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Text: Pentagon Briefing on Latest Military Strikes

eMediaMillWorks
eMediaMillWorks
Tuesday, October 9, 2001

Following is the full text of a briefing by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers.

RUMSFELD: Good afternoon.

The military campaign continued last night with strikes against Taliban and Al Qaeda military targets throughout the country. Chairman Myers and will provide a more detailed battle damage assessment from the first night's strikes and then an initial assessment from yesterday's strikes.

We have struck several terrorist training camps. We've damaged most of the air fields--I believe all but one--as well as their anti-aircraft radars and launchers. And with the success of previous raids, we believe we are now able to carry out strikes more or less around the clock as we wish.

In short, we're moving along well toward our goal of creating conditions necessary to conduct a sustained campaign to root out terrorists and to deliver the humanitarian relief to the civilians in Afghanistan as we are able.

We've seen the reports that four Afghan men who may have been associated with a contractor dealing with the U.N. may have been killed. We have no information from the ground to verify this. And we have no information that would let us know whether it was a result of coordinates (ph) fired from the air or the coordinates (ph) that we've seen fired from the ground on television. Nonetheless, we regret the loss of life.

Terrorists attacked and killed innocent people from dozens, of countries of all races and religions in the United States on Tuesday, the 11th. Innocent lives are still at risk today and will be until we have dealt with the terrorists.

And if there were an easy, safe way to root terrorist networks out of countries that are harboring them, it would be a blessing. But there is not.

Coalition forces will continue to make every reasonable effort to select targets with the least possible unintended damage. But as in any conflict, there will be unintended damage.

Let me emphasize that these are strikes against the Taliban and the foreign terrorists that they've invited into their country, not the people of Afghanistan.

We stand by the Afghan people who are suffering under the oppressive Taliban regime and who do not want their nation to be a base from which foreign terrorists wage war on the rest of the world.

We, thus, have a common interest in ridding Afghanistan of this terrorist presence and those who invite and sustain and support it.

To free Afghanistan from the foreign terrorists, we continue to use every diplomatic, economic, financial and law enforcement resource at our command.

We've continued our humanitarian relief efforts for the Afghan people, dropping some 37,000 rations each day into Afghanistan territory. Yesterday, I indicated that, along with the rations, we had begun dropping medical supplies. But because we are not able to drop medical supplies from the same altitudes and in the same way that we drop food, we have not done so. And as we determine the medical needs, we will be using different methods to deliver those supplies.

These strikes, as I have said, are part of a long and sustained campaign. We will not stop until the international terrorist networks have been dealt with.

General Myers?

MYERS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Our forces continue operations against the Al Qaeda network and those who support them. Let me give you an overview. As of midnight last night, Washington time, U.S. forces struck 13 targets yesterday, using between five and eight landbased bombers and 10 to 15 strike aircraft; also used about 15 Tomahawk missiles fired from two ships and one submarine.

And in addition, as the secretary said, we dropped another 37,500 humanitarian rations.

The broad category included air fields, air defense, communications and, as I mentioned, the Al Qaeda infrastructure and forces.

I want to show you the areas we hit on days one and two. As you'll see from the first slide, we covered many targets throughout the country.

You'll also noticed a few targets in the vicinity of Kabul. I want you to know that these targets were all outside of the town.

As seen on the next slide, day-two targets were also well dispersed. We did well in our initial strikes, damaging or destroying about 85 percent of the first set of 31 targets. But as in any military operation, we were not perfect.

I did, however, promise you some damage assessment and have some examples of targets and damage. The first one is a terrorist training camp in southeast Afghanistan near Kandahar. As you can tell from the first photo, it's fairly empty, but it is part of Al Qaeda's infrastructure.

Here you see the camp pre-strike, and now, here is the post-strike photo. We also have a SAM site near the Kandahar airfield. The following photo shows you the SAM destroyed.

