CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Aired March 6, 2002 - 11:29 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: Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is just now beginning his daily briefing. He's there accompanied by General Tommy Franks.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECY. OF DEFENSE: ... the Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the mountains south of Gardez. The battle very likely will take some time to play out.
I believe that the outcome is reasonably assured, that people who have been in the battle will either be -- surrender or be killed in the days ahead.
The forces we face represent very hardened elements of Al Qaeda and Taliban, true dead-enders. We expect that they will -- we expected that they would put up a fierce fight, and they have and they are and they continue to do so.
But from everything we've seen, the coalition forces are certainly up to the challenge. We've said on numerous occasions that the battle moves from cities to tunnels to caves to mountains and that the task of hunting down and rooting out the terrorist networks will be difficult and dangerous and that lives will be lost.
Indeed, we have lost eight American service members in this current operation thus far, and many hundreds, at this moment, are putting their lives at risk to deal with this brutal and determined adversary. Their service and their sacrifice should be a lesson to those who contemplate that terror against America can work.
If you attack the United States, if people try to kill our men, women and children, we intend to stop them. There will be a penalty, and the American people are patient. They are determined, and our forces are certainly as courageous as they are relentless.
Our objective is not revenge; it is not retribution. Rather, it's to protect our country and our people from further attack. It is just that simple. You can defend against terrorists by hunkering down. You simply must go after them. That is the only proper defense, is an offense.
A terrorist under fire in the mountains of Afghanistan is a terrorist who has bigger problems than trying to plan the next attack on the United States. The only defense is offense. On October 7, when this campaign began in Afghanistan, we set out a series of military objectives, and we have not only met them, but in many cases surpassed those objectives.
We've driven the Taliban from power. We've disrupted the Al Qaeda's ability to use Afghanistan to use Afghanistan as a haven or a sanctuary where terrorists can be train and then attack others.
We have helped to avert a humanitarian catastrophe, delivering relief to the Afghan people, and we are currently assisting the interim Afghan government in its efforts to bring peace and stability to the Afghan people.
We continue to gather intelligence to help us prevent future terrorist attacks and to disrupt additional terrorist activities. We've captured or killed many hundreds of Taliban and Al Qaeda forces and a number of their senior leaders. The battle is now joined. It certainly is not the first major military engagement of this war on terror.
And it will not be the last. U.S. objectives going forward are very simple, and that is that there be no sanctuary, that there be no safe haven. The president said it in the first week of this global war on terror, that the task is to go after terrorists and nations that harbor terrorists.
The task is to pursue and run to ground terrorist networks across Afghanistan and across the globe. It's to train and equip forces in friendly countries that are facing terrorist threats, such as we're doing in the Philippines and in Yemen. It's to help them eliminate the possibility of their countries becoming sanctuaries for terrorists. As we drive them out of Afghanistan, they either go to the mountains or they go to their landing (ph) of the cities, or they go across borders, or they leave and go into another country.
And to the extent we do not help countries for example like Yemen, they very likely will turn that country into a sanctuary or a haven for terrorists. And that's unacceptable. Task is to establish military-to-military relationships with countries that are committed to helping us fight the war on terrorism. With our partners, the task is to disrupt the activities of terrorist networks and to deal with those states that sponsor, aid, abet, and tolerate terrorists. And particularly those that are pursuing weapons of mass destruction.
If one asks our policy, it is that there be no sanctuary for terrorists in Afghanistan or elsewhere. You have to deny them sanctuary. You have to deny them safe haven. We have to deny them the ability to train still more terrorists so that they can undertake still more violent attacks on the United States, our friends, and our allies.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, CINC, CENTRAL COMMAND: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and I'll say that it's a pleasure to be back in Washington. I came up yesterday for the purpose of giving the secretary an update on how our activities inside Afghanistan. Had an opportunity to give President Bush an update as well. I am pleased with the operation as we see it ongoing right now in Afghanistan, Operation Anaconda. I think what we see is Americans in uniform doing the job that we have trained them to do, equipped them to do, and asked them to do.
