question, and I don't know the answer specifically, but I have to believe that had we known that it was habited to the same level, or maybe at the same concentration that Tora Bora was, we probably would have been hitting at the time.

QUESTION: Admiral Stufflebeem, can you update us on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) maybe that's been found since you talked about the tanks in Zhawar Kili? And also have you found bodies? And do you have numbers of bodies that you found in that area?

STUFFLEBEEM: I cannot update you on numbers. When I reported last week that there were tanks and artillery pieces, I never did actually find out what the numbers were. But they were found by U.S. forces; they were put out in the open where they could be struck. I have the impression that in continuing the search of the caves, that there have not been more found, and that the activities of Saturday and Sunday, or the bombing strikes on Saturday and Sunday, have been used to close the cave entrances.

I haven't seen any reports about any bodies having been found. And I know we're not keeping a tally, if we had.

QUESTION: Admiral, you mentioned something about this being concluding for now. Do you mean the bombing strikes at the Zhawar Kili area, because that now is a part of the operation that's over and that it will be a search-type of switch to investigation on the ground? What did you mean by that?

STUFFLEBEEN: Well, over the course of the weekend, as I understand it, we have leveled the remaining structures that were found on the surface and we have closed all the caves that we would intend not be reoccupied. So I guess the best way to term it is, it's now time to go look elsewhere.

QUESTION: Admiral, could I ask you, because there are some experts who've been in that area and geologists who say -- also call it the "Wolf's Hole" (ph), in that it's like a virtual ant farm of caves and tunnel complexes in Zhawar Kili, some say more complex than Tora Bora. How do you know that there aren't hundreds or thousands of fighters still holed up in areas in Zhawar Kili trying to regroup or flee over to Pakistan?

STUFFLEBEEN: Well, I can't give you a good answer, to tell you that I know. I've been watching the reports, as the caves have been searched and then the strikes have been called to render that cave unusable for future use.

STUFFLEBEEM: I've not seen any reports that would quantify that we have a finite number of caves, and we've gone through all of them, or we've gone through the ones that interest us, some of which are difficult to access. And I know that they've called in strikes to close those caves down.

So I don't have a good answer for you, in terms of have there been people who have been in there and we've got them sealed in there now; I don't know. Of the caves that have been inspected, fighters were not found in there. And the strikes were conducted to render those unusable for future use.

Now, we do believe that this complex is similar to what is probably the whole countryside, and therefore there are likely other valleys with other complexes. And they in fact may very well have individuals, and of course, all the source intelligence is where are the individuals and where are they? And then, when we get there, if we find the facilities, we'll do the same thing there.

QUESTION: Since you said there were about 50 caves -- you closed openings in some 50 caves in that area?

STUFFLEBEEM: Right. That's correct.

QUESTION: Admiral, just so I understand the timeline a little bit, when is the last time we know for certain that there were Al Qaeda fighters in that area? And has there ever been a firefight with those people?

STUFFLEBEEM: Not aware that there was any firefight with any Al Qaeda or pro-Taliban forces in the Zhawar Kili area. We certainly have credible evidence that there were forces in there -- I can't quantify, because I don't know when they were last there. But the evidence was, is that they were stockpiling and storing weapons there. You wouldn't let that stuff sit there for too long, especially an item like a tank. You know, you'd want to run the engine every now and then to make sure it works. And probably knowing how effective we have been, the pro-Taliban forces would probably likely have tried to keep moving the stuff so it wouldn't become vulnerable.

So I don't have a specific answer as to how most recently we knew they were there. I would say...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

STUFFLEBEEM: Well, let me put it this way: We know they've been there recently, because we have seen individuals in the area. And I'll make an assumption that these were individuals who probably were part of, you know, of a combatant or military force and was scattered when we started attacks.

STUFFLEBEEM: And they're now trying to find where their friends may be and what supplies may be. And we have attacked the individuals, as well.