And finally, here is an airfield in Shindad (ph), Afghanistan, in western Afghanistan. And you see here the results of the strike.

As we speak, of course, military operations are ongoing. But as we are continually updating and adapting our plans, I won't have the numbers of aircraft or the targets until the day after we complete our action.

So with that, ladies and gentlemen, the secretary and I will take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could I ask, did the United States target the compound of Omar overnight--perhaps, bin Laden's compound also? And the Northern Alliance is requesting air strikes, attacks, against Taliban forces who raid against them, between them and Kabul. Do you plan on launching (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: The first question involved the--I don't--I'm trying to think about how to respond to that. You asked also about bin Laden's. I don't know that he has a compound as such--bin Laden. Omar has several.

And as I recall, there were some elements outside one of his compounds that probably were targeted.

QUESTION: And as the strikes against Afghan military forces (inaudible)

RUMSFELD: Can you speak up louder?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Afghan military forces, which are now between the Northern Alliance and...

RUMSFELD: My recollection is there were some ground forces that were targeted in the north, but I don't know that they were directly on the line near the Northern Alliance.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: You have started aiding the Northern Alliance by striking forces who raid against them?

MYERS: What we're trying to do, militarily, of course, is defeat the terrorists, the network and the infrastructure that supports them, not particularly support any particular element. But as we can help with those kind of targets and people that can help us, of course, we'll take that...

QUESTION: General Myers, you showed us the terrorist camp that was pretty much leveled, but is there any indication that the air strikes were able to actually strike at and hit some of the bin Laden terrorist network, the operatives themselves?

MYERS: As I said in the statement, the camps (inaudible) were not heavily populated at the time we hit them, but the infrastructure is very important to terrorist training. Terrorists have been using--the Al Qaeda network has been using those terrorist training camps for several years, and so we're going to deny them the opportunity to continue to use them.

QUESTION: But what specifically does that deny them? It looked like a series of buildings that could easily be reconstructed or they could just move their operation elsewhere. What does leveling that camp, that was not heavily populated, what does that deny them? What effect does that really have?

MYERS: It's their whole--that's where they have their classrooms. That's where they discuss their various methods. It has firing ranges and other training facilities that allow them to practice, and of course, it takes all of that away. It would be like destroying at Quantico, Virginia, for instance, the training complex there, so I think it would have a...

RUMSFELD: I would add this, the runways that are damaged are not permanently damaged either. I mean, anything can be repaired. And they can bulldoze in and fill it and over some period of time. But all of it adds costs. All of it adds time, and all of it puts pressure...

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you said we believe we'll be able to carry out air strikes around the clock as we wish. Does this mean then that you would move to another phase, and I'm speaking specifically of a possible larger role for ground forces?

RUMSFELD: We're not in a position of discussing future considerations.

QUESTION: Is there any indication that terrorists associated with Al Qaeda are fleeing Afghanistan?

RUMSFELD: We do, you know, pick up scraps of information that some things like that are happening. It's very difficult to verify them. But it's pretty clear that the Taliban and the Al Qaeda are feeling some pressure.

Yes?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, when the United States and the NATO partners tried to go after fielded forces in Kosovo, we were not very successful in the final analysis. What makes you think that that has changed now, that you will be more successful? And, as you said yesterday, since bombs and missiles will not rock the Taliban back on its heels, it seems that if that's true and you can't accomplish this by air power, somebody's going to have to put ground forces in, and if not ours, whose?

RUMSFELD: Well, as you know, I have been careful to not rule out anything, and I have not ruled out anything and nor has the president. What we have said is that this is a different situation and it is notably different in a lot of respects from the things that we all are used to from the past.

The pressures that are being applied across the full spectrum are not as visible, but the fact of the matter is that the Department of Justice and associated agencies in other countries have arrested literally hundreds of people and are interrogating them. The Department of Treasury, with cooperation from nations across the globe, have frozen a great many bank accounts and frozen millions of dollars of assets that are connected to terrorist organizations.

