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Pentagon Briefing

Aired August 20, 2002 - 13:01   ET

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


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: And now, we want to go to the Pentagon where we understand the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, is taking questions from reporters.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ... affairs teams as well as by our coalition partners as to the rebuilding of Afghanistan. And I thought it might be useful to provide a somewhat more detailed picture of some of those efforts.

Our goal in Afghanistan clearly is to create conditions so that country does not again become a terrorist training camp. Terrorists are like parasites, they seek out weak and struggling countries to serve as hosts for their attacks on innocent men, women and children.

If we're going to ensure that terrorist networks do not return to take over Afghanistan once again, then we have to help the Afghan people build the infrastructure that will allow them to achieve true self government and self reliance.

They need schools to educate the young, so they can grow up to be good citizens and mathematicians, scientists, people who will determine the future of their country. They need roads and bridges to facilitate commerce between the different regions and to make the country hospitable to foreign investment.

RUMSFELD: They need irrigation so their farmers can earn a living and feed the Afghan people, and they need clean water and hospitals to prevent the outbreak of disease. And that's why the U.S. Army civil affairs teams are working in some 10 regions of the country digging wells, rebuilding schools, bridges and hospitals.

The combined joint civil-military operations task force, I'm told, has completed 58 of 118 scheduled projects in Afghanistan. They've rebuilt four regional hospitals and clinics in Kabul, Mazar, Herat and Kunduz; 38 schools in 10 regions; 75 wells to provide decent drinking water. They have completed reconstruction of the Bagram Bridge and the road connecting Bagram to Kabul. More projects are in process, including 10 more medical facilities, 20 more schools, four agricultural products, two roads, two bridges and 144 additional wells.

To provide a sense of what the impact of these projects really is, I have some before and after pictures. This is the Sultan Razia High School in Kabul, before and after. RUMSFELD: The Army Civil Affairs teams restored it, inside and out, refurbished floors, replaced windows and restored electricity. The next on is the Roshana-i-Balki (ph) school in Mazar, a co-ed school that will educate about 1,000 Afghan boys and girls.

This is the next one is the Kuzan (ph) village secondary school in Bamiyan province. It will educate some 500 boys and girls. The next one is the Bamiyan Central Girl's High School. It will support over 245 female students.

This next one is a building at Bagram air field, which has been refurbished and turned into a new hospital that is capable of treating some 40 patients each day.

This is a, next one is a de-salting project in Herat. The civil affairs teams recruited Afghans to clean out some 19 irrigation canals, offering food for work. The project is already providing benefits to the local farming community.

Next is the Bagram Bridge, before and after. Our folks employed local Afghans to rebuild the bridge and it now serves as a crucial commercial link between Bagram and Kabul.

And finally there are some pictures from last Friday's little league game in Urgun between the Afghan club and Shaheen (ph), which is the Pashtu word for eagles.

They're using equipment donated by charities and by the soldiers' families. What a difference a year makes: The Afghan youngsters are back in school.

RUMSFELD: They're learning to play baseball instead of cowering in fear and hiding from the Taliban's religious beliefs.

In all, the taxpayers of the United States have provided some $500 million since October 2001 for relief and reconstruction activities in Afghanistan, and more is on the way. Another $1.45 billion has been authorized for this purpose over the next four years.

Coalition forces are making important contributions, as well. De- mining teams from Norway, Britain, Poland and Jordan have helped clear land mines from hundreds of thousands of square meters of terrain. Jordan built a hospital in Mazar-i-Sharif that's now treated over 100,000 patients. Spain and Korea have also built hospitals. Japan has pledged some $500 million to help rehabilitate Afghanistan. Other countries are making important contributions, as well.

So not only is the security situation improving in Afghanistan, but the country is becoming more livable, a fact underscored by the flood of refugees that are returning to the country. Each of those refugees have made a judgment that conditions in Afghanistan today are better than what existed before and better than where they've been living.

But more needs to be done. RUMSFELD: As I said the other day, we need to step up to the challenge of bolstering the new central government by delivering assistance to the Karzai team that has been promised, and which he desperately needs.

General Pace?