CLARKE: And I'd just add to that, as importantly, or more importantly, going forward we are fairly confident you will see Al Qaeda or Taliban trying to regroup. We continue to have as one of our main objectives to get the Al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership. If our surveillance or other information leads us to a target of opportunity of Al Qaeda, we will go after them. So I think it's very important to communicate our posture on this, going forward.

STUFFLEBEEM: Let me just piggy-back and reinforce, once again, that Central Command's priorities are still looking for Al Qaeda and pro-Taliban forces. That's still the priority, and that includes the leadership.

And where we have gone with the indicators and we find the facilities, but maybe not as much of a force as we would, say, hope we would want to find, we're not going to just leave those facilities to be used again behind us.

QUESTION: In Zhawar Kili -- I know you don't like to talk about today's operations, but there is television footage coming out that would suggest that the strikes are continuing. With what you've said, I'm likely to go out of here and say, "The operation is largely over in Zhawar Kili," and run into the possibility of you all coming back tomorrow and saying, "And we struck Zhawar Kili again." So could you please clarify?

STUFFLEBEEM: Sure.

QUESTION: Is it going on in Zhawar Kili right now?

CLARKE: Tomorrow.

STUFFLEBEEM: Well, yes, let me just say that I don't want to be too -- I apologize for being too definite in sounding that it's over with. As I'm watching the reports, of the caves that we have searched and the caves that we want to close, that is coming to a conclusion. Whether it's going to be done today or tomorrow, I'm not sure. But the sense I have from the reports that I've been monitoring is that we're coming to a conclusion in this particular complex and we'll probably look for another complex.

QUESTION: You opened this by talking about the unseen parts of the operation. Admiral, can you talk to us a little bit about what I assume one of those is, which is the hunt for bin Laden and Omar? How much of a priority does that remain? Can you give us any sense of the scope of how many U.S. forces or how much U.S. forces, boots on the ground, are in what you would categorize as a hunt, a search, for those two individuals?

STUFFLEBEEM: I cannot give you a good answer, in terms of U.S. military boots on the ground, around the world looking for those two leaders. What I can tell you is that it is a mission of our military and of our government and coalition forces and other governments to find the leadership of this terrorist network and rid the world of it.

So it would not be unfair to say that every one of us has this as a mission and that all the forces that are currently in Afghanistan or in any of the countries where we're pursing the global war on terrorism are focused on doing just that.

QUESTION: I guess with boots-on-the-ground part, I was specifically talking about Afghanistan. It's hard for us, back here, to get a sense of how much U.S. forces are sort of actively involved in, again, what I would consider a search, a hunt, looking in places, going places, actively looking around for these two folks.

STUFFLEBEEM: Well, Zhawar Kili is a good example of that. I mean, it was indicators and intelligence that lead us there, and we got stuff out of there that we're adding to this intelligence picture.

STUFFLEBEEM: And so it continues to build the picture of how does Al Qaeda organize, how does it intend to try to do business, and does it give us indicators of where we should go next? And so it's a continually building process.

CLARKE: And it's also, to say what we say so many times, but it's really important is to put it into perspective. Do we want to get Osama bin Laden and Omar? Of course. That's a goal. But the most important goal is to prevent further terrorist attacks on the United States and our friends and allies. Our most important goals include getting all the leadership, preventing Afghanistan from returning to be a base, a haven from which terrorists can freely operate.

It's just so important to put it all in context, and we're pursuing all of those things very aggressively. Some of the things that I've talked about that are the less visible or the less focused upon activities are so important in that regard. Poring through all these documents and laptops and all these things that they're producing as a result of some of these strikes is helping us build that information so we can prevent further attacks. And it's so important I think to stay focused on the really big goals. QUESTION: Torie, can you tell us whether the Pentagon is considering or thinking about curtailing, cutting back, modifying the combat air patrols that have been in effect over parts of the United States? Share any of your thinking about...