The Department of State, in close cooperation with friends and nations all across the globe, have been putting a great deal of diplomatic pressure, and nations have severed their relationships, and I can assure you that other nations are looking to themselves and to their circumstance and the extent to which they might be seen as creating an environment hospitality to terrorists and terrorism and making adjustments in how they behave.

The intelligence communities of a great many nations across the globe are receiving information from all kinds of people.

Now, that is not going up on a scoreboard at Wrigley field every day showing what's happening.

But it is there and it is growing and it is adding pressure every single day. And what has been done, that's visible by the Department of Defense, is contributing to that. And it is not going to be any one of those things standing alone that's going to determine it, but it's the aggregation of that, sustained over a period of time, that will, in fact, we believe, prove to be successful.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up, please. You said you're running out of targets, though, Mr. Secretary. And going back to the field forces, what are you going to continue to hit?

RUMSFELD: Well, for one thing, we're finding that some of the targets we hit need to be re-hit. Second, we're not running out of targets, Afghanistan is.

(LAUGHTER)

And I would add that they are emerging as we continue. That is to say that if you figure out a set piece, before the fact, select categories or targets, make judgments as to which day or what period you're going to hit them, and you do that, and then you say that trimming (ph) up now and tomorrow and whenever, that we will be gathering additional intelligence from the ground and through various intelligence assets that will enable us to seize targets of opportunity, and that means you have to wait until they emerge. Now, that's the way it is. They don't have armies, navies and air forces. We announced that the first day.

Yes.

QUESTION: You said you're not here to help any particular element in the country. Why wouldn't you be assisting the Northern Alliance? They said they have 15,000 fighters against the Taliban. Is it because you're afraid of upsetting Pakistan, which is against the Northern Alliance?

MYERS: No. And I'd rather--I mean, that starts to get into the tactics of the situation. As the secretary said, we're not going to discuss the tactics, but we are trying to set the conditions inside that country that terrorism will no longer be supported.

QUESTION: Well, again, they say they're going to mount a counteroffensive in days, if not a week. They're looking for air cover. You're saying you're not going to support them in that effort?

MYERS: No, I'm not saying that. What I am saying is that we're going to try to set the conditions, and it may take many forms. That's a possibility, but I'm not telling you we're going to do that.

RUMSFELD: I would add that, let there be no doubt, those elements on the ground, the tribes in the south, the Northern Alliance, elements within Taliban, that are anti-Al Qaeda, we're here encouraging them. We would like to see them succeed. We would like to see them heave (ph) the Al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership that has been so repressive out of that country. Don't make any mistake about that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) air cover?

RUMSFELD: He did not say we would not.

MYERS: And when we start getting into the tactics of tomorrow's operation, we're just not going to talk about that.

QUESTION: Have you taken any military action to disrupt opium production in Afghanistan, since that is, apparently, a major source of income for the Taliban?

RUMSFELD: Not at this time.

QUESTION: There are pilots coming back to the carriers saying that they've been unable to drop all their munitions because of a lack of targets. At the same time, you have the president of Pakistan saying that he hopes that the American military action will be of short duration. Don't you run a risk, the longer that this goes, that you are going to see greater and greater resistance and possibly violent demonstrations in countries where there's enormous opposition to the American military?

RUMSFELD: When you are looking for emerging targets, and an aircraft is up with weaponry and prepared to strike an emerging target, and an emerging target does not emerge, it's not a surprise that the aircraft returns back with a weapon.

Second, with respect to demonstrations, there are demonstrations all across the globe almost every day in one country or another. This is not something that's new. And the care and the measured way that the president and the United States government and our coalition allies have proceeded with this, when balanced against the threat to people all across this globe from terrorist networks, it is clear to me that what we are doing is right and will be seen as right and that we will ultimately, over time, be successful.

MYERS: May I add...