PACE: Thank you sir. I was in Kabul about, oh, 10 days ago, and I was really impressed with what I saw there. The streets are crowded with pedestrians, folks on bicycles, traffic jams, numbers of vendors selling their wares, businesses being reopened, shopkeepers putting glass back in the windows -- all the activities that would indicate that the folks in Afghanistan are beginning to invest in their own future, and it's still a very dangerous place, but the signs are very good. With that, I'll take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the reports that U.S. intelligence on the U.S. military have recently identified a group of non-Afghans in northern Iraq who were possibly producing chemical weapons and that the site, the group, whatever, was targeted by the U.S. military, but that the strike was called off apparently because they've dispersed or something. Could you fill us in on that -- or give us any details at all about that?

RUMSFELD: I have said for some time that there are Al Qaida in Iraq, and there are.

RUMSFELD: I have no comment that I care to make on the subject that you raised, however.

QUESTION: You have no information on any...

RUMSFELD: I didn't say I have no information. I said I had no comment that I care to make. And I don't.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you said there are Al Qaida in Iraq. These people are...

RUMSFELD: Repeatedly, I wasn't saying "these people." I have said repeatedly that there are Al Qaida in Iraq. There are. They have left Afghanistan. They have left other locations. And they've landed in a variety of countries, one of which is Iraq.

QUESTION: When you say that in response to a question about this other group, it leaves the impression that these people are affiliated with Al Qaida or operating with Al Qaida. Is that the impression you want to leave?

RUMSFELD: The impression I want to leave is that, I have no comment to make on the specific question that was raised by Charlie.

QUESTION: Are the Al Qaida who are in Iraq, are they there under the auspices of the current regime or are they simply using it as a hiding place? Are they being protected by Saddam Hussein?

RUMSFELD: Well, in a vicious, repressive dictatorship that has -- exercises near total control over its population, it's very hard to imagine that the government is not aware of what's taking place in the country.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you have often said -- my words, not yours -- that the transformation of America's military is a lynchpin of your stewardship.

QUESTION: And perhaps, the latest attempt at transforming or the latest example was a war game that just concluded last week, as we would be told, during which a retired Marine Corps three-star general claimed that the games were rigged, that he was not allowed to win even if he could and a lot of lying being -- if Americans were given to any kind of conflict, Iraq or otherwise, with the lessons ostensibly learned from this war game, we would be in error and it would be a disaster. Can I get your comment and maybe General Pace's as well?

RUMSFELD: Why not get the comment of an active duty Marine as opposed to a retired Marine? Why not?

General Pace?

PACE: I'd be happy to. First of all, I know the retired marine you're talking about, and he's a great patriot and a true gentleman and a very sincere, honest individual.

I think, just like in combat, when you're in an exercise or an experiment, where you stand and what you see is different depending upon where you happen to be. And there's a difference between experimentation which takes a particular set of criteria and changes, one at a time, to see what the results of that change are and exercises, which are primarily free-playing and have one person's mind working against another.

In Millennium Challenge, you had several cases of experimentation going on at the same time you had exercises going on. So for example, if what the opposition force commander wanted to do at a particular time in the experiment was going to change the experiment to the point where the data being collected was no longer going to be valid as an experiment, then he was asked not to do that.

PACE: One example was, a time when he wanted to use chemical weapons in the exercise against a particular force. At the time he wanted to do that, the force in question was, in fact, not a computer force, but a force on the ground that was actually going through the exercise. Now obviously, they wouldn't have dropped chemicals on them, but in scenario, it would have been chemicals. And the whole timing and the expense of having that unit do it was doing for the sake of the experiment would have been interrupted. So he was asked not to do that.

Now, as they sit back now in well-lit rooms like this and go through line-by-line who said what at what time, they will discover whether or not one person's perception is more accurate than another person's perception. Regardless of whether or not one general or another general has the best perception of what happened in the exercises and the experiment, it would be wrong to make absolute decisions or declarations based on the outcome of this experiment. It is an experiment. It is designed to help quantify where we are and where we might be able to go, and then to experiment again.

RUMSFELD: I might just clarify one thing, less somebody walk out with a misunderstanding. When General Pace said that he requested the right to -- the opportunity to use chemical weapons, it should be make very clear that this was not a U.S. force being exercised. He was representing the opposition forces. The United States does not use or have chemical weapons.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) not General Pace. I don't think...

RUMSFELD: Pardon me. On General -- what?

QUESTION: He was referring to General VanRiper (ph) who wanted to use the chemical weapons...

RUMSFELD: That's right.

PACE: As the opposition -- acting as an opposition force.

RUMSFELD: It's important to understand that.