As the secretary said, I think the days ahead are going to continue to be dangerous days for our forces that are committed to this effort. But the alternative to taking such risk is not acceptable in my view, and so I'll give you a quick update on the numbers of forces we see in Afghanistan right now. I think the U.S. force structure right now is around 5,200, 5,300 people. That force is in fact smaller than the coalition force that we see, including international security forces under the lead of Great Britain, located in Kabul.
The area inside Afghanistan continues to be very messy. It continues to be very dangerous. The number of casualties that we have up to this point is as the secretary reported it. We have, during Operation Anaconda, lost eight Americans, killed in action, a bit more than 40 wounded in action. About half of those 40, as I said the other day, have been returned to duty. And the only additional casualties that we have added since I last spoke with you was three casualties today, non-battle related. As a matter of fact, the three casualties were related to altitude sickness, because this area where we're operating in some cases is about 10,000 feet in elevation.
And so those are the activities that we see ongoing now, and we'll continue them until we accomplish, as the secretary said, the destruction of the forces inside this pocket, and then we'll continue our operations inside Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary and the General, are you all surprised at the growing scope of this battle? (OFF-MIKE) in Bagram today that, what he called fundamentalist leaders in the area had called for a Jihad against the United States and its allies, and that the Al Qaeda and Taliban force had sworn in very recent days, from perhaps 200 to perhaps as many as 800 or 900 hundred. Could you talk about that and perhaps what you're adding to the force -- helicopters, attack helicopters and troops?
RUMSFELD: With respect to the first part of it, it's not possible to know precisely the number of people that are engaged in the activity, as you undoubtedly know, and as others on the ground have suggested. We'll know a lot more when it's over, in terms of what number of people it was.
We've been looking at that area for weeks and have a great deal of intelligence information, but it is not possible to have a good count.
FRANKS: And I would not take issue at all with what the commander on the ground said about this.
I think when one backs away from Operation Anaconda, I think it's possible at any particular point inside this objective area to say, "Oh, gosh, I didn't realize that there would be the size of the force in this area."
I don't think we have changed the assessment of the force in this general Gardez area and inside this objective area that the forces went into. Tactical surprise by any unit as it moves to an assault location or as it continues to clear these revetments (ph) and caves and so forth is not, I would say, surprising to me.
And so I would not take issue. I think the size of the force in the operating area has not been a surprise. The particulars of where it may be on a given day would not surprise me at all, to see some tactical...
QUESTION: Could you give us, perhaps, some figures on the U.S.- led force now and what you're adding to it in terms of attack helicopters and that type of thing?
FRANKS: Sure, we have brought some Marine helicopters in and positioned them inside Afghanistan, and I'd rather not say exactly where, but we have provided some additional robustness there with attack helicopters. We have positioned forces inside this objected area. It seems to me that when I spoke with you the day before yesterday, I said we were somewhere around 800. We have put 200 to 300 additional Americans inside this operation.
Once again, that has not been in response to surprise, it has been in accordance with our plan to reposition our forces inside the objective area as necessary over time, in order to completely clear it.
RUMSFELD: I'm sorry, but we should probably get a couple of other questions here.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, a very short two part question to the CINC.
RUMSFELD: No, no, no, no.
QUESTION: Well, alright, but you've talked about the quantity, but a report who went in with the 10th Mountain on the second day, said when he got to the LZ, there was no element of surprise. They were met by heavy machine-gun fire, 50-caliber, and some very accurate mortar fire. Were you surprised at the level of intensity and the apparent skill of the people who were fighting?
FRANKS: I think we have not been at all surprised that we are finding Al Qaeda and forces of the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan, perhaps also Chechens in this area. As the secretary said, and I think I said on Monday, we have been preparing for this operation for some period of time. I think given the size of an area -- perhaps sixty or seventy square miles, one is not going to have the precision of where those forces may be at any point in time. And so I believe that tactical surprise was in fact gained when the operation went in, keeping in mind that there were a great many landing zones involved, and a great many approaches involved as we moved into this objective area. And the fact that one or two of these areas may have been very heavily enforced or re-enforced and that our forces would encounter immediately mortar fire -- no, that's really not surprising. It's deadly. It's bad. It's also war, and I think there's an expectation that we'll face that.
