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Defense Secretary, CENTCOM Commander Testify Before Senate

Aired July 31, 2002 - 15:43   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: I have been monitoring the Senate Arms Services Committee hearing. We are going to take you live now for Q&A. General Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command testified. Also, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. There is question and answering continuing. Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: ... by the end of December of this year, produce 3 to 4,000 trained members of the Afghan national army. By about this time next summer, we expect that number to be in the vicinity of 8,000. By the end of '03, I believe somewhere around 13,000 in the Afghan national army.

Now, with respect to how long we will continue conduct that training effort is certainly a decision for the secretary and at that -- at the policy level. My suspicion is that we will begin to look at approaches to provide that training which may give relief to our uniformed people who are conducting that training now, a policy decision to be made in the future.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: Thank you.

Secretary Rumsfeld, you and Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended the expansion of the international security assistance force outside of Kabul. I think he has made that recommendation before. It says that it would make a huge contribution to the consolidation of peace.

Would you support the limited expansion of that international security assistance force? Would you be willing to urge other nations to provide troops to make that happen? And would you be willing for U.S. troops to participate in that force as a way to attract other nations to contribute troops to it ?

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The -- my view and the view of the administration all along has been that the international security force is a good thing, and that to the extent countries are interested in expanding it, as the secretary-general of the United Nations has indicated, he favors, that would certainly be a useful thing.

The problem is that no countries are stepping forward to do that. We've had a good deal of difficulty, first of all, recruiting the original group of countries to serve in the international securities assistance force. And then, as those countries have rotated out, including the U.K. now, we have had to help recruit Turkey to come in and take the leadership. Turkey leaves at the end of this year, and we are going to have to recruit a new successor for that.

And our task, as we saw it, was best prioritized as follows. General Franks' task is to go after the al Qaeda and the Taliban. Our additional task was to help support the ISAF with logistics, intelligence and communications and quick reaction support, if necessary. As General Franks also indicated, our task is to help train the Afghan national army and raise money for it. And so, we feel that our plate is pretty full. And it would be an inappropriate use of our forces to use them as additional international security assistance force troops.

We feel that trying to stop terrorists from committing additional terrorists acts is our first priority, and our second priority is to support the existing ISAF. And our third priority is to try to train an Afghan national army. If people step forward, terrific.

LEVIN: If people step forward?

RUMSFELD: If people -- other countries want to step forward and expand the ISAF, the problem is the only people that have been recommending it have been people who don't have troops.

LEVIN: The -- General, let me ask you this question about the July 1 incident, so-called wedding incident. What can you tell us about the circumstances surrounding that incident, in which up to 54 Afghan civilians were killed. And very specifically, can you tell us whether or not the investigation which is, I gather, ongoing has corroborated a claim that the aircraft were fired on from the ground?

FRANKS: Mr. Chairman, I've looked at the gun tapes from those aircraft. The secretary has looked at a part of those gun tapes. What I think I would say at this point is the initial assessment that I asked our ground commander over there, whom I mentioned earlier, General McNeil (ph), to conduct, told us that we should do an investigation and determine actually, as best we can, all of the facts and circumstances surrounding that along with the context within which that event took place.

That investigation is, in fact, underway try right now. Statements are being taken as a part of that investigation. I will say that there were -- there were points of intelligence that led us to the area. When we put our forces into the area, and I think that the secretary has said on previous occasion, we had them not only in the air, we had people on the ground, observing these operations as we were conducting a sweep through this area.

Now, there is no question that there was ground to air fire. There is no question, Mr. Chairman. Now, we have -- I have read much about whether or not this is air defense or whether this is celebratory fire from a wedding. And, sir, the purpose of the investigation is to make those determinations. And so, sir, that is where we stand right now on that incident. LEVIN: And just to conclude that on the tapes that you saw, was there evidence on those tape of ground fire against those planes?

FRANKS: Sir, there was evidence on the tapes of ground fire. Yes, sir.

LEVIN: Thank you. Senator Warner?

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: Thank you. General, reading your testimony back, you say, "in closing, I want to make clear that our work in Afghanistan is not yet finished." Describe to us as best you can finished. When, in your judgment, will you be finished in your mission?

