Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS


U.S. Military Assists in Earthquake Relief

Aired March 28, 2002 - 13:30   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Right on cue, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Myers now at the podium from the Pentagon. Daily briefing about to get underway there. We shall listen for the next -- oh, about 30 minutes time. Don Shepperd out of this from Tucson.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ...a Navy SEAL who was killed by a landmine in Afghanistan.

This is, we're reminded almost weekly, a dangerous effort. And I'm certainly enormously grateful to him for his service and to all of the men and women in uniform who voluntarily put their lives at risk for our country.

Also, as we've heard, northeast Afghanistan was struck by an earthquake earlier this week. Many Afghans are dead and homeless. As part of the relief effort, U.S. military helicopters are delivering medical and various other supplies to the needy folks in the Hindu Kush Mountains.

I want to comment briefly on the importance of restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Our goals, which the coalition forces of course share, are to sustain an environment that will allow us to continue our work while we hunt down the Al Qaeda and Taliban that still remain in Afghanistan or in the neighboring countries; to assist the interim government in establishing reasonable order in that country; to ensure that the conditions exist which will allow humanitarian assistance to reach the needy and so that refugees can return from outside the country or the internally displaced persons from inside the country to their homes.

Clearly, there's no blueprint for what we're going. For example, Afghanistan is a country some 10 times the size and five or six times the population of Bosnia. It has been at war with itself or with others for close to two decades.

Also, foreign forces in another country are, as all know, an anomaly, and Bosnia, of course, is an example of how their presence can allow circumstances to grow and develop around them in an anomalous way. When it comes time to try to withdraw foreign forces from a country, one finds that much of the country's daily life has come to depend on them and that there is a fear that withdrawal could conceivably create an instability or at least an uncertainty.

I think it's helpful to remember that those who developed the concept for peacekeepers in Bosnia assured everyone that those forces would complete their mission by the end of that year and be home by Christmas. We're now heading into our seventh year of U.S. and international involvement in Bosnia.

Many aspects of what we're doing in Afghanistan are really quite different from what we've faced before. There are a number of ideas being discussed as to how best to help develop conditions for peace and stability in that country. Some are urging that a large number of additional international peacekeepers be brought in to patrol potential trouble spots across the country.

One drawback to that proposal is that the people making the suggestions are not offering troops, nor are they offering money. And the people who have stepped forward to help, like the Turkish government, have indicated that they do not want to see it expanded, and indicated in addition that they would be grateful if the United States and others, and we certainly will help them, see if we can't find some funds to help support and sustain the effort that they have indicated that they're willing to lead, as the U.K. steps aside from that leadership role.

So a lot of people seem to have ideas, but there are very few volunteers. I don't know quite why that is.

Others are recommending that it would be best to spend the time and money and effort trying to build up an Afghan national army. Still others are recommending that we do both at once -- that somebody do both at once, I should say.

There are still others who are suggesting that it would be best if the Afghan people and their leaders decide what approach they believe would be best to bring about security in their country, either the interim government or the follow-on government.

I will say this: There is no question but that very little is possible in a country if there is not reasonable security. And therefore, it is regrettable that the donors conference that met came up with some money, but they came up with money for things other than security. And there's not a nickel in the donors conference funds that is available to provide for the development, training, sustainment of an Afghan national army, nor is there money there for the International Security Assistance Force.

So the United States is addressing the question of raising some of our own money and then helping to raise some money from other countries, so that whatever is decided can in fact be accomplished. And we have been busy doing that.

Meanwhile, while this is going on, this discussion, I should say that the United States is currently working with the interim Afghan government to train at least a beginning of an Afghan national army and border patrol. And in addition, the existing International Security Assistance Force is already helping to train some Afghan troops.

Finally, a word about military commissions. There have been some murmurs in the media about detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, and specifically whether if one who is tried by a military commission, and if acquitted, whether they would then be released or whether they would still be detained. Let me explain this.

During the course of this war effort, the United States has detained several hundred enemy combatants.

As has been the case in previous wars, the country that takes prisoners generally decides that they would prefer them not to go back to the battlefield. They detain those enemy combatants for the duration of the conflict. They do sp for the very simple reason, which I would have thought is obvious, namely to keep them from going right back and, in this case, killing more Americans and conducting more terrorist acts.