CLARKE: Sure. The combat air patrols have been and will continue to be a very important part of protecting the American people. Since giving a lot of information about how you provide for that kind of security gives an advantage to those who might want to do us harm, we're not going to talk a lot about when we're increasing, when we may be changing. A lot of these CAPs move around. So without giving details about what we might be doing with a particular combat air patrol, or numbers of them, we're going to stay focused very, very hard on providing the right kind of protection for the people in this country.

QUESTION: Without getting into those numbers, though, are there any plans under discussion to relieve some of the strain on some of the National Guard units and other units who've been, since September 11, been tasked with this job of flying these patrols?

CLARKE: We tend not to talk about plans and details most of the time, for the reasons I just gave.

CLARKE: It's important to emphasize that we are absolutely committed to providing the best protection possible for the American people, and combat air patrols are part of those, and we'll dedicate the right resources and the right numbers of resources to get the job done.

QUESTION: One other question on a totally different subject. The accident involving the KC-130, have there been, at this point, any indications of what happened in that accident?

CLARKE: The investigation is still under way and we don't have additional information.

QUESTION: Back on Zhawar Kili, before the war even began, U.S. intelligence and military knew this was an Al Qaeda stronghold, and one would assume that they kept eyes on and watched what was going on there for over a period of years.

If that's the case then, why did it take so long to strike that facility? Was it a lack of intelligence, a failure to act on the intelligence, or is there another explanation as to why it took more than three months into the air war to aggressively attack that facility?

STUFFLEBEEM: The best answer I can give you is, it previously had been struck. What was not known was how extensive a complex it was until we actually were on the ground and physically looking inside these caves to find out how extensive it was. I can't think of any other way to categorize it than that. We just didn't know how extensive it was.

QUESTION: And if I could follow up on what you said in your opening statement, Torie, about the conditions there at Guantanamo. Human rights organizations over the weekend had complained publicly -- I don't know if they lodged any complaints at the Pentagon -- but had complained publicly that it appeared to them from a distance that these prisoners were being treated inhumanely because they were locked up in what were described as cages. Can you better describe the facilities in which these prisoners are held, because we get a description that they're cells; they describe them as cages. Which is it?

And is there an opportunity to actually see the facilities in which they're being held with or without -- obviously, you have a problem with taking video of the prisoners in these cells -- but is it possible to get video or pictures of these cells so that we can better describe what it is in which they're being held?

CLARKE: I think there were images and video of the cells. I think prior to the detainees arriving, I think I saw a fair amount of it on some of your networks. And I have not seen reports from any of the groups, but as I said, the representatives of the ICRC are scheduled to go in in a few days. And they have been seen as, you know, the most credible independent source of how these people are being treated.

But there were reporters who were down there when the detainees arrived and observed their arrival and reported on their arrival. You're talking about people who are incredibly dangerous, incredibly dangerous, who are willing to blow themselves up or do anything possible to hurt and kill others. And so, all the precautions are being taken, all the appropriate security precautions are being taken, considering what you're dealing with.

But as I said, the ICRC will be in there later this week. I'm sure they'll be talking to people about this. But they are receiving culturally appropriate meals every day; they are getting showers every day; they are getting medical treatment if they need medical treatment; they are given an opportunity to exercise. They are getting very humane treatment.

QUESTION: Torie and Admiral Stufflebeen, is John Walker Lindh the last remaining detainee on the USS Bataan? And is there any change in his status?

STUFFLEBEEN: He is the only individual that's on USS Bataan at the moment. And his status is still being determined.

QUESTION: Why is he still there? Why didn't they move him?

STUFFLEBEEN: Well, the determination as to where he would go has not been made yet.

QUESTION: Any other plans for prisoners going to that ship?

STUFFLEBEEN: Well, it will be available to be used for others to be transferred if necessary, or to be held, if you will, outside of the country. STUFFLEBEEM: So it's not off the table, so he's not the last remaining in the sense that there still will be an option that it can be used to bring people to later.

QUESTION: Going back to the CAPs, without actually getting to whether you may be curtailing them or not, can you just explain -- I would presume it's a heavy stress on a military, that is costly and it does consume a great deal of manpower and equipment?