PACE: Thank you, sir.

QUESTION: Follow up, if I may then? Very simply, based on what you're saying -- it's a two-part follow up. From where you stand now, both of you, you feel the games were not rigged...

RUMSFELD: (OFF-MIKE) taking over the whole briefing here.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Just winding down, sir.

And did America get its money's worth of the $250-million-plus spent on these games.

PACE: What was the first question, again?

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Do you believe, from what you know now, that it was not rigged?

PACE: I absolutely believe that it was not rigged. If some people in a particular part of the experiment felt like their life was being controlled more than they would like it to be, that wouldn't surprise me.

PACE: That happens in every exercise because somebody has to be the object of the other person's experiment. So it wouldn't surprise me if some people felt that way, but en mass, the totality of what was being done in Millennium Challenge, the benefit of that is going to be analyzed and re-analyzed over the next several months for the next experiments.

So yes, the money was well spent. And I'm sure we'll learn lessons that will make it better spent next time.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, tomorrow, you're going to be visiting with President Bush. I am not asking you to provide what guidance you're going to give, but could you just give an overview of how important the meeting might be, what you might be discussing, what are the issues that you'd be discussing such as missile defense, also would you be talking about cruise missiles, budget -- could you just give an outline of what?

RUMSFELD: Sure. What I do is I meet with the president, generally with General Myers or General Pace, and occasionally with one or two other people on a regular basis, and it happens that he's physically in Crawford instead of Washington.

The business of the government goes on, and we're going to be down there and spend a good portion of the day. One of the topics, General Kadish is going with us, and one of the topics is missile defense, where we've reached a point in the evolution of that, development of that program that it's appropriate to bring the president up to date and to give him an opportunity to hear General Kadish and J.D. Crouch, who works on it from the civilian side, and give any guidance or direction he may care to give after learning how the program has developed to this point.

Second thing we're going to be briefing him on and discussing with him, very much as we did last year, is where we are having come out of the Quadrennial Defense Review last year into the budget of this year to the defense planning guidance of this year and beginning to build the budget for the coming period.

We will walking him through the number of studies that are currently underway and are being worked on diligently here in the department and visiting with him about some of the major program issues that the department is discussing and the services and the CINCs are meeting with Secretary Wolfowitz about on a fairly regular basis. QUESTION: Would you be discussing what your latest thoughts about cruise missiles and what is your latest thought about cruise missiles?

RUMSFELD: We have no plan to discuss cruise missiles that I can recall.

QUESTION: And what are your latest thoughts on the danger of...

RUMSFELD: Well, I have said for a year and a half plus that I think that the United States of America has to be attentive to the traditional capabilities that can exist in the world, whether it's armies, navies, or air forces, whether it's conventional or weapons of various types. I've also said that I think we need to be sensitive and capable of deterring and defending against or dealing with a host of non- symmetrical, or asymmetrical capabilities including cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, terrorism, cyber attacks -- ways that countries can develop capabilities in a much cheaper and less expensive way than having to develop an army or a navy or an airforce.

And I've said that in my confirmation hearings. I have said it every month since. I believe it, and this department is attentive to that problem, and those are things we're working on.

And certainly cruise missiles, given their proliferation around the world, their versatility. They can be launched from land, sea or air. They have versatility in terms of the warheads they can take. They can take a conventional warhead or a nuclear warhead, a chemical or a biological warhead. They're highly accurate. And they can with minor adaptations achieve considerable range.

So, yes, we do worry about cruise missiles as we do ballistic missiles, terrorism, and cyber attacks, and any way that another entity or state or non-state entity can attack the United States or our friends or allies.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary? It seems, with each passing week, more allies are expressing concern about the apparent direction the United States is headed with regard to Iraq.

QUESTION: Do you feel as you ponder your options on Iraq or other countries that may be threatening to the United States that this growing list of friends of the United States that are expressing concern, does that alter, affect your thinking, or is it the threat that you focus on that drives you down that path to, I gather from what other people in the administration say, that that is what you have to focus on, not voices of dissent that are being raised by traditional American friends? Can you help us understand your thinking?

RUMSFELD: Well, of course, I think the first thing to say is my thinking probably is not particularly relevant, or certainly not determinative. The president and the society and the Congress and other countries have to wrestle with these issues and come to grips with how they want to deal with them.