QUESTION: Can I do a follow-up, just a brief follow-up, Mr. Secretary, a very small follow-up? A Pakistan military official has described these people as some of the best guerrilla fighters in the world. Do you agree with that? Are they that good?
FRANKS: I would characterize them as very hard and capable and dedicated fighters. I'd probably leave it at that. You know, if you look at individual soldiers, I will tell you that these soldiers are not a match for American soldiers that we have on the ground in there right now in terms of training, in terms of equipment, but at the same time, very dedicated troops with great resolve who have had adequate training and have very strong will are the kinds of soldiers that we are finding in some cases in this area.
RUMSFELD: They are not however fighting for their own country, or for their families, or their own homes. They're invaders in a foreign country, who are there to train other people to go out and kill people across the globe.
QUESTION: Could you talk a little bit on the more technical side of this? You mentioned, I think it was yesterday, or earlier before the pool reports that are coming out that much of this battle is able to be monitored in real-time by a video camera. How much are you getting to watch, and how much do the folks, like in helicopters, get to see?
FRANKS: Obviously, we do not have the ability to see all of the battlefield all of the time. I think that it's well known that we have the ability to -- in many cases, to isolate on a portion of the battlefield. And not only inside Afghanistan, as I know General Haigenbach (ph) mentioned but also at a variety of our headquarters. We have the ability to observe parts of the battlefield in real-time. Now the answer to how much of that, I observe, on some days a good deal, on other days very little, and I'll take reports and information from others and then review tapes.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what do you make of reports that other Al Qaeda elements are attempting to regroup inside Pakistan (inaudible) border for the apparent purpose of communicating with other Al Qaedas outside of Afghanistan?
RUMSFELD: I don't doubt it. I've seen these reports. Needless to say, as we find pockets of Al Qaeda, we're going to go after them.
QUESTION: Have the Pakistani authorities made efforts to eliminate them? RUMSFELD: Pakistan authorities have been terrific. They have been -- if you'll think about it, there's no map, but the current activity is very near the Pakistan border, and they do have people along the border, and they've been very helpful. To the extent they find people that need to be detained, they do it.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary?
QUESTION: Given what you said up front that the American military is in an ever more expanding (inaudible) role and do you see any decrease in the operational tempo of the armed services between now and the end of your first four-year term?
RUMSFELD: I do not think of us as the world's policemen at all. I think of us as the United States military as a capable, the most capable, military on the face of the earth, that has an opportunity and a responsibility to contribute to peace and stability in the world, and that police work is very much a national task. We do not do police work in the United States. We do not do police work in other countries, except on very rare occasions as we go in. And then the task evolves from a military one to a peace keeping one, at which point we try to move our forces out.
We have a big tough job, and it clearly calls for us to find terrorists and to find countries that are harboring terrorists. But, no -- I don't think it -- and I think it also, as your question suggests, it creates an enormous incentive for the defense establishment to stop using the men and women of the Armed Forces for things other than military tasks. We have them spread all over town as detailees in one place and another. We have some still in the Sinai that are down there in a non-military function, and we need to modify the size of that force.
We have people in different countries where they're being drawn down as the NATO mission is drawn down, and a police mission takes its place. So, I feel that we need to use the tempo, the demands, that exist on our force today as a way of getting our force reoriented out of non-military functions toward military functions.
QUESTION: As the presence increases, let's call presence for the moment, and you don't get rid of any of these old commitments...
RUMSFELD: We do. We are.
QUESTION: But we haven't pulled the guys out of the Sinai for instance. We haven't -- we're talking about it...
RUMSFELD: We're working on it, and we've pulled people out of Bosnia for example. That's taking place. We're pulling detailees from around the United States. We're resisting the use of defense establishment people for non-military functions to the extent they are being used. There's a memorandum of understanding as to what the exit strategy, if you will, will be for U.S. military people, for example, assisting in airports.