CLARKE: Let the admiral answered from the military perspective and the resource perspective, and then I'll have something to add on.

STUFFLEBEEM: Yes. The CAPs flown over the U.S., and not only just the CAPs, but also the alerts that are stood, are predominantly being manned by the Air Guard, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve. And these forces, in the majority, as I last looked at it, are volunteers. So I can't tell you that I have heard. I would have to refer you to the guard bureau, I think, or the National Guard Bureau, as to the status of, you know, of that volunteer support and how much longer that they'll do this. And I know it's looked at routinely, but I don't know the status of the stress that's there.

Now, there are some active components and active elements that are supporting the infrastructure, predominantly in airborne early warning or airborne control, which is stress, because these are units that ordinarily rotate overseas and support operations overseas, and now they're conducting them from home, stationed here in the U.S.

So there's an aspect to that where, if I'm flying every day in a real-world mission, I may be flying more now than if I were to be in a training environment, so to speak, but I'm still home every night. So that's kind of one way to look at one part of the stress. And then there's the other part, which is, well, maybe we're not getting a training that we need done now for our rotations overseas. So that's being looked at.

CLARKE: And I would just add on, I know stress has certain technical reasons, as the admiral is discussing.

CLARKE: But every day we see examples of where the people in the U.S. military, people in the Guard and Reserve, who are participating, are so eager to be doing so. I mean, what we have is piles and piles of letters and calls and e-mails from people who are serving are saying, "We're proud to be serving and we want to do more." Or people who are saying, for instance, the 65-year-old who wrote in to the secretary and said, "I want to be a part of this. Send me in." And so, there is a morale and a spirit out there which I think is just an incredibly strong sign of how good this effort has been.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... in terms of whether it was causing the military, you know, a sense of stretching too thin.

STUFFLEBEEM: Yes. And in the case of using the word stress, I want to make that sort of a -- it's a word of the system more than it is on the individuals who are manning the system. If you overuse military equipment or if you don't give crews time to train, they may not be ready for what next is on either as a requirement that they have to train to or ready for the next mission that they know they're going to rotate to do.

And so, we're watching very carefully to see, are we putting undue stress on a system that can't accept it, and, to date, it has been accepted. It's being looked at for how long to sustain it this way.

QUESTION: I want to go back to one unseen activity in the region. Last week, The New York Times and LA Times had pretty good stories about the regional buildup of U.S. forces, implying a long- term commitment that we're digging into the region.

CLARKE: Now, long-term issues are not your purview, but from a strictly military perspective, can you give us a sense of how many locations U.S. forces are now operating from that hadn't been made available prior to September 11. Is there a view on the Joint Staff emerging or developing that the U.S. will have to maintain some sort of military presence there in the long term -- either prepositioned equipment or air base or a manned based like Camp Doha in Kuwait?

STUFFLEBEEM: Well, I don't want to give you the impression that I really know exactly the specific answers to all those in the context of Operation Enduring Freedom. But I can say comfortably that when you go back and look into this theater, for instance, we have tremendous support from many nations that have wanted to become involved in a global war on terrorism. I have seen us use traditional locations, bed down locations and logistics hubs, so nothing new there that I'm aware of.

We have had prepositioned equipment in the area for many years now, and we'll probably continue to do that because it's a much cheaper alternative than having to flow things. That's correct. Coming out of Desert Storm, we started to build up prepositioned things on ships that are garrisoned in parts around the world if you will.

So I have not seen that there is a change. I believe that the forces that we have in the theater will be moved and used to wherever they need to be, whether it's supporting operation Southern Watch or Operation Enduring Freedom or another part of Operation Enduring Freedom. And I couldn't begin to predict when forces will start to get taken down or when more will get added to it. We're responding to what we learn.

STUFFLEBEEM: We know what the threat is. We're trying to get at the threat, so we reduce it. And as we find it, we'll either flow forces in that are unique to service that or more forces to take it over a larger area or move forces from one area to the next to be able to attack it.