Enemy combatants who have the good fortune of being capture instead of killed during an armed conflict are normally not in a position to challenge their continued detention. To release enemy captives so that they could return to the battlefield would put the lives of more young American servicemen at risk and, in my view, would be mindless.

Let me explain the issue in detail, since it seems to be troubling some people. Out of the detainees there may be some who committed serious crimes and who, if the president were to decide, might be assigned to a military commission to be tried on one or more of those charges.

If one were to be acquitted by a commission of, for example, a specific criminal charge, that would not necessarily change the fact that that individual remains an enemy who was captured during an armed conflict and, therefore, one could who reasonably be expected to go back his terrorist ways if released.

The procedures we put in place for the commissions provide full and fair trials. In some cases, it might not be possible to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual committed a particular crime, and therefore he might be acquitted of that crime. However, it does not change the fact that he is an enemy combatant. He may be guilty of other crimes, but at the minimum, he is someone to be kept off the battlefield from going right back and killing more Americans.

Even in a case where an enemy combatant might be acquitted, the United States would be irresponsible not to continue to detain them until the conflict is over. Detaining enemy combatants for the duration of a conflict is universally recognized as responsible and lawful. This is fully consistent with the Geneva Conventions and other law-of-war authorities. This is a matter of simple common sense, I would say.

The detainees include dangerous terrorists that committed brutal acts and are sworn to go back to do it again. To protect the American people, the United States has every right to hold enemy combatants for the duration. Today the conflict is still going on. Our troops are still fighting in Afghanistan. And we do not, as yet, see an end.

That said, we will continue to treat detainees humanely and consistent with the principles of the Geneva Convention. We will proceed with trials in some cases. We will proceed with transfers to another country, their country of nationality, in some cases. And in some cases releases, if, in fact, additional information proves that they are individuals who could be released without risk that they might conduct additional terrorist acts or go back to the battlefield to oppose what we're doing.

I can assure you, the United States does not want to keep any of them any longer than we have to. While we will treat them humanely and lawfully, we will do everything we can to protect the American people and our friends and allies from being attacked again. And we have no intention of releasing people who have shown that they're dedicated to killing more Americans.

General Myers?

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and good afternoon.

I, too, would like to offer my condolences to the family of Chief Petty Officer Bourgeois. I think it just points out that often our men and women daily have their lives on the line, and also points out just how dangerous a place Afghanistan still is.

As the secretary just mentioned, we are working very closely with the Afghan interim authority administration and nongovernmental organizations overseeing the earthquake relief efforts in Afghanistan. In addition to the medical supplies that we sent yesterday, we are preparing to send nearly two dozen pallets of rice, blankets, wheats and cold-weather gear to the people suffering from this disaster.

Just bear in mind that at the same time we're doing that, we are also continuing our hunt for the Al Qaeda and the Taliban that are left inside Afghanistan. In that vein, we are still conducting surveillance and reconnaissance of likely areas where they might be, and we're also searching through several cave complexes and gathering information and hopefully intelligence.

And with that, we'll take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you did provide a slight caveat in saying or suggesting that some of these people who are being held in Gitmo could be released...


RUMSFELD: Oh, sure. We've already released any number of people, as you may know.

QUESTION: But you have said for months that these are the hardest of the hardcore. Are you saying then, in effect, that the statements you made earlier that virtually all of these people will be held until the end of this war... RUMSFELD: No. I liked what I said and the way I said it.

The fact is that the first people we brought down were, in fact, the hardest of the hardcore because we wanted to get them out of the Kandahar and Bagram facilities. Now we have brought down a large portion of all of the people, and now it is a mix. And they vary; they run pretty much across the spectrum.

It seems to me that, that being the case, one can expect that what will happen will be exactly what I said, that some may be transferred to other countries, some may be released, some may be held for the duration, some may be tried in one or more of the various mechanisms that are available: the United States criminal justice system, military commissions or the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

QUESTION: So what you are saying, though, is what was said originally when you talked about this, is that some of these people might continue to be held even if they are acquitted, but not necessarily all of them?

RUMSFELD: Certainly not necessarily all, because not necessarily all will even be there or be tried by us or be acquitted, let alone tried.

There will be, I would assume, given my understanding of the makeup of these folks -- and I've had a chance to look at some smattering of them -- that there will be a good number that, regardless of whether or not they are tried by a commission or by some other mechanism, or acquitted, that we would not want back on the street for some period of time.