(CROSSTALK)

RUMSFELD: Just a second. Just a second.

MYERS: Let me just follow up on that just a second, just to emphasize what the secretary said earlier. You know, if you try to quantify what we're doing today in term of previous conventional wars, you're making a huge mistake. That is old think, and that will not help you analyze what we're doing. So if bombs are brought back, or if bombs are expended, the numbers really are not all that important; in some cases, irrelevant. And that's what we've been trying to tell you for three days, it's a different kind of conflict, and it's not just a military conflict.

QUESTION: General, you second day map showed, I think, a humanitarian symbol down on the border with Pakistan, for south-central. What was that, was that an airdrop in southern Afghanistan?

MYERS: In both days, they were airdrops out of C-17 aircraft.

QUESTION: It looked way down in Taliban-controlled part of the country.

MYERS: All the drops have been coordinated with USAID. And we drop where they say the need is the greatest.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the latest strikes, apparently there was some Triple A aircraft fire at aircraft near Kabul. I wonder if that's a concern for you? You say you're getting some control of the skies. Still what is your latest assessment of the control of the skies, and is that a concern?

MYERS: I think, essentially, we have air supremacy over Afghanistan. There will always be the antiaircraft fire. There's always the possibility of these man-portable surface-to-air missiles. But the tactics that we'll utilize will keep us out of their range. And so, again, I think, we feel like we have, essentially, air supremacy over Afghanistan now.

RUMSFELD: I would add that a number of their aircraft are still available to them, as well as helicopters.

QUESTION: Can we deal with the humanitarian food situation for just a moment? Thirty seven thousand meals in two different aircraft on two different days, in one respect it's a remarkable thing that the U.S. is doing, but the aid workers on the borders say it's a PR gesture, it's woefully inadequate. Why not 10 planes, why not 50 planes trying to drop more food, because the need, as you yourself have said, is so desperate?

RUMSFELD: The preferred way to deliver food is not from the air. It is from the ground. And the president's proposal to move from the $170 million that has been invested in food for Afghan people thus far this year to a substantially larger effort of $320 million will be essentially, one would hope, a ground effort. And to do that, one has to create a situation on the ground where that's possible. You know, anyone looking at it understands that delivering from the air is not your first choice.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you said they don't have armies, navies and air forces, but yet, you say that you have hit ground forces in Afghanistan. I'm wondering if you can give a sense of the size of the troop masses...

RUMSFELD: Modest.

QUESTION: Modest is--can you give a rough estimate of what modest means?

RUMSFELD: Well, you know, they're in relatively small sizes, hundreds not thousands.

Yes?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as far as talking about intelligence, are we getting enough help from Pakistan, because General Musharraf--he has fired most of his top military aides and intelligence officials, so where do we stand now? And also, what role India is playing in this campaign? And finally, if we are going to drop medicine there, do they know what kind of medicine and how to use them?

RUMSFELD: You all have gotten in the habit of asking three questions at once.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: And it would sure make life simpler if you didn't.

QUESTION: The British haven't taken part since day one. Will they take part in the strike which began tonight?

MYERS: We'll tell you tomorrow.

QUESTION: Are you changing or planning to change the rotation of the Tenth Mountain Division in Kosovo in preparation for something else?

RUMSFELD: We don't announce prospective deployments at forces.

Yes?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, (OFF-MIKE) General Myers. You tell us that you haven't ruled out closed air support for the opposition forces in Afghanistan. Isn't that very hard to do for the departments coming from, you know, the long distance or carriers--strike aircraft (inaudible) end of the string when you get there? Don't you need land bases in the area to do closed air support?

MYERS: Well, on just the technical merits of that, we have the capability to operate at great distances. We would not be prohibited technically from doing that.

QUESTION: But that's not the preferred way to do it. You've got to be--closed air support, you want to be quick reaction and you can't do quick reaction from 700 miles or a 1,000 miles.