They're doing that. They should do that for a short period, but then they have to move on and do other things as people are hired to do those jobs. Same thing's with border patrols or Customs or INS. We've got too big a task to do to contribute to peace and stability in the world to be doing a lot of things that can be done as well by non- military personnel.
QUESTION: General Franks, can you tell us whether you monitored the battles over the weekend, and if so, could you provide us more details?
FRANKS: I have not -- you mean the tapes?
QUESTION: Yes, the tapes.
FRANKS: No, I did not watch -- if you're talking about the incident where we had our people killed in action, no, I have not seen that tape.
QUESTION: Was the second incident monitored in real time? Were you able to focus on...
FRANKS: The second...
QUESTION: Where the six soldiers were killed.
FRANKS: The incident that I saw in real time was the one where that force was extracted, as I think I mentioned on Monday. And I certainly will review the tapes. I'm aware of the views of a variety of people who were in that mission, and so, sure, I will take a look at them. But I haven't seen them yet.
QUESTION: General Franks, to follow up on that, you did not see the tape of the incident where Petty Officer Roberts fell out of the helicopter, right? A couple of days ago you said that he fell out, but you didn't mention that he was dragged away by enemy forces and executed. Did you not know that at the time?
FRANKS: To be very honest with you, I know of the -- I have been told of the report. No, I did not know that at that time. And to be very honest with you, I don't know that for myself yet. I have spoken with people who, in fact, were on that mission, as I said on Monday. And the view that I got was -- I think there are a variety of possibilities of the way this occurred.
On Monday, what I knew, and what I still know, is that the petty officer, in fact, fell out of the aircraft. Whether he had been wounded before he fell out of the aircraft, whether he was wounded when he was on the ground, or whether the case, as has been pointed out, I'm told, in the media, took place, I'm not sure yet.
And I think, as we work our way through this, we will come to some greater clarity. But right now, I think if we're not careful we'll be victimized by what we know to be the truth, and that is the first two or three reports are likely to be wrong. And so, we will continue to provide the facts as we know them.
RUMSFELD: I think it's a terribly important point, that what we're doing is, people in the press are with these forces and they're reporting what the see. And what they see is a certain perspective. They see it from a certain angle. They see an aspect.
We're getting reports back from people, and as the general said, they're first reports or second reports. And we know that history is replete with instances where the first or second reports were wrong. It was announced that there were nine dead Americans; it turns out there were eight.
So you're faced with a choice: Do you try to respond as fully as you can and caution people that the first reports may not be correct, or -- and then be subjected to, "Well, didn't you know this when you said that?" that type of a question that you posed.
And it seems to me that people have to develop the ability to absorb these kinds of reports in the press, reports from the podium with an understanding that they're going to be calibrated. They're inevitably going to be calibrated as a day or two or 48 hours goes by and additional perspectives come in.
FRANKS: If I could just go to one more quick point. There will be a lot of views on this particular incident. And that is not speculation. I will tell you that I have talked to three, maybe four people, who were either present or have reviewed the result of this, and it would probably not surprise you that each of the the three or four has a different view of what happened.
And so I think what we are seeing response to is a comment that is one of those views. And I think the secretary's remarks are right. I'd rather get it out there and then -- have all of us understand that we will develop the truth over time because there's not a desire to hide it.
RUMSFELD: One other point that I think is worth mentioning. It think what is important about this incident is not whether -- we know a fine American is dead. It is not whether the bullet hit him from ground fire while he was still in the helicopter or after he fell to the ground and hit by ground fire or after someone came up and shot him again. We may never know that. That was a matter of minutes.
What's important about this is the United States of America did not decide to withdraw and leave the field. It decided -- those forces decided to go in, bring a helicopter in, get the body, get the wounded and get them to safety. And the United States of America is leaning forward and not back.