QUESTION: Among those detainees are, if I'm not mistaken, at least six who were not in fact captured on the battlefield, but were taken in Bosnia. Do you believe that you, that the United States -- and I don't think charges were pending against them and no charges have been brought against them.

Do you feel that you have the right, essentially, to pick up anyone anywhere in the world whom you believe to be a terrorist and hold them indefinitely without bringing charges against them for as long as you want, regardless of whether they're actually captured, quote, "on the battlefield"?

RUMSFELD: No. I'd like to say it my way, and it would be something like this, that I will leave it to the lawyers to answer the question the way you cast it.

And I will say this: There is no question but that the United States of America has every right, as does every other sovereign nation, to defend itself. There is no way to defend against terrorism except finding terrorists. And to do that, you must go where they are. And that is what we're doing.

And they may be in Afghanistan, they may be in Pakistan. And we have some people who've been turned over to us from countries other than Afghanistan. And we place the where we can. And at the moment, we're placing them, for the most part, some in the United States, as you know, and some in Guantanamo, and there's still some in Bagram, and there's still some that we're looking at that we do not have in custody in Afghanistan, and some we do not have yet in custody from Pakistan, and may or may not decide to take.

And I think to try to make a blanket statement, like your question suggested, would be a poor way for me to approach it. And I can tell you that I think there is not going to be single cookie mold that will be pressed down over this aggregation of people.

But we do know that we don't want prisoners, we don't want detainees. What we want to do is to defend the American people and our friends and allies and our deployed forces. And to do that, you have simply got to go find people and detain them.

QUESTION: You said that you could reserve the right to hold the detainees until the end of the war. You've also said that there won't be a signing ceremony on the Missouri in this war.


QUESTION: So what exactly is the end of the war? And are we talking about the war on terrorism or the conflict in Afghanistan?

RUMSFELD: Well, at the moment, we all know the conflict in Afghanistan is still going on, so we're not passed our deadline or our due date. I don't know how to describe it, and I suppose that'll be something that the president would make a judgment on as to when it was over.

I think the better way to look at it is not at that group of people in the aggregate, but, as I've indicated, individually. And there may be individuals that tomorrow one will come to a conclusion that they're no longer a threat, for whatever reason. And, as I say, that's already happened. We've released people already.

So I think that the way I would characterize the end of the conflict is when we feel that there are not effective global terrorist networks functioning in the world that these people would be likely to go back to and begin again their terrorist activities.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are you in discussions, sir, that one day or some day that you have to go inside Pakistan to find real Al Qaeda and Talibans or Osama bin Laden?

And also, sir, if you have comment that India yesterday passed anti-terrorist legislation just like the United States.

RUMSFELD: Did they?

QUESTION: Yes, sir.

RUMSFELD: I was not aware of that.

Well, with respect to the question, we have a very good working relationship with the Pakistani army. They have been very cooperative, as have other elements of the government. And at the present time, we don't see a need to change our current policies.

QUESTION: On the terrorist bill, sir, passed by the Indian government, any comments on that anti-terrorist bill?

RUMSFELD: Well, I haven't had a chance to look at it, but if it's similar to the kinds of pieces of legislation that we've passed, clearly they would be the type of thing that the United States would favor.

QUESTION: And also, sir, in The Washington...

RUMSFELD: Wait a second, this would be number four now. Why don't we go over here?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, recently some of the CINCs testified before Congress saying that U.S. troops are overextended and exhausted. Without getting into where the next step would be, can the U.S. fight a major theater war simultaneously to current operations in Afghanistan? And what would need to be done before that happens?

RUMSFELD: Well, first, I don't believe some of the CINCs did say, quote, "that the American troops are overextended and exhausted."

RUMSFELD: There may have been a CINC who said it. And it is no question but that if you looked around the world you could find a troop or two who's tired, and with good reason. They've been doing a great job.

But I think it would be a fundamental misunderstanding for him to think or for anyone to take his words and believe that the men and women in uniform around the world for the United States would even begin to fit that characterization. They don't.

Those of you who have been out and talked to them, you know that. You know they're up. Their morale is high. They are doing a great job. They're proud of what they're doing. They recognize the importance of what they're doing. And it's a disservice to them to leave that impression, in my view.

I'll answer the second part of the question, then I'd like General Myers to comment on it, because I think it's an important question.

You can be absolutely certain that, to the extent that the United States of America decides to undertake an activity, that we will be capable of doing it.

Dick Myers?