As a student of history, we all know that, in a number of periods of history, there has been almost unanimity in a certain position, and it's proved to be wrong. So the fact that voices can cluster in a certain way does not mean that is necessarily the wise course or the prudent course.

Second, I think you'll find if you look below the surface that an awful lot of the voices one hears get somewhat louder during election periods and then seem to be less noticeable after elections are over. And there are always elections taking place around the world.

Third, I don't know that I would agree with you necessarily that there is a notable accumulation of opposition. I think that there are properly people in our country and people in the world looking at the circumstance that our world is in and expressing their concerns about it. And people fall on one side of the spectrum or another side of the spectrum or all across the range of the spectrum, and I think that's understandable because if these things were easy, there would be no debate -- people would be out doing what people do in August when they're not sitting in the Pentagon press room. But because they are important issues, it's not surprising that they're discussing them and thinking about them. And I respect that.

QUESTION: Do you feel as your case and the president's case is laid out on these issues that certainly you hope, but do you believe that there will be a swing more in the direction of the United States than there currently is now on this issue?

RUMSFELD: Well, I have no idea what the president will ultimately decide or when or if. Clearly, in any endeavor one would prefer to have near acclamation and support. Life is not like that generally. We find that leaders have to make decisions that may be close calls and that's what they do and sometimes they find that when the situation is ultimately made that the tone and the tempo changes dramatically.

RUMSFELD: And...

QUESTION: In terms of support?

RUMSFELD: Yes.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in regard to Iraq and Al Qaida, you said...

RUMSFELD: I was trying to talk about Afghanistan.

QUESTION: I know.

RUMSFELD: It seems like anything that -- I really do think that it's a mistake for the press and the media to focus excessively on this one subject and particularize everything to it. I find that the debate and the discussion and the national dialogue, the international dialogue is a little out of balance. I don't know what one can do about that, except that I found that from, time to time, I'll give an interview and never mention the word Iraq, and I find that the whole interview is cast around Iraq.

QUESTION: The administration itself put Iraq on the front burner and turned up the heat. And now you're asking...

(UNKNOWN): The president talks about it every day.

QUESTION: ... And now, I mean...

RUMSFELD: That's fine. He did give a speech on the axis of evil. I think it was a good speech. I think it'll prove to have had a beneficial affect for the people in all three of those countries when we look back a decade from now.

Excuse me. You have a question? I apologize.

QUESTION: Actually I was going to follow up on something you said earlier, that...

RUMSFELD: On Afghanistan?

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: ... Al Qaida in Iraq, and that you find it hard to imagine that the government of Iraq wouldn't know what's going on inside it's own country. But is there evidence? What kind of evidence is there that the government Iraq is in any way hosting, supporting, sponsoring Al Qaida or any other terrorists inside Iraq?

RUMSFELD: Well, I suppose at some moment it may make sense to discuss that publicly. And it doesn't today. But what I have said is a fact, that there are Al Qaida in a number of locations in Iraq, and the suggestion that those people who are so attentive in denying human rights to their population aren't aware of where these folks are, or what they're doing, is ludicrous.

Yes?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to get back to Ivan's (ph) question a moment ago concerning Millennium Challenge. General VanRiper (ph) who was in charge of the opposition force is I think one of the most experienced and respected war game players in the United States military.

And the report is that he was so disturbed about this situation that he resigned midway through the exercise. I would think that that would be something that you folks would want to discuss with him personally. Have either of you talked with him about that, and how are you going to pursue this allegation?

PACE: Actually I have talked with General VanRiper. (ph) He did not resign. He stayed through the end of the exercise. In fact, at the end of the exercise, he submitted a 21 page classified document to General Kernan (ph) the exercise director.

RUMSFELD: That'll be public in about five minutes.

(LAUGHTER)

You just put a big bulls eye on that...

PACE: But the fact of the matter is that he has in fact participated all the way through. And again, when you try to have a free-play exercise that has free-will versus free-will going on at the same time that you had an experiment going on, something has to give occasionally.

PACE: And I have not seen the report. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of analysis done. But it is reasonable that reasonable men, looking at the same criteria or same data from a different view point, could come up with initially a different conclusion. And they're going to take this data -- they being joint forces commander who conducted the experiment and the exercise -- and they will digest it all to include General VanRiper's (ph), I'm sure, very reasoned and very well-thought out recommendations. And they'll make adjustments for the next one.

