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Pentagon Briefing

Aired August 7, 2002 - 14:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. and Afghan troops were drawn into separate battles today with attackers -- or would-be attackers, and when the dust settled, several of the enemy were dead.
CNN's Matthew Chance is in Kabul.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a day of bloodshed in and around the Afghan capital Kabul, and indeed elsewhere in Afghanistan.

We'll start with a confrontation just on the outskirts to the south of the Afghan capital. There at least 15 people have been killed in a clash between Afghan security forces and armed men, who apparently, according to security officials, attacked an isolated police post guarding the road that runs out of the south of the city.

Now, we're told the security forces returned fire, of course, with their machine guns, but also with rocket-propelled grenades, and it was quite a gruesome aftermath that we witnessed on the sort of hillside where the gunmen had tried to escape the returning of the fire by the Afghan security forces.

Now, we're getting conflicting reports on exactly what the motivation may have been for this apparent attack. We're told by one Afghan official that the...


PHILLIPS: We have to interrupt our report there from Matthew Chance to take you live to the Pentagon where Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff talking about Iraq.



The number is a little higher than usual because the Iraqis are using these smaller ships and vessels, these dows, to try to circumvent the U.N. sanctions there.

And with that, we'll take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Chairman, very briefly, do you have any additional details on the man who was wounded at Khost? Was this an ambush? Was this an exchange of fire? Was it just...

MYERS: We don't have many details. This is first report. We know one is wounded in the chest and is being taken care of. And we'll provide those details when we know them. We just don't know right now.

QUESTION: And might I ask you, regarding today's report in the Washington Times, have the chiefs -- are you now convinced that in the final analysis it's going to take a military operation to remove Saddam Hussein? And have you all signed on to that idea?

MYERS: Can I talk about the articles that have been in -- probably the last three or four weeks, I guess, there have been a series of articles. From where I sit and the people that I talk to on a daily basis, meaning the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other senior military officials, the things that are said and portrayed in the article simply aren't said or said to me. I've not -- they are not accurate portrayals of what I see on a daily basis and what I hear.

And beyond that, the kind of advice that the military provides to Secretary Rumsfeld and the president and the rest of the National Security Council is certainly privileged communications, and I'm not going to share that with you here.

QUESTION: Do you think these links, Mr. Secretary, do these leaks represent some kind of political jockeying from all sides in town, trying to get the upperhand on what they perceive should be done to remove Saddam?

RUMSFELD: I don't have any idea what motivates people. I mean, I've been kind of struck by the articles being so inconsistent one with another. One day it says that the Chiefs are totally out of the loop and not being consulted and they're unhappy. Another says they're consulted, but they don't agree. Another says they've consulted and they do agree. I think it's all kind of mischievous. But it's not for me to speculate as to why people do things.

QUESTION: I talked to Senator Levin last week, and on the record he's said he's talked to a number of top military people and they have significant cautions and concerns about going into Iraq and that the civilian leadership in the building is not giving them due consideration. And I asked him, "Did you follow this up -- did you check this after these articles came out?" And he said, "No. This is a long time ago after talking to a number of uniformed officials."

General Myers, I mean, is there a reservoir of concern within the building?

MYERS: I think I just answered that.

QUESTION: Well, this is on the record from a top senator, though.

MYERS: I'm just saying that -- I mean, the way things are portrayed in these articles simply haven't occurred in front of me. OK? And I can't talk about our operational plans or what our advice is and so forth.

But you can imagine if we were planning an operation against the Moon that we would have a lot of discussion about how best to do that and so forth. So there's obviously going to be discussion about how we go against the Moon.

QUESTION: What about the perception that the civilian leadership isn't given adequate consideration to the military views? I mean, what's your take on the process by which...

MYERS: I'll give you my take on the process, and this is not Iraq-specific. But my take on the process, I don't think -- in my time in uniform, in my time in this building doing what I've been doing as the assistant chairman, the vice chairman and the chairman, we are permitted to give our views frequently and regularly and continuously. And we're asked for our views. And, I mean, there's never been a better exchange, in my opinion.

And so, I don't know where these things get started, I don't know who -- I mean, like I said, it is not consistent, those articles are not consistent with what I see and what I observe and what I hear.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there are two laptops missing in Central Command. We don't know much more than that, other than they turned up missing last week.