MYERS: Let me take on the first part of the question. You said "overextended." And I think, to put that in context, I think the question was...

RUMSFELD: "Exhausted," he said.

MYERS: Well, "overextended" and "exhausted." QUESTION: Not my words.

MYERS: No. No. I understand, that's a quote. But I think to put the -- I think the secretary covered the "exhausted" piece. Certainly, we have people that are tired. But I think in general, our force is ready and fit.

And everywhere I go -- and I've traveled, even during this war on terrorism I'm able to travel some. And I think if you ask people that travel and if you would put that question in the right context, you would get a much different answer. But let me talk about the "overextended" piece, just a minute. That was in the context of what we do every day around here. I mean, certain unified commanders and combatant commanders were asked, "Do you feel like you have the assets you need to do everything you need to do in your theater?"

Clearly, we've made some prioritization decisions here in the Pentagon that have distributed resources perhaps different than before 9/11. And that's appropriate, we think. And so, some unified commanders might feel they don't have everything they need to do everything they want to do. But those were -- to put it in context, that was a very specific question that was asked to the various commanders.

So in general, and to sum up, I think the secretary is absolutely right. There should be no doubt in anybody's mind that whatever the president would ask us to do, we're ready to do.

QUESTION: Simultaneous to operations in Afghanistan?

MYERS: I would not qualify it. We'll be ready to do whatever the president asks us to do, and it's unqualified.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the Saudis said yesterday, one strike on one Arab country is a strike on all. Does that...

RUMSFELD: Who said this?

QUESTION: A Saudi prince.

RUMSFELD: A Saudi prince. Do you know how many Saudi princes there are?


QUESTION: One major Saudi prince.


RUMSFELD: The rest of them are going to be hurt.


QUESTION: Well, does that affect your future plans on the war on terror?

And also, can you talk a little about the military here moved to Qatar?

RUMSFELD: Well, with respect to the first part -- I'll let Dick Myers answer the second part.

There will always be a variety of viewpoints on any subject. The fact that a person from a country was asked something and at least is quoted as having said something along the lines that you said he said -- and that's a number of corners away -- is no surprise. What it means now or what it might mean later is, it seems to me, not knowable.

Clearly, it would be wrong -- if somebody said that. Let's say there was a Saudi prince, and the Saudi prince said what you said he said, he's wrong to suggest that the United States would be attacking others in the world.

We have a concern that's a legitimate concern, and it involves a number of countries which the president has talked about and the State Department has listed. And these are countries that are engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction. They're countries that have had close relationships with terrorist organizations.

And we, as I said, have every right to defend ourselves. What will be required to do that and what the president's judgments will be prospectively is not knowable at the present time.

MYERS: You asked about Qatar, I think. OK, we'll start at the top.

The important thing to recognize is that we're always reviewing our force posture, or where our forces are. We're only in countries where we're invited to come in.

So, in that context, we're looking at options all the time. It's just something we do in our natural course of business. And we've gotten great support, as some people I think know, in the Gulf states for our force presence. Some of these relationships go back decades, many decades. And we'll continue to review those.

And beyond that, I think I'll just leave it right there.

QUESTION: Could I follow up on this one? At the Arab summit in Beirut, there were also very public displays and declarations of reconciliation between Iraqi officials and Kuwaiti officials, Iraqi officials, Saudi officials.

Couldn't that complicate ongoing U.S. military presence, operations out of Saudi and Kuwait and any further military operations against Iraq that might be launched from those countries?

RUMSFELD: All I can say is that, at the present time, our relationships with the countries you've characterized, where we have working relationships, if anything, are better today than we were three months ago. So I just don't know quite why that would be the case.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the National Guard Association and a large number of senators are calling for guardsmen assigned to border duty to be issued weapons. They feel the decision to leave them unarmed puts them in an unnecessary danger.

What's your position on the issue, and is it under review?

RUMSFELD: I had seen -- as a matter of fact, there have been no articles, but someone, a retired general had raised the issue to me in a meeting I had with him. And he pointed out that he has asked some of the people involved, and he'd gotten uneven answers -- that is to say, different one place from another.

I asked General Myers to look into it. He has been looking into it. And I believe your folks have been in discussion with some of the people to whom our folks are detailed, and that it is under review.

MYERS: Yes, and then once that's complete, working with the departments and agencies that our folks are detailed to, we'll come to the secretary with the recommendation.