QUESTION: General Franks, you've mentioned that there were only 5,200-odd American troops in Afghanistan which is less than the designated end-strength of the peacekeeping force for Kabul only. Do you foresee a need to increase the number of American forces in Afghanistan to deal with this engagement and other ones?
And are you planning to bring additional capabilities into the fight, beyond the Cobras, for example 105 artillery? Or is such artillery in Afghanistan at this time?
FRANKS: I think it's a good question, and I would not predict it. I would simply say that one of the things never in doubt since the 7th of October is that this nation would stand and deliver force to me for our use in Afghanistan as it might be necessary to do that.
I wouldn't predict whether the number will be 52 down to 45 or what particular kind of assets we would put to it. I think the key in this case is that neither the secretary nor the president have taken any of the capability of this nation off the table. And so, what we have done in each case is respond to the needs of a given tactical or operational environment.
I can tell you, as commander in chief, that I respond to that kind of leadership. And I wouldn't put words in the secretary's mouth, but my suspicion is that, if in the days ahead the force requires modification -- I didn't say enlargement -- if the force requires modification to conduct a different sort of operation, I would anticipate receiving the support to be able to put that kind of force in place. And I can't predict what it will be.
QUESTION: Does it require modification, and what type?
FRANKS: It could require additional gunships, as you suggested, beyond Apaches or Cobras. It could require additional lift; it could require additional infantry; it might require additional Special Operating forces.
RUMSFELD: It's also a little misleading to only cite the number of U.S. personnel on the ground in Afghanistan, because there are substantially aided (ph) forces in very short distances away.
And you mentioned 105s, and of course the AC-130 has 105 Howitzers that are being used to great effect.
QUESTION: General Franks, is there any evidence that any of the Al Qaeda or Taliban in this 60- to 70-square-mile area have tried to escape, have escaped?
And if they don't appear willing to surrender themselves or their positions, how will the U.S. know when it's won this Operation Anaconda?
FRANKS: What we'll do inside this operational area is we will continue to search and clear, confirm and deny until we have cleared the entirety of this particular area, which we named as the objective, that is, the mission that the force entered with.
The sense right now is that there has been no major effort of the forces inside this objective -- the enemy forces inside this objective area to leave. And I think the choice they have is the one that was mentioned previously, either to surrender or they will be killed. You'll recall, on Monday, I mentioned positioning of a number of additional forces around the objective area for the purpose of being able to identify what we call leakers, or people who would try to escape. If there is...
RUMSFELD: ... the word "leaker" means something entirely...
FRANKS: I have (ph) that, sir.
But that's the way we'll approach it.
RUMSFELD: You asked, how might things change? It's possible that additional Al Qaeda or Taliban could come from the mountains or from the villages or from across the borders. And to the extent that happened, that could change the situation, and that's fine, because we're looking for them wherever they are. And to the extent that additional forces are needed, we'll put what is needed to do the job.
QUESTION: General, follow-up quickly on the earlier question about the size of U.S. presence in Afghanistan. You said on Monday that you hadn't yet recommended to the president or secretary about any modification increasing the size. Did you in fact do so this morning give any kind of recommendation about changes?
FRANKS: Very honestly, I did not. And the part of the reason is because what we have is the force that we have in Afghanistan. And I think we've reported somewhere around 60,000 people, U.S. forces, in the totality of this area. And so even when we have repositioned the Marine assets, that we talked about a minute ago, they didn't come from outside the area. This is simply tactical repositioning within our theater, and so while I will talk every day with the secretary and advise him of the way we are moving forces around, I don't get guidance on that, and so, no, I have not asked who the secretary or the president to provide a...
RUMSFELD: And if he had, he wouldn't mention it in the press room.
QUESTION: You had made a point earlier. I wondered if you can elaborate on it. It was on the issue of the video of the one sailor, one brave American falling to his death, and you had said that this demonstrates the U.S. is not going to pull out. It does however send a reminder of that Black Hawk Down when Americans came out of a helicopter and were dragged through the streets.
I wonder if there was any concern about mentioning the video of a sailor falling and being dragged away by Al Qaeda, because of concerns that the American people might start being more aghast at the deaths of Americans.