So the sense I have in watching this from a management perspective is that, first of all, it's being very closely watched. It's being very carefully managed. It's going exactly, if you will, as we would expect it to. So we don't have, you know, too many forces in one place and not enough in another. It's appropriate.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a quick follow-up on that. I've asked this before, but the thermobaric bomb that was announced back in December, has that been used yet in this Zhawar Kili complex?

STUFFLEBEEM: No. And the reason why is, I mean, to go back and take a look at what we're doing or have been doing since last Wednesday in Zhawar Kili, is that we're knocking down these above- ground facilities and we're closing cave entrances.

Now, thermobaric weapon is more closely like a fuel-air explosive. It goes inside to create (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pressure to get what's inside there. At this point, our forces on the ground want to close this cave to make it unusable for future use. So close up, so the right weapon is what we're using right now, versus that kind of a weapon.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) just to blow the things up from the ground. Isn't it more efficient to do it that way than calling in satellite- guided bombs from 20,000 feet?

STUFFLEBEEM: Well, sure. It could be, but you have to look at the circumstances of where you are and what you're doing. If you're a light, mobile infantry, in this case, Special Operations Forces, and you are looking for the bad guys, you are armed for that. To have explosive ordnance disposal with you, with the kind of -- or with the amount of ordinance that you would need -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it's not the right word -- but TNT or explosives to close these caves is a rather substantial logistics thing.

So you're moving to areas where some of these cave entrances are not easy to climb up into. So the easiest way to close them down is with a weapon that will fall from the sky, rather than one you got to lug up there.

QUESTION: Torie, you said that you were gathering a great deal of intelligence, as the secretary said, from documents and papers and computer disks.

What about from prisoners? And has there been an instance where prisoners have told their interrogators that they were planning attacks in the United States?

CLARKE: We have a lot of information from a variety of sources, including the detainees. I'm not inclined to go into specifics about them, because sometimes it's how you put this information together that results in something meaningful or actionable, as we would say. So all of these sources of information are proving useful, and I'll just leave it at that.

QUESTION: You said one of the reasons you didn't get in -- you didn't realize how extensive Zhawar Kili was until you got on the ground. In general, are you encountering any difficulties conducting searches of that sort to find these facilities? Is there some reluctance on the part of your Afghan allies to go out with you anymore because they think the war's over? STUFFLEBEEM: No. All of the anti-Taliban forces have been extremely helpful in trying to help guide us to the most logical place to go and look for these kinds of caves. The descriptions from early on in the campaign about how many caves there are in this country, it's just impossible to determine a finite number of where they are.

We don't have the number of forces on the ground that are going to get through all of them, so it's a matter of priority; which ones appear to be the ones we want to go look at now. Where are the bad guys, that's first. Where are the bad guys; let's go find the bad guys, let's get rid of the bad guys; and what are they using? So, you know, from people that you can interrogate and get information from, from those who were previously sympathetic and now aren't, you continue to pull this information together and it gives you a steer, and you take that steer and you go look at, in this case, a very extensive complex, without really knowing how extensive it was until you got there and looked at it. So it builds. It builds and it keeps moving.

QUESTION: Are you going out on your own or -- are U.S. forces going out on their own or do they have the assistance of Afghans actually in conducting searches like we saw in Tora Bora?

STUFFLEBEEM: I'll be careful to say that I just haven't seen that we have had forces that just go out on their own looking for caves, which is not to say that there haven't been. You've seen the Marines mount up in their armored vehicles and go off and do a surveillance and evaluation mission. I don't know that they had any Taliban forces with them in every case that they did that.

So I'll suspect that, in the majority, we're following the leads and being assisted by anti-Taliban forces to show us. And in cases where we may develop intelligence that leads us to an area where there aren't any Taliban forces to get us there, then I'm sure we've gone or we'll go.

QUESTION: Going back to the detainees in Guantanamo, first of all, can you tell me of the ones who are there -- the 20 that are there -- have they started interrogations of them in Cuba? And can you tell me, there was a report that the ones that left yesterday tested positive for TB. Are they or will they be treated for TB?