QUESTION: As a follow-up, now that it is under review, do you think that providing weapons to National Guardsmen could send an undiplomatic message to Canada about the militarization of the border? Is that a consideration in the review?

MYERS: Not to my knowledge. Certainly, whatever we do along that border we do in close cooperation with Canada. And we have a wonderful working relationship with them, and I am sure that they would be fully knowledgeable of whatever it is that's decided.

QUESTION: General Myers, can I go back to this issue of exhausted and extended? Isn't it true, though, that the U.S. is almost exhausted and overextended in the use of precision weapons over there? I mean, you've dropped like 5,000 satellite-guided bombs, and the inventory's depleted. In that respect...

MYERS: That's not correct. The inventory is not depleted.

QUESTION: Give me a sense of...


MYERS: Even my wife understood this one...


RUMSFELD: You're in trouble everywhere now. When you say even my wife -- even I know better than to say that. I'm shocked.



MYERS: Thank you for your patience. (LAUGHTER)

No, the issue is -- are we going to stand up here and tell you how many JDAMS we have? No, we are not. But I just told you, we are not -- what term did you use -- depleted.

RUMSFELD: Exhausted.

MYERS: We're not depleted. And they're an allied force. There was a big listing of our munitions, some of our precision munitions. And it was Mary Jo, who turned to me, my wife, and said, "Why are we telling the world what our status of our munition -- shouldn't that be classified information?" And it should have been, and for some reason we felt obligated to spit it out there.

In this case, we are not depleted, let me just say that.

RUMSFELD: It also happens that the admiral, who was discussing this subject, was wrong -- maybe not wrong. He may have been speaking of something he knew something about but should not been speaking about, because the levels of munitions is not everybody in the world's business, to be perfectly honest, and he should have known better. But he may have been talking about what he did know about in a narrower area but not a worldwide area.

QUESTION: The comments that the -- I think it was from Admiral Blair and General Ralston, as you said, talked about the fact that they were asked specifically, that they do not feel they have the forces and capabilities to conduct the missions that they have now. And that what that means is that, as General Ralston said, "I do not have the forces in EUCOM to carry out these missions." But if asked to do something else, he would come back to you...

RUMSFELD: Exactly.

QUESTION: ... and say, "I need more."

RUMSFELD: And they do all the time.

QUESTION: And what that means is then there will have to be a decision made and a trade-off made.

MYERS: Right. We prioritize all the time. That's what we do.

RUMSFELD: Every day we're faced with those issues. And he's quite right, no one person is necessarily going to have every single thing they need at any given moment unless they ask for it. And then a judgment's made as to how you want to balance those risks and what priorities you think are appropriate. And that's what General Myers and I do.

QUESTION: Doesn't that also beg the question, how long can you maintain the war on terrorism, how long can you even maintain the effort...

RUMSFELD: The answer to that question is, how long can you keep doing what it is that is necessary to protect the American people from having more World Trade Center crashes, more crashes into the Pentagon, and the use of weapons of mass destruction? And the answer is, the United States of America is capable of doing that as long as it is necessary, and let there be no doubt.


QUESTION: Could you be more specific on what you said earlier about your forces being ready, if the president called on you tomorrow, to do anything called on? There have been major questions raised about whether there are enough JDAMs and other weapons.

To be more specific, about Iraq. What you're saying is that if you were called on to attack Iraq tomorrow or next week, that you would be ready to do it, that wouldn't be a problem. Is that what you're saying?

RUMSFELD: You have to understand how government works.


Take a moment. The president is not going to call up the secretary of defense, and the secretary of defense is not going to ask for the advice of General Myers, and ask us if we would please put on our wings personally and fly over to the White House and talk to him. He knows we can't do that.

RUMSFELD: He knows our capabilities. We deal with him every day. We talk about these things. We make investments in advance for things. We arrange forces.

Presidents don't ask people to do things that are undoable. And if they do -- if they ask, they normally would ask, is this doable; on what basis; at what risk; and over what time period? And that's how things get sorted out in government.

I can assure you that anything that the United States needs to undertake and decides to undertake, we will undertake and we will undertake it successfully.

QUESTION: On the Tokyo issue, the State Department is saying that the question of getting money from other countries to pay for peacekeeping forces, or arming and training of an army, never came up, that that wasn't even on the agenda in Tokyo. You seem very specifically miffed at the results of the Tokyo...

RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't mean to. No...