Can you shed some light on it? Were they taken from General Frank's office? Do they contain classified material, highly classified eyes only, what could you tell us about it?

RUMSFELD: You want to comment on that?

MYERS: The story is correct. There were some laptops, two laptops discovered missing at Central Command. They contain -- we think one of them contains classified information.

And they have an investigation ongoing under the auspices of CentCom and General Tom Franks. And they'll try to -- you know, the good news is in this is that they were in a room that is tightly controlled, where access is tightly controlled, and they have a lot of detail. And...

QUESTION: Do you think that they are, quote, "missing," unquote, or do you think they were actually stolen?

MYERS: It could be that. It may be some other things. We're not -- but it could be that they're missing. I mean, that happens sometimes. But we'll just have to wait and see.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, today in an interview with the Associated Press, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud said that the U.S. military would not be able to use Prince Sultan air base for any attack on Iraq.

Number one, have you seen those comments, and your reaction to that statement? RUMSFELD: I have not seen the comments. I have been told that such a statement was made.

You ask what my reaction is, the president has not proposed such a thing, therefore I don't find it really something that has been engaged as such.

QUESTION: Are there contingency plans in place, should that happen?

RUMSFELD: Look, that's -- people are developing hypotheticals on hypotheticals on hypotheticals, and that is about as unuseful as anything I can imagine.

Yes, you had a question?

QUESTION: Yes, sir. Following up on the laptops question, I mean, there's been a lot of concern expressed by you at this podium for months about problems with breaches of security, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for instance on the Hill and other places. To what extent should there be some concern about, within the military, about the ability to maintain secrets when it comes to -- this was in a secure room, that these laptops were in a secure room at a facility that one would assume is one of the most secure military facilities around the world. You know, what does that -- is there a problem with maintaining...

MYERS: In the end, in the end, security comes down to individual responsibility. So if you have individuals that are willing to commit crimes -- you know, in the end, it comes down to your trust and confidence in the people that work there. And you do all the appropriate checks and all that sort of thing to ensure that the people have the, you know, the right background and motivation and so forth. But in the end, it comes down to their individual responsibility.

So if that was the case in this case, we'll find that out. If it was a case that they were taken off for maintenance and nobody appropriately logged that in, we'll find that out. So we'll just have to figure it out.

QUESTION: Who had access to the room, General? How many people, and do you know the people?

MYERS: I think that's for Saint Tom to worry. That's not the sort of thing -- let Tom Franks is worrying about that.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, when it comes to this question of support from Saudi Arabia, can you just say generally, are you -- do you remain happy with the level of support that you are getting from Saudi Arabia? And are you confident...

RUMSFELD: Oh, I do indeed.

QUESTION: ... are you confident that if the United States were to have to take military action in the Persian Gulf region, that you would get the level of support that you need from Saudi Arabia? RUMSFELD: Look, there's the hypotheticals again. I'm not going to get into those.

The fact -- the first part of your question, the answer is of course. We have had a long, close relationship with Saudi Arabia. And we have a good number of troops stationed there. We have an ongoing political and economic and military-to-military relationship which is constructive, and helpful to both countries, has been for a long time.

QUESTION: You've often said...

RUMSFELD: I had Prince Abdullah -- Crown Prince Abdullah here as my guest when I was secretary of defense in 1976. This is not something new.

QUESTION: If I could quote one of the most prominent defense experts in this building, you, have said on many occasions you prefer -- you prefer poor countries themself to characterize their contributions to the war on terrorism.

RUMSFELD: I do. Yes.

QUESTION: Is that particularly true when it comes to Saudi Arabia?

RUMSFELD: No, it's true with all the countries in the coalition that have been helping us with the global war on terror and who helped in other activities. I think it's generally best for them to say first what they would like to say about how they're assisting. And that's fine. And then we tend to, to the extent it's accurate, we tend to accurately reflect it, what they've decided they want to say. If they're helping us in ways that are different than that, and they prefer not to discuss it, that's their choice, and we can live with that too. We need all the help we...

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary?


QUESTION: Sir, can you -- on two quick questions. One, according to the press reports, General Musharraf had said recently that what you and president and everybody in the U.S. have been saying, Osama bin Laden was behind 9/11 and other attacks against the United States, but he said, no, Osama bin Laden may have not been behind 9/11, someone else.

