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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Donald Rumsfeld Addresses Reporters

Aired April 26, 2003 - 15:33   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have just gotten some video on. As you know, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is on an international trip, heading to Middle East region. Probably is going to go to Iraq, to Afghanistan. Let's listen in to comments he made moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The point we have made repeatedly, that we feel a commitment to those countries, we feel a commitment to the people of the countries, and we intend to stay there and work with the international community to assist them in transitioning from where they were to where they're going, from an authoritarian system in each case, a repressive system in each case, to something that's on the path toward a more democratic and representative system in each country. And it's important to underline that and to demonstrate that commitment.

Questions?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you plan, when you're in Afghanistan tomorrow, to announce the reconstruction phase will formally begin?

RUMSFELD: Oh, we'll be having discussions on that subject with President Karzai and General McNeill and others, and certainly with General Franks, before I go into Afghanistan.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) victory tour, but...

RUMSFELD: It's not. One ought not to think of this as a victory tour. It isn't. We've got a lot of hard work left. People are still being shot at, in some cases killed and wounded. And the task before us in Iraq is clearly one that's going to take a lot of attention, a lot of focus and a lot of effort over a period of time.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what's the practical effect of designating that you're now in the stabilization phase?

RUMSFELD: Um...

QUESTION: For NGOS and for countries around the world that might want to provide help, that kind of thing.

RUMSFELD: The reality is in light that things are seldom black or white, they're more often a gradation. And if one looks at Afghanistan and even Iraq today, it's very clear that we are and have been in a stabilization-operations mode for some time in many portions of the country.

On the other hand, you look around and you can certainly find places where there's still attacks and pockets of resistance. And one has to expect that that will continue, particularly in countries where you have such porous borders.

And let's face it, there are terrorists that exist in the world, and they don't wish those countries well. They'd like to take back Afghanistan and turn it back into a terrorist training camp and a place to launch attacks against people across the globe. And we intend to see that that doesn't happen.

But you're right, there is an advantage, to some extent, because some countries and some organizations look to the formality as opposed to the reality of whether or not an area is permissive and secure. And the bulk of Afghanistan is permissive and secure, as much as a country like that's going to be. Notwithstanding that fact, there are areas, particularly along the Pakistan border, that are problems.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: Well, the president announces his own travel plans, and I don't do that for him. And whatever he does in his speech is really for him to say, and I don't get into that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: I'm not?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: I don't know that I am. I want to. And we're trying to make it happen. The distances are difficult, and the time makes it very difficult.

But we are -- I, personally, and our country, our government, are very encouraged about these provincial reconstruction teams, the so- called PRTs.

You'll recall, in the past, there was a good deal of discussion about expanding security forces, expanding the ISAF and the like. We were always happy to have the ISAF expanded. The problem was, there weren't a lot of countries that were going to step up with troops. The people who were recommending it were mostly on editorial boards, columnists, and at the U.N., but they didn't have troops to expand ISAF.

We've been working to expand the Afghan national army so that the country of Afghanistan has a capability of its own to provide for security, and that's coming along pretty well. We decided to put our effort, beyond the Afghan national army and beyond our support for ISAF and beyond our coalition force's activities around the country, which is considerable, under General McNeill, we decided to put our efforts behind these provincial reconstruction teams.

The theory being that, in the bulk of the country, the area is permissive and secure. And by mixing a number of agencies and a number of countries, in some cases multiple nations, into these teams and going in and demonstrating an ability to make the life better for the Afghan people in those areas, those provinces, those villages and cities, we believe that that's probably the best thing that can be done to ultimately provide security.

External security forces are important and necessary for a period. After a period, however, they can become an anomaly in a country, and people can become dependent on them. And in the last analysis, what we need is we have to have the people of Afghanistan decide that they want that country to be secure, that they want to support their national government.

And we believe that the cooperation we're engaged in with President Karzai and his government, with respect to the provincial reconstruction teams, is the kind of thing that will demonstrate to the people of Afghanistan that supporting the central government is a good thing that benefits them and that that is the path of the future.

So we're able to -- I think we have three up and going now, and we have, I think, four, five or six that are en route. And people are signing up and offering to head up these teams, and we're hopeful that that will make a difference in the country.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: No, I wouldn't characterize it a military mission. It is -- as I say, it isn't black or white. They're basically in the areas that are permissive and secure, as opposed to the areas that are not. The areas that are not that permissive really don't allow for a PRT to function effectively. So they are being put into areas that are secure, as to areas that are -- where there are still pockets of resistance.

QUESTION: Have any additional (OFF-MIKE) leaders of the Iraqi regime been taken into custody?

And is Tariq Aziz providing any valuable information as to the whereabouts of other leaders, (OFF-MIKE)?

RUMSFELD: The answer to the first question is that there are additional leaders being taken in almost every day. I can't recall a day where we haven't gathered an additional one or two.

I've only seen one of the debriefings from Tariq Aziz. And the -- it's too early to know precisely the extent to which he will or will not cooperate.

QUESTION: Has he provided any information so far?

RUMSFELD: I've given you a very good answer.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

RUMSFELD: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You've been listening to comments made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld aboard his plane heading toward the Middle East. He's going on a tour of countries there. They are being very limited and secretive for security reasons about where he is going to visit. We know Afghanistan, we know Iraq, no doubt, among other countries. Secretary Rumsfeld talking a lot about these provisional reconstruction teams in Afghanistan as one of the several-pronged approach to getting Afghanistan back on its feet, talking about not only rebuilding the Afghan national army, also talking about the international security force, ISAF, which is currently in country. Talking about these PRTs, these provisional reconstruction teams, as a way to try and bring development to not just have it be in Kabul but to bring it country-wide in Afghanistan, perhaps a model for later on what is coming up in Iraq. Remains, of course, to be seen.

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