QUESTION: ... talks, as if there was something proposed and rejected.

RUMSFELD: No, no, no, I don't mean to. All I can say is, when I asked how much of the money from the Tokyo conference -- when the interim government asked how much of that money is available for security purposes, and we were all advised -- the Afghan government and I happened just not to be aware of the details of the donors conference -- I just said, "Well, that means something else has to be done now."

We're going to have to get our things together and go out and do that because without security in that country, not much else is possible. There's not going to be a stable government. There's not going to be humanitarian assistance. Things aren't going to work. The borders are going to remain open without border patrols. The police work won't be done because there won't be policemen. The national government will not have a national Afghan army and, therefore, not be able to provide any stability from the center -- from the capital of that country. We've got to get about the task and do that.

QUESTION: Are you feeling that there's...

RUMSFELD: I wish there were money for it, and we're going to try to raise some. And I think we now have an amount, if I'm not mistaken, don't we?

MYERS: I think we're a little bit...

RUMSFELD: Something like 28 or something.

MYERS: Yes, sir.

RUMSFELD: I'm not sure enough to say the amount. I think I know the amount, but I don't want to be wrong. I noticed that the estimates on the number of Afghans killed in the earthquake has now varied between 1,800 and 600, all within 24 hours. So I don't want to end up doing that myself.

QUESTION: General Myers, I'd like to ask you, you said that the U.S. continues military forces to go after Al Qaeda inside Afghanistan. And if I'm Al Qaeda I'm not likely to stay inside Afghanistan. So I'd like to prod you a bit on the challenge of going after Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

We are sending folks to Georgia. We are sending folks to the Philippines for small numbers of terrorists in those countries. In Pakistan, we've got Al Qaeda.

Are there Al Qaeda there? If there are Al Qaeda there, do we know where they are? Or are we not going into Pakistan to conduct any military operations in Pakistan because of General Musharraf?

MYERS: First of all, there are still Al Qaeda, I can assure you, inside Afghanistan. Not all of them have fled, and we're pretty sure of that. And so we'll continue to go after the remnants of Taliban and Al Qaeda there.

Well, certainly, there probably are Taliban in Pakistan. But let's remember, when we started talking about this, as the secretary has said and the president said, we're going to use all instruments of national power to defeat this enemy. And so, it's not just military action that can bring pressure on these groups and actually bring them into detention and to justice.

And so, the Pakistan government, I think the secretary said it earlier in this conference, that they've been very, very cooperative in this...

QUESTION: Did we ask them for permission to conduct joint military operations inside Pakistan?

RUMSFELD: I don't know that I want to get into exactly what we have asked or do or might do with them. All I can tell you is what General Myers has told you, and that is that we have a very good relationship and we're very pleased with it.

QUESTION: But can you tell us why you haven't done any operations in Pakistan?

RUMSFELD: I think I just answered that question. I told you I'm not inclined to discuss what we have done or are doing or might do. All I can say is, we have a very good relationship with the government of Pakistan and we're pleased...

MYERS: Pleased with the results.

RUMSFELD: ... with the results.


RUMSFELD: Could I just make a quick comment back here. The thing that disappoints me is not that the donors conference there didn't come up with money, although it would be nice if they had, but they didn't, so now we have to get about the task. It's that there seems to be so little understanding of all that is going on.

We are already helping to train an Afghan national army; the International Security Assistance Force has been doing that. And I keep reading that the Pentagon is an impediment to a secure environment in the country, and that's just utter nonsense. It's just not true.

We are leaning very far forward. We recognize the importance of that. Indeed, it's important to our ability to go around and find the Al Qaeda and the Taliban. it's important to our ability to conduct the global war on terrorism elsewhere in the world, that that country be reasonably stable. And there's just a good deal of mischief or misinformation that's being circulated. And I think...

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary?


QUESTION: You have said on that issue that something else must be done. Are you thinking that the U.S. military will have to do a little bit more, in terms of protection?

RUMSFELD: Training or protection?

QUESTION: In terms of protection...

RUMSFELD: Security?


RUMSFELD: We're doing quite a bit, if you think about it. We have folks at Kandahar, folks at Baghran, we have folks in Kabul. We are helping the ISAF by providing intelligence, logistics and quick- reaction force. We have special forces people embedded in most of the major Afghan units that are around the country, creating a certain presence. We are assisting people to get in and out. We're providing humanitarian assistance by helicopter right now for the earthquake victims.