Now, are we going to look for someone else? Or do you agree with General Musharraf's thinking, sir?

RUMSFELD: I have not seen his statement. There is no question but that Osama bin Laden has announced, pronounced and repeatedly commented on his pride in his involvement in 9/11.

QUESTION: And second, sir, Saudi Arabia. As we know, that they have been sponsoring or there were at least 16 of the terrorists who hit the United States were Saudi nationals. And two, even now, Saudi government is sponsoring on paying to the families of the suicide bombers.

So where do we stand -- where do you put these recent reports with all these, what they have been doing?

RUMSFELD: Well, there was an article in the paper about a briefing that took place here in the Pentagon as I understand it. I don't know of any DOD employee who heard it, but I'm told that there was a French national, a resident alien who is connected to the RAND Corporation in some way, who I don't know, and who made a presentation at RAND at RAND's request on Saudi Arabia and on the region generally.

And there was some people from the Department of Defense policy board who heard it and invited this individual to come and make a presentation. He announced that it was not a RAND presentation at the briefing and the Pentagon. It was not the result of RAND analytical work or research; it was his personal views, which is fine; everyone has personal views. And he, apparently, at this Defense Policy Board made a presentation that was somewhat different, but on the same subject of his presentation that they'd heard at RAND. It didn't represent RAND's views. It does not represent the Defense Policy Board's views. It does not represent the Department of Defense's views. And no senior member of the Department of Defense was there to hear it.

And the answer, I guess, is that with respect to Saudi Arabia, it is, as I've answered in the earlier question, a country with which we have a very close relationship. It is quite true that some of the individuals involved in 9/11 had Saudi passports.

There were some people with other passports, as well. It's true that there are al Qaeda in 40 or 50 countries around the world, and we all understand that. And we value and recognize the relationship we have with that country.

QUESTION: General Myers, you have the soldier wounded today, you had the attack on the Afghan army post outside Kabul, there have been some other skirmishes recently. Does this show an increase in al Qaeda and Taliban activity in Afghanistan?

MYERS: Well, there's been, obviously, in the last short period of time there has been, you know, some increase. Whether that's a trend or not, you know, you have to wait and see.

But I think as the secretary has said and I've said for some time now, that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place. And we know there are pockets of Taliban. We know there's pockets of al Qaeda. And that's why we have patrols out there. I'm not surprised that our patrols are shot at. They're trying to hunt down the enemy, and that's what happens.

So we'll just have to wait and see if this is, you know, abnormal activity or a trend toward higher activity.

RUMSFELD: I didn't finish a thought I had when I said he was a resident alien. My point was, it was not a classified briefing. He doesn't have clearances. So there was nothing classified in the briefer's paper. And I may have said yesterday in the town hall meeting that it was a classified briefing, but it was not. It was a closed briefing, but not a classified briefing.


QUESTION: I have a related question for the two of you, if I could, on this issue of the push back among the services and civilian leadership. The civilian military disagreements are things that pop up...

MYERS: Could you speak up a little?

QUESTION: Of course. On the question of the push back from the uniformed services, the reports of that...

RUMSFELD: The alleged push back.

QUESTION: The alleged push back -- splits and disagreements between civilian leaders in the military pops up from time to time, well documented. General Myers, I'm curious...

RUMSFELD: Pops up from time to time, not well documented, almost always anonymous. Pardon me?

QUESTION: My question for General Myers is, with your experience, sir, do you see an evolution of that to greater disagreements, not between the civilian leadership and uniformed services, but between the joint operations and the joint planning staff and the needs and desires of the individual services? And related to that, Mr. Secretary, yesterday at your town hall meeting...

RUMSFELD: Why don't we answer that one.

QUESTION: Sure. Will I get my second question, though?


RUMSFELD: Depends on how well we answer this one.


I guess it's to you, but it's an interesting question.

MYERS: It is an interesting question. And I guess I'd answer it this way, and, Tom, see if I'm on the mark in understanding what you're talking about. Then I think I'll chime in on the second one, if I think I know what Tom's going to ask. But I've got a good answer for a question you haven't asked yet, I hope you ask it.