MYERS: Unless you were in a cap waiting for hours. And that is technically feasible. So just from a technical standpoint, that's not a constraint.

RUMSFELD: I would add that nothing is preferred in Afghanistan. It is all complex. It is all difficult, but what it is we're set about to do is all do-able.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you spoke yesterday about countries that support or harbor terrorists. Could you tell us what countries do you recognize as harboring terrorists in the Middle East and do you have any plans for military operation there?

RUMSFELD: The short answer to your question is that there are several lists that list terrorist nations and nations that harbor terrorists. And second, we don't announce what our plans are for the future.

Yes?

QUESTION: You mentioned yesterday that ground forces were targeted but yet you didn't break out the (inaudible) to indicate what success you might have had in that respect. Is there anything either you can say to that?

MYERS: We did target some barracks, and we are evaluating that bomb damage assessment now. In terms of other bomb damage assessment for that kind of target, very difficult to do, from a long way away.

QUESTION: And no additional findings on that barracks?

MYERS: We'll get back to you tomorrow.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: You've made quite an adamant statement on change of regime here today. You said that you were encouraging opposition groups. You actually said you'd like to see the Taliban heaved out. So having made that adamant change of regime statement...

RUMSFELD: ... consider that an understatement.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Well, I would ask you to elaborate, but I'll also finish my part of the question, which is having made that very adamant change of regime statement, what are the long-term implications for the U.S. military being in that region, and in fact the broader long-term implications for U.S. responsibility for the region should this heaving out occur? In fact, are we now setting up the conditions for nation-building in Afghanistan?

RUMSFELD: I think not. The United States of America and certainly the United States military has no aspiration to occupy or maintain any real estate in that region. We are simply doing exactly what the president indicated, trying to root out terrorists.

Your question about the future is not an easy one to answer because in my view that's going to be sorted out by Afghan people, not by the United States of America.

QUESTION: If you assisted in heaving out the Taliban, does the U.S. not have some responsibility for--not occupation, but ensuring the economic health and national security of Afghanistan afterwards, if you're the ones that heaved out the Taliban?

RUMSFELD: First of all, it's the United States along with other nations that are involved here. And because the United States and others that are deeply concerned about terrorism and the enormous damage that can be done to thousands of human beings by terrorists, because we have that concern and we go in and root out terrorists, I don't think leaves us with a responsibility to try to figure out what kind of government that country ought to have. It certainly does suggest that we would have a humanitarian interest in the people of that country, but I don't know people who are smart enough from other countries to tell other countries the kind of arrangements they ought to have to govern themselves.

One would hope and pray that they'd end up with governments that would provide the best possible for the people of those countries, but I don't know that we know what that formula is, and my guess is it's the kind of thing that will ultimately be sorted out on the ground by Afghan people in a way that I would submit may very likely be considerably more satisfactory to them than were it to be imposed by outsiders of different cultures, different religions, different continents.

QUESTION: Could we go back to some specific targets again for a minute? How would you describe what's left of their communications system? What kind of communications targets did they have?

MYERS: Again, without getting specific into the operation, not a lot is left of their communications system--their land-based communication system.

QUESTION: Can you confirm a television tower was hit?

MYERS: We'll talk about that tomorrow. We'll look and see if we can talk about that tomorrow.

RUMSFELD: We'll make this the last question.

QUESTION: I was just wondering if you have any evidence or any suspicion that Al Qaeda or the Taliban have tried to make chemical or biological weapons?

RUMSFELD: Well, without getting into evidence, terrorist networks have had relationships with a handful of countries. Among those handful-plus of countries are nations that have active chemical and biological programs. Among those countries are nations that have tested the weaponization of chemical and biological agents.

QUESTION: Is Iraq one of those nations?

RUMSFELD: Oh, there's no question. The world knows that Iraq used chemicals on its own people, let alone on its neighbors at a previous period. Absolutely.

Thank you very much.

MYERS: Thank you.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company