FRANKS: Senator Warner, we entered into this with what I believe was a blessing. When the president of the United States, when the secretary of defense describe a mission that days, "Remove the Taliban from effective control of the country of Afghanistan," it is a discrete mission, and I am satisfied with that.

The second part of that mission was to destroy the Al Qaeda network, as well as the tentacle pieces of that network, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, that existed within Afghanistan, which if linked together represented a global threat.

The secretary has described and I've described that that work -- we have work left to do in that regard. There are, in my view, no large pockets, such as the Tora Bora pocket or such as the Anaconda pocket, in place in Afghanistan right now.

Sir, I'm not sure how long it will take us to work our way through each and every piece of the geography of this terribly compartmented country to assure ourselves, me and my bosses, that that work has been completed.

And, sir, the third part of our effort there is to provide as best we can for the creation of a secure and stable environment within which a democratic government can mature in the country of Afghanistan. A lot of different approaches, a lot of different possibilities to that, Senator Warner. But the military piece of it that I have in my mission, the military piece is for the purpose of preventing the reintroduction of terrorism into Afghanistan, such as we found it post-9/11 of last year.

You asked me a question, sir, that was very short. I've given you a long answer. I don't know how long it will take us to work through each of the pieces of that very military mission. I believe the force structure we have in place today gives us an opportunity to do the work which the president and the secretary have asked our military to do. And, sir, we're just going to continue with that until we see ourselves able to put a check beside each component of the mission.

WARNER: Mr. Secretary, do you want to add to that definition of finished?.

RUMSFELD: Yes, sir. Just to add a couple of thoughts.

I think the way to think about the task is, to achieve what General Franks indicated is the goal, it requires that we look at security at several different levels.

There is security of the people that were elected by the loya jirga. It's important that that government survive and do its job.

There is security in the major cities and the ability of humanitarian workers to provide the needs of people.

There is the problem of border security, they need border guards. There's a problem of police, that they need police.

There is the task we mentioned of dealing with the Al Qaeda and the Taliban to see that they don't come back and attempt to reassert themselves.

There are also potentially conflicts between factions within the country. There are also drug lords and people doing drug trafficking. There is also crime, normal crime.

The goal, needless to say, is to have the Afghan government assume all of those responsibilities. My suspicion is that they'll do it at a different pace. And clearly, they don't have the ability to go after the Al Qaeda and the Taliban at the present time without the cooperation of the coalition forces. But they do have the beginnings of some capability to start dealing with some of the other aspects of it.

And the answer to the question is, how fast can the civil side step up and take over some of those responsibilities and the national army begin to take over some of those responsibilities?

WARNER: Well, you've been very candid in describing those tasks and also in saying that you're having difficulty...

PHILLIPS: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command testifying right now before the Senate Armed Service Committee on the status of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Tommy Franks making the point that, still a lot to be finished on the mission. As he put it, "many items on the checklist to check off" with regard to security in that country. Their main focus: getting rid of terrorist groups in Afghanistan so it cannot be reintroduced into that area.

Also, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld adding the need for a stronger government, stronger police force and border patrol before pulling out of Afghanistan.

Jonathan Karl, congressional correspondent, also following the hearing here.

What's your take Jon? JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Kyra, an upbeat assessment here of the status of the war in Afghanistan from both the defense secretary and from Tommy Franks.

But what was interesting is right at the very start of the hearing, before we started taking it, Don Rumsfeld said in his opening statement that nine months into the war we are closer to the beginning than to the end. So clearly trying to say that there's a lot of work left to be done in Afghanistan.

This come -- a little political context here, Kyra -- is that some Democrats here on Capitol Hill have been saying, in the words of Joe Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee up here, is that the president and the administration have done a great job fighting the war in Afghanistan, but they've done a far less good job in terms of handling the aftermath of the war, and so you can be sure that there's a safe and secure environment in Afghanistan for democracy to emerge, which was one of the things that Tommy Franks said is one of the primary goals of the effort here.

So interesting up here so far, this hearing, you know, not too much in the way of hard questions for these two men, but trying to do something in the way of managing expectations. There's a lot left to be done in Afghanistan, that's the bottom line.

PHILLIPS: I don't think those soldiers will be coming home any time soon.

Jon Karl, thank you so much.

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