QUESTION: Did you guys get together ahead of time?


MYERS: No. Well, not on this. RUMSFELD: We're together all day.


MYERS: You know, there are tensions in the system, and services have responsibility in statute to organize, train, equip their forces. There are other statutes out there that say the combatant commanders employ those forces.

And as you try to become more joint -- the term we use -- you know, in using all services capabilities in a way that a joint commander can orchestrate it in a way that makes them most effective on the battlefield, clearly there might be tensions in many different levels.

There may be programmatic tensions -- you know, what new systems are being fielded, at what pace, who's putting money into what program. There may be tensions on what is the operational concept, the joint operational concept, you know, as some might perceive it, favoring one capability over another.

Certainly those exist and they're worked out. There's several well-developed processes to work those out. So, I mean, they do exist. We have great debates.

I would submit, my personal philosophy is that it's good to have the individual services, because each of them brings with them a unique culture and unique capabilities. And because you have competing ideas and competing systems, that competition breeds excellence. If you didn't have that, you might wind up with solutions that just aren't the best you could have.

So I think this is healthy. This is good. I think the American people ought to be happy that we're having these, if that's what you were getting at.

RUMSFELD: I'd like to elaborate on it. I agree. The problem is, you have the four services coming up straight. And up here you need to have joint warfighting capability for the CINCs. What happens right in there is either going to be a result of, as the general suggests, constructive tension or its going to be a train wreck. Either you get these four services to not have each their preferences all the way up and not have them come together in a way that's joint, or you, as the general says, find mechanisms that help to pull them together.

And it's that -- that is where the tension occurs. And it is partly statutory design tension. But it is -- the mechanisms that are there are not perfect. Indeed they're -- they fall short of doing it.

And what we need to do is to get these four services pointing -- not pointing straight up, but starting to point toward joint efforts earlier, at a lower level. And to the extent that happens, then we will be better able to engage in truly joint war-fighting without having the train wreck in the middle. I think we're making good progress on it, and I think your question points to exactly where the tension is. And it is not a matter of civilian military. It is a matter of the service coming up, and then the need to get them all through the needle head so that the CINC who doesn't care where he gets his power, air power or power to put pressure on a target, he doesn't care if it comes from land, sea or air.

MYERS: And these processes we work are not just military or just civilian. They're -- I mean, we're integrated and intertwined in very routine and very profound ways, if that's OK to add (ph).

RUMSFELD: You had a second question?

QUESTION: Yesterday at the town hall meeting, you used the metaphor, when the phone rings, how the -- whoever is on the other end better be joint, interoperable-ready. And you said if not, the phone may not ring.

Did you have any special service, combatant command, unit or specialty in mind for whom the phone may not be ringing?


RUMSFELD: Well, no. What we've been -- anyone that's not relevant. Any element of the armed services that fails to transform, that is not pointing toward something that a CINC can readily use is not relevant in that fight.

And now, everyone does not have to be relevant in every activity. But I can't think of anything worse, for a professional military person who puts their life at risk, who spends a career caring about their institution, and then in a moment of crisis it is found that they have organized, trained and equipped for something that isn't happening.

And that is something that I have talked to our NATO allies about. It isn't just joint, to be honest. It's joint and combined. That is to say, bringing together other countries, as well, so that we can operate...

PHILLIPS: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, also General Richard Myers there, Joint Chiefs chairman, holding a daily briefing at the Pentagon.

A couple of items to address. First, before we went to this Pentagon briefing, we interrupted a piece by Matthew Chance out of Kabul, and that was about U.S. Special Forces on a recon mission in eastern Afghanistan. They were drawn into a battle with Afghan forces, four of -- four of the enemy were killed. Then Myers coming out and confirming that, indeed, one U.S. soldier was injured and is now being treated in that battle.

Also another item, missing laptops from central command. General Myers confirming, yes, indeed, two laptops are missing from central command. They do believe that one could possibly contain classified information. This is now being investigated. It was a tightly- controlled room that these laptops were taken from, still not sure if they were stolen or if indeed they are missing.

And finally, Iraq. Still not coming out and confirming any type of attack on Iraq, but reports coming out once again that if an attack were to take place, no Saudi bases would be used in an attack. Rather, Saudis would be asked for fly-over rights.




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