QUESTION: Afghanistan question. There are disturbing reports out of Afghanistan that the Afghan government is releasing potential people who might be members of Al Qaida or Taliban and they might -- and that the U.S. is not having access to these people. The reports are quoting Afghan government officials to this effect. Do you have any information on that?

RUMSFELD: No. I heard those reports this morning, and we've got people looking into it. I'm not aware that that's the case.

QUESTION: I've got two questions, one for each of you, if that's all right? On the first one, General Pace, regarding the Millennium Challenge. This is just one I want to make sure I understand. It's my understanding that before the Millennium Challenge began, it was described as, you said, free-play and opportunity to test out all these theories and also technologies, and the good guys might win, they might lose. I actually saw some of the game. I actually saw an engagement in which several of these new striker vehicles were ambushed and destroyed.

A decision was made by the controllers at that time that most of the vehicles that were destroyed would be brought back to life and allowed to continue the game. There have since been some Army officials, who have said privately, that that sort of decision was made in advance, that a number of decisions were made in advance to ensure that one side would win. So my question to you is, is that true or am I missing something?

PACE: I don't know what you're missing. I don't know what you're referring to "is that true." I'll simply tell you that when you lay out an exercise where you got 13,000 participants across the scope of the United States from multiple locations, some doing it by computer, some actually getting on airplanes and flying to the location, that you have a scenario that you have lined up and that you try to have unfold, according to a time line, that allows you to observe it, to learn lessons and to control the environment. It is absolutely routine when a force goes in in an exercise and it gets destroyed, whether it's an ME force or the friendly force. To reconstitute that force so you can go on to the next part of your experiment. So the fact that something was killed and then brought back to life and continue to play, is the way we, in fact, use our forces.

Otherwise you pay x-thousand dollars to get PFC Pace out into the desert. You kill me in the first day. And I sit there for the next 13 days doing nothing. Or you put me back to life and you get 13 more days worth of experiment out of me, which is a better way to do it.

PACE: So we're going to find out through the analysis of the exercise what went right and what didn't. But you should not read into the fact that we have done what we always do, which is lay out a scenario and then when things start to unfold, the scenario is impacted by free will, but it's also controlled to get certain things experimented.

QUESTION: I have to bring up Iraq again. How do you personally feel when you hear the German chancellor last year saying unlimited solidarity with the United States, and then just a couple of weeks ago saying that military intervention in Iraq is a unnecessary venture and Germany won't support it?

RUMSFELD: Oh, I haven't read the full text of his remarks, I'm afraid, so I'd be disinclined to comment on it.

Yes?

QUESTION: The transformation portion of the report that you recently submitted to the president indicated that you're still committed to finding the funds to modernize and transform the force, particularly...

RUMSFELD: I don't know what report you're talking about.

QUESTION: The Defense Department's annual report to the press.

RUMSFELD: Oh, yes. Good.

QUESTION: The sections of that report that deal with transformation indicate your continued commitment to it. My question is, are you finding it increasingly difficult to find the funds and make the case for bringing those funds up into the forefront of the budget-making process in light of the expense that the government is having to undergo with the war and other efforts associated with the war against terrorism?

RUMSFELD: I guess the short answer is no. It's always hard to find the funds to do all the things you'd like to do and that everyone in the Department of Defense would like to do. But I don't think there's anything about the war that is in any way inhibiting transformation. I could make the case that there are aspects of what's taking place in the conflict, in the global war on terrorism, in distinctively new threats we're facing, which is providing impetus to transformation.

LIN: We have been listening to the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld in the daily briefing -- Pentagon briefing with reporters. This the day before that he is to leave for a meeting with the president of the United States, at President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

He did say that on the agenda, tomorrow's regular briefing, he called it, nothing in particular special about it, that they will be talking about the missile defense program. He said the program has developed to the point where it is time to brief the president on it.

As for not going after those non-Afghans in northern Iraq, a portion of Iraq not controlled by Saddam Hussein, apparently suspected al Qaeda members working up there in that region, the United States not going after them, the secretary of defense would not comment on that, only to say that he has always stated that al Qaeda is in Iraq.

And lastly, a headline out of -- for more criticism from the allies' response to the Bush administration's plans -- or policies regarding Iraq, the secretary has said that being united in one opinion does not necessarily make you right, and that oftentimes these sorts of criticisms arise during elections which take place all the time around the world. So that was the latest from the secretary of defense.

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