We are not the only country on the face of the earth who can do things, and there are other countries who are perfectly capable of doing things, as well. And it's an awful lot easier to stand back and point a finger and say, why isn't something bigger, better or longer or richer or more of this, than it is to say, OK, I'll line up and help. And we've got wonderful cooperation from folks all across the globe on the -- in terms of the coalition forces. Now what we need is some more cooperation from folks around the world on the security environment in the country. And I'm hopeful that that will occur.

We'll take two more questions, one here and one in back.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, getting back to the ongoing operations...

RUMSFELD: I couldn't hear.

QUESTION: Getting back to the ongoing operations...

RUMSFELD: I'm sorry. I still can't hear you. You swallowed it.

QUESTION: Getting back to the ongoing...

RUMSFELD: Ongoing. Good.

QUESTION: ... against Al Qaeda and Taliban, there is a report out of Kabul this morning that Afghan and international forces killed 50 Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters near the town of, I believe, Narkez (ph), south of Gardez. Can you comment on U.S. involvement in that?

MYERS: We've checked into that and went back to Central Command, and we cannot validate that that took place. So that was from Afghan radio, right?


MYERS: We can't validate that.

RUMSFELD: Last question.

QUESTION: Back to the detainees, if you please. First of all, a clarification, which I hope doesn't count as a question...


... regarding the release that you mentioned of some of the detainees. Not from Guantanamo, correct?

RUMSFELD: I don't care to respond.


QUESTION: Please do (ph).

RUMSFELD: I guess the question is, what does that mean really?

We have released people that we have retained. We have done it in a variety of locations. That is to say, we have gotten people from other countries, took custody, and released them. We have done -- caught people in Afghanistan, looked at them, and released them. We have had people in other locations look at them and release them.

And I don't know that I want to get into a detailed situation where I say, "It was this place" and then, "Who is that person, and why did you release him, under what circumstances," because it isn't helpful to what we're trying to do.

QUESTION: OK, but if I could argue, probably unsuccessfully, that I'm asking where. There are 300 detainees in Guantanamo. Are the same 300 detainees still there?

RUMSFELD: I doubt it. I'd have to go back and check. I lose track -- correction, I don't try to keep track. I get involved in things early. They then go and train, and I go on and do other things. And when things actually take place thereafter, I don't know. That's as good as I can do. Now comes the question.

QUESTION: This is what is going to have to...

RUMSFELD: This is the second clarifying?


QUESTION: This is going to have to qualify as a follow-up.


And that is, are you in a position...

RUMSFELD: Do you get a follow-up to a clarification?


QUESTION: Are you in a position yet where you can specify whether the military commissions that you discussed will be conducted at Guantanamo?

RUMSFELD: I don't know. It seems to me it would be premature to decide that, since no one's been assigned. When someone's been assigned, we'll have the maximum information at that point. And then I'll say, "This person's been assigned. We're going to try this person in this location." If I said something now and it turned out that the person came in and it was an inappropriate place, the location I'd announced, then you would say I'd changed my mind and wonder why. And I will not have changed my mind. I just don't need to decide that right now.

I'd like to say that our good friend, General Hugh Shelton, is in the hospital and is a terrific person and, unfortunately, has injured his back. And we're getting good reports that he's in a stable condition. And I hope he's watching, and we wish him well.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, which countries do you want to see more participation from on the security side? More money or more...

RUMSFELD: Gosh, when it comes to money, I'll take it anywhere I can get it.


Thank you.

HEMMER: 42 minutes on the clock there. Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Myers and a number of things talked about there. In a moment here, we are going to go live to Tucson, Arizona. Major General Don Shepperd will pick up on a few thoughts here in a moment.


HEMMER: In the meantime though, let's go back to the Pentagon, let's go back to the military front right now, the war on terror, and the possibilities for Iraq, at some point down the road. To Tucson, Arizona. General Don Shepperd is with us.

Good afternoon, Don. Good to see you.


HEMMER: There was a very good question, I thought, relative to this Pakistan issue, saying U.S. troops will not go into Pakistan. Fully knowing that there is a strong, if not absolute possibility, that al Qaeda fighters right now are taking refuge. Why not go ahead and go into Pakistan?

SHEPPERD: Well, we may go into Pakistan, and Secretary Rumsfeld was very careful about how he answered that question, because he has preferred to let the countries involved, in this case Pakistan, announce what they will allow to have done on their soil.