And third, there was a report that the detainees had been shaved. And is that true, and, if so, why were they shaved?

CLARKE: On the first one, the questioning of the detainees at Guantanamo has not started, working on the procedures by which that will take place. That has not yet started. And I have seen reports on the TB, and I just don't have information for you on that. I just don't know the circumstances on that. I just don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: And also, last week Secretary Rumsfeld said that one of the detainees needed to be sedated en route. He didn't know why at the time. Do you have any more information about that and whether there's been anything similar in this particular wave of detainees?

CLARKE: I don't have any further information and we don't have any reports on the current round.

QUESTION: Admiral, Torie mentioned or said that you were confident that Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters will continue to regroup. What evidence are you seeing of that? And regroup to do what? Are you seeing any evidence that they're regrouping to, you know, to act again as a military force. And, in particular, that attack, the probing attack at Kandahar was that a sign of that?

STUFFLEBEEM: Well, we don't know about Kandahar. Shots fired from the end of the runway, and by the time that the Marine quick reaction force responded and secured the area, whoever was there was gone. So we don't know exactly who it was or what their motivation was.

I don't want to overplay or paint a picture for you that it is an obvious goal that Al Qaeda members are trying to regroup into an army. There is evidence that individuals who were likely dispersed and ran away from whatever uncomfortable circumstance they were previously in are trying to find security.

Finding security, of course, in this part of the country traditionally is with numbers. So we are looking for,actively looking for and being very attentive to any collection of Al Qaeda fighters or pro-Taliban people, whether singularly or together. We'll go wherever they are to find them and to root them out. But there are indicators that they would try to get together, once they have been dispersed.

And just go back and take a look at the history of it, as they get together, they'll start to -- who knows? I mean, we can't begin to guess what there'll be in their heads to do, but it probably won't be for something good. And so, the evidence is that they're trying to get back together from having been spread apart.

QUESTION: Is there evidence that they're trying to get out of the country or any evidence that they're trying to get back into the country?

STUFFLEBEEM: Well, there certainly is evidence that there are some who wanted to, maybe have -- probably, certainly have. And there probably are some who would still like to go. But it strikes me, on a personal basis, as I look at things right now, those whom are in Afghanistan now are probably of the type who would want to stay and do something, as opposed to have been there all this time and decide, "Well, now I think it's a good time to go."

CLARKE: On that, it's a good time to go.

STUFFLEBEEM: OK.

CLARKE: Thank you.

STUFFLEBEEM: Time to go. Good afternoon. HARRIS: And with that Victoria Clarke and Admiral Stufflebeem have wrapped up today's briefing. Quite a bit of information they delivered today, on this 100th day of the bombing campaign in Afghanistan. Word is that the peak and valley nature of this campaign there does continue.

The peak may have been reached this weekend when Admiral Stufflebeem tells us that in the process of examining all of the caves and structures in that Zawar Kili area that has been under such heavy bombing in the past week or so, it appears that all 60 structures that were on that complex have been destroyed, and some 50 caves, that were there as well, have been inspected, and have been determined that they will not be inhabited by anyone else. Al Qaeda will not be able to go back in them and reuse them in any way. They have been destroyed.

He say now, it may be time to move on and search another area. As for the detainees, we understand now, that 30 more are on their way now to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 20 are there on the ground, and procedures for interrogating them and getting information from them has not yet been determined. That is still under process and review right now.

We understand that they have been receiving medical attention, getting exercise, and have been treated according to the provisions of the Geneva Convention.

We also hear that there's some talk about air patrols that are being conducted on the skies over the United States. There's a possibility that the schedule of flights that have been under way since September 11th are going to be curtailed in some way.

There's been a number of -- there's been proof that -- or evidence that perhaps there is some stress on the system, we understand. A lot of these patrols that are being conducted by volunteer troops, and some of them need to be trained for possible deployment overseas, and that is now going to be figuring into this, and that may be cause of some review.

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