RUMSFELD: There is -- other than very brave people being involved, this has nothing to do with Mogadishu. And the individual who was killed, his body has been retrieved, and so too have the wounded. And I don't see any comparison.
QUESTION: General Franks, you mentioned that General Hagenbach's (ph) characterization of the battlefield situation now in the objective area. But he said specifically that there (inaudible) local leaders have been funneling and infiltrating fighters into this area. Can you elaborate a little bit on that? Can you also tell us whether or not you believe that these fighters are able to communicate on some tactical level with the fighters in other parts of that objective area?
FRANKS: I believe that these pockets within the objective area will try to do what I described on Monday. I think they will in fact try to communicate with other pockets. Now, let me define pocket. In some cases, you may have five enemy troops who are in possession of a mortar. In other cases, you may have 25 enemy troops who are across a valley. I am sure that they will try to communicate with one another. To what effect, I am not sure. The key is, whatever enemy forces we find in this area, and I doubt that many will be able to escape, will either surrender or they'll be killed.
QUESTION: Additional enemy fighters been able to now infiltrate inside the objective area...
FRANKS: Once again, I would not take issue with the tactical commander on the ground. I will say that at my level, I have not seen evidence of formations trying to get into the objective area. Although it would not surprise me, Eric, if there were small pockets. You know, where we've drawn our line, there may be small pockets of forces outside that line. And they may in fact try to move in there, but I have not seen movement across international borders or anything like that.
QUESTION: General, what about coalition forces? Can you give us some details about any casualties, deaths, or injuries among the Afghan and non-Afghan coalition forces? Either in or out of combat in the south (OFF-MIKE)
FRANKS: I think the number that we talked about this morning -- the ones I know of are three Afghan killed in action, and perhaps 15, 20, 25 Afghans wounded in action. The Afghans have been a part of this operation, and I would suspect that they'd continue to be a part of it.
In terms of coalition forces, I've not seen evidence of any death or wounded coalition forces in Operation Anaconda.
QUESTION: Could I back you up to the number that you gave when you said 200 to 300 more American troops are arriving? What did that bring the total to, and are these troops moving in from within the objective area into a battle zone? Or are they brought in from other parts of Afghanistan?
FRANKS: The answer is both to the above. We've brought in some additional aviation assets. I mentioned we have repositioned forces within the objective area, and of course, we have some additional forces that we move in and out for troop rotation and this sort of activity -- and so the number legitimately is up to 300 from the number that I discussed on Monday.
QUESTION: The ability of commanders in the chain of command to see the battlefield in real-time, you also have instant replays, how do you prevent micro-managing?
FRANKS: That's a great question. You prevent micro-managing by permitting and encouraging commanders to make the judgments that they make on the ground. And then at the end of the day, after the fact, to seek the opportunity to review, and then ask who within the chain of command may have learned something. And that's the approach. Now what that does is it means we will not micro-manage day to day either from this level to me or from my level to our commanders on the ground.
They are making judgments based on what they see, and that's one of the reasons that I will not take issue with what they report, although it may well be that we'll discuss what they report.
QUESTION: General, are you bringing in the helicopter, the additional helicopter gunship, because of what happened on Monday with the 2 Chinooks that ran into trouble?
FRANK: No, what we find is, this is a very, very dangerous environment for attack helicopters to operate in.
I think some of the very early reporting indicated that we had some of our attack helicopters with bullet holes in them.
What we want to be sure of is that we have sufficient helicopters -- it is not in response to a particular thing -- but what we want to be sure of is that we have enough gun ships or attack helicopters to be able to do anything that may happen in the objective area.
RUMSFELD: Last question.
QUESTION: You had said a minute ago that the incident involving the Navy SEAL evolved over a matter of minutes. Can you elaborate on that a little bit? Are you talking about from when he fell or did not get back on the helicopter until this ended, what (OFF-MIKE) or how long do you believe he was in custody in Al Qaeda, and was there any mistreatment of him that is evident on his body?