Now, the area we're talking about adjacent to Afghanistan is the tribal area of Pakistan. It has some autonomy. Remember, sides have switched now. Before, they were protecting the refugees from Afghanistan and from the Taliban, and now they may be protecting some of the Taliban and some of the al Qaeda.

It's clear, in some cases, we would like to pursue those people in hot pursuit, but you have got to be very careful because they may be in the middle of villages, you have to deconflict any of your operations with Pakistani troops that are in this area. So, it is going to be some time before we can work that out. And then I suspect that Secretary Rumsfeld will either have Pakistan announce the rules, if he wishes to, he will be very careful in commenting about that, Bill.

HEMMER: Let's talk about Iraq right now. Jamie McIntyre yesterday afternoon reported a senior defense official saying any action against Iraq is not imminent. In other words, possibly late in the summertime at the very earliest, if indeed it is carried out. They cited things like the weather in the desert, 115 degrees. Why publicly announce something like that? What's the benefit for the Pentagon?

SHEPPERD: Well, I'm not sure why they would announce that publicly. Secretary Rumsfeld and, more importantly, the president will make the decision when and if we ever conduct operations against Iraq. That is a large-scale operation, it takes time to work the diplomacy. The diplomacy has been complicated by the Arab summit that's taking place, and the reactions and statements coming out of that. It is complicated by the Arab-Israeli summit, the Arab-Israeli situation, and it also takes a considerable amount of time to move forces into the area in the numbers we would need to conduct operations. So, it is going to be some time is probably accurate, but why they are talking about it, don't know.

HEMMER: Anybody's guess, I would say. Listen, the other point to be made here is about the -- quote unquote -- "drained resources" right now. Best to your knowledge, based on the people you have conversations with, how much has the war in Afghanistan drained the U.S. military?

SHEPPERD: Well, of course, it puts a stress on the military. We are operating in many countries around the world, ongoing operations in addition to Afghanistan, planning for -- perhaps -- for future operations in the war against terrorism, and, of course, we are strained. But Secretary Rumsfeld is right on the mark. Whatever the military is asked to do, we will do it.

Right now, the forces have been downsized after the Cold War from a high of over a couple million forces down to 1.2 million. Lots of Guardsmen and reservists being called up to support these operations and the things going on worldwide. So we are very, very busy, but the military is prepared to do what its called on to do -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right. Listen, I have a piece of videotape I want to run for our viewers here. It happened in Beirut, Lebanon, right near the end of the Arab summit. It has the Saudi delegations, in a very public gesture, trying to show that they have made amends, at least publicly, with Iraq. Listen, public is one thing. Private can be another matter. And you know well, back in late 1990, Saudi Arabia was threatened by Saddam Hussein, fearing that a further invasion may hit their country. Curious to get your thoughts when you see this, and how may impact the current strategy.

SHEPPERD: Yes. Public displays of affection are very interesting. In this country, we shake hands with our enemies. In the Middle East, they embrace and kiss on the cheek. These initial greetings of people are something that don't carry a lot of substance. This is a very complicated situation in Mideast diplomacy. Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian situation have to be worked out.

The entrees between countries, making of peace and good relations between countries is a positive step everywhere, but we have to do two things. We have to contribute whatever we can to settling the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and we also have to make sure that Iraq cannot conduct weapons of mass destruction attacks against its neighbors or our country. And this is all initial steps in those directions, Bill. Not really meaningful yet.

HEMMER: It is fascinating stuff, that is for sure, though. Certainly a lot worth talking about. Another piece of videotape from that earthquake section of Northern Afghanistan. Really, really devastating stuff. The numbers yesterday, possibly 2,000 dead there. We now know the U.S. military is helping out to some extent. How much of a distraction, general, could that be in Afghanistan?

SHEPPERD: Well, it is a nation of tragedies, and when something tragic happens, you jump into action with whatever you have got to help those affected. The military of the United States has done that wherever they are. We are doing now. If we had an ongoing operation like Anaconda, it would really stretch us. Right now, there is nothing ongoing like Anaconda, so we do have some resources free to do that. Even if we didn't have them, we would do everything we could to assist the international community, to assist these people that have been injured. Terrible situation, Bill.

HEMMER: Don, thanks. Major General Don Shepperd live in Tucson. Appreciate you taking the time today. I know you are a busy man. Much appreciated. We'll talk to you again soon.




Back to the top