RUMSFELD: I have not watched the video, and you've not watched the video. What I said was that there was firing from the ground at the helicopter. He was in the helicopter. We do not know whether or not he was shot while he was in the helicopter. We know that when the helicopter departed that area abruptly, under fire, he either was not in it or shortly thereafter he was not in it, but he was roughly in the same location where the helicopter had been, so it was a matter of a very short flight for him.
If he was not already out of the helicopter before the helicopter departed.
What took place thereafter, I -- you've heard several reports, as the General said. At some point, people will merge all of those different perspectives and views and something will come out of it that will be fairly definitive.
QUESTION: ... mistreated, if he were in Al Qaeda custody at some point, is there any evidence that he was mistreated, tortured?
RUMSFELD: As I've said, I've not seen the tape. I do not know if that's on the tape, and people who have seen the tape have commented on the subject, whether or not he was dead or alive when whatever took place did take place -- it seems to me that one ought to be willing to allow some time to pass over something like this so that the people who are looking at these things can come to some conclusions.
And what's important is that a brave man died, and he has been removed from the battle and his remains are en route back to the United States.
QUESTION: You're not prepared to say that an American prisoner was executed.
RUMSFELD: My goodness, I don't know how we could be any clearer.
QUESTION: Well, your own commanders have offered -- who have seen the tape, sir, have...
RUMSFELD: And we have said we have not seen the tape.
QUESTION: Why haven't you?
RUMSFELD: I spend...
QUESTION: With great respect, sir, the family has now, since last night, heard this report. They must be wondering what has happened. They must want some and fairly immediate word from the military who can tell them with some precision. And I would think the military would...
RUMSFELD: Well, look, let's be realistic. The General has got an enormous area of responsibility. He's got -- how many countries?
RUMSFELD: Twenty-five countries. He has a general officer engaged in this operation who is doing a good job.
FRANKS: He has been engaged with me in thinking about tomorrow and the next day and the next month and the next months. And the people on the ground are addressing this. And I think that is exactly the way these things ought to be handled.
QUESTION: I think the question is whether or not General Franks has now some reason to believe there is a plausible alternative scenario to the ones that his commanders in the field articulated to the news media.
FRANKS: Let me say this. I think it's very difficult to add to what the secretary had said except that one should appreciate that to review the tape is not like reviewing Monday night football tape. I mean, that's very key -- I mentioned a minute ago that in fact several of the commanders and people in Afghanistan have reviewed the tapes and they have come to different conclusions. The fact that one view has been widely reported, I acknowledge. Now whether that is an accurate view or not is something that will be based not only on my viewing, because the result of that will be imperfect. But as the secretary said, the discussion with other people who were present so that we get truth in the thing.
RUMSFELD: And I think in closing that it would be unfair and improper to draw a conclusion that the General or I are not interested in this individual's death -- we are. Thank you.
FRANKS: See you tomorrow.
HARRIS: And a rather a bankrupt ending there to the Pentagon briefing today. As you've seen there, the most pointed questioning coming today, around all the questions surrounding the death of petty officer Neil Roberts. The story that we have gotten so far about his case is he is the one soldier we have been talking about who fell out of the Chinook that was inserting troops into the the fighting that was going on just south of Gardez, and so many questions about how it is that he died.
It appears there is a videotape that shows exactly what happened. However, you heard General Franks here saying, he has not seen the tape. We've also heard Secretary Rumsfeld saying he has not seen tape, and they are saying there will be lots of views about what happened, lots of people looking at this tape, but they want to develop the truth over time, and they will look at that type, but they will will look at that tape, but they just have not done it yet, and until they do, they are not rady to confirm any of the things that we have reported in the press.
Also regarding that incident, Secretary Rumsfeld making it a point to say that what's important is not necessarily that a man was shot or that he died there on the scene, but what was important is that the U.S. did not decide to withdraw. He says that we went in, we got the wounded, we got them airlifted out to safety. The U.S. troops are leaning forward, not back, very pointed words, and perhaps they may have some meaning. We will find out later on.
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