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Transcript: Rumsfeld, Franks on War in Afghanistan

eMediaMillWorks
eMediaMillWorks
Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2001

Following is a partial transcript of a news conference held by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and U.S. Central Command leader Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

FRANKS: ... in this community to the coalition members, the 20 or so countries who have joined us here in Tampa, out at Central Command. And, of course, to the community, thanks for the support that you continue to give all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines out at MacDill Air Force Base.

How about those Buccaneers? Saw that last night.

(LAUGHTER)

That's indeed a good thing.

Well, it's been a good week for me. It's been a good week for us. I've had an opportunity over the last six or seven days to spend time with our troops over in and around Afghanistan. It's been a very enjoyable time for me. An opportunity to recharge my batteries, and I've certainly appreciated it. And it's given me a chance to say, "Thank you," on a personal level to an awful lot of people who are working very, very hard for our country to get on with this job of the destruction of terrorist networks with global reach.

Now, there's a second reason it's been a good week, and that is, that we're honored today to have Secretary Rumsfeld, our secretary of defense, down here visiting us. It's good for us, because he gets a chance to not only see what we do, but also a chance to meet these great people that I described a minute ago. When we leave here, we'll be going back out to MacDill to our headquarters and the office spaces around there and give the secretary a chance to see the people who are behind what we're up to right now.

And with that, I'll say, Mr. Secretary, it's an honor, in fact, to have you here with us. And I'll turn the floor over to you.

RUMSFELD: Thank you, sir.

I want to say greetings to everyone here, General Franks, Mrs. Franks, members of the Central Command.

I'm delighted to be here to tell you, General Franks and your team, in person how much we appreciate the absolutely first-class job that you and your associates in the Central Command are doing. I know it, the president knows it, and we appreciate it.

The people who work here, along with the representatives of the many nations that in our coalition, are helping to defeat an adversary that has declared war on our people and, indeed, on our way of life.

In General Tommy Franks we have a talented commander, a leader who has been and remains doggedly fixed on the objective, the destruction of the Al Qaeda network and the Taliban regime that has harbored and supported that network. Under his very able leadership, the U.S. effort in Afghanistan is proceeding exceedingly well.

The approach has been systematic, setting clear objectives and pursuing them forcefully. We are now beginning to see the results of their hard work, careful planning and determination.

The Taliban and the Al Qaeda situation is a difficult one. Some of their strongholds are falling. Their communications are being disrupted. Their leaders are being forced to move about the country to stay alive. As the president has said, we are tightening the noose around the Taliban and the Al Qaeda, and reducing the amount of real estate that they have available to move around on. We'll pursue them until they have nowhere else to run.

But let there be no doubt this campaign is far from over. Indeed the toughest work may very well lie still ahead.

Our efforts, of course, will be shifting from cities at some point to hunting down and rooting out terrorists where they hide. This is difficult work. It's dangerous work. It will take careful planning by the people here at the U.S. Central Command. We'll not stop until the networks in Afghanistan and the terrorists elsewhere across the globe are stopped.

We recognize the truth that the best, indeed the only defense against terrorists is offense. We simply have to take the effort to them, the war to them, and find them where they are and stop them. That is precisely what General Franks and his very fine team are doing, and we do appreciate it.

We'd be happy to respond to questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary and General, you've got Marines on the ground in southern Afghanistan now, and Marines tend to be self-sufficient for up to 30 days. Should the public think that their stay there will be that short, or will you be sending in sustainment so they can stay there longer?

FRANKS: I don't think that we'd want to break the routine that we've had ongoing all a long in terms of future operations. Certainly, these Marines bring with them the capability, without resupply, to stand for 30 days. One should not, I think, take from that that their mission is only to be 30 days in duration.

RUMSFELD: This is fantastic--I've got a laser pointer.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: Holy mackerel.

QUESTION: Is it lethal?

RUMSFELD: It's close. I just keep it right in my hand here. That's terrific.

QUESTION: General Franks, now that we've increased our ground intelligence gathering in-country substantially, have we made an assessment--further assessment of the biological, chemical, and radiological weapons that may be in the bin Laden arsenal? We asked you about that the last time you were in Washington, and you were looking into it.

FRANKS: Right. I can give you a bit more specificity on that, but not certainly anything final.

We've identified more than 40 places which represent potential for WMD research or things of that sort.

Of those, a great many are currently under opposition leadership control. And we are very systematically going about our way of visiting each one of those, I think, as the secretary has said, and we'll continue to visit them until we've gone through all of them and performed the analyses that we need to perform to assure ourselves that we do not have evidence of WMD.

QUESTION: Sir, as a follow-up to that, do you believe that each category may be represented in that and is it possible that the access to those possible weapons of mass destruction could be located, in addition to Afghanistan, elsewhere?

FRANKS: Well, I think that we have discussed and suspected all along the possibility of weapons of mass destruction in a variety of places. And so, the latter part of your question, I really can't be more specific on than that.

But with reference to the former part or the first part of the question, if you mean by the three parts, chemical, biological and nuclear, we'll perform the tests that need to be performed in every possible facility. And if there's anything there, we certainly will find it.

But now, I'd ask you to remember this: The sorts of testing that are necessary, the things that we need to do are not things that we'll do in 24 or 48 hours. These are very exhaustive tests and what we'll not do is mislead the secretary and the president of the United States to believe that we either do or do not have something until we're absolutely sure.

QUESTION: The Northern Alliance seems to be just that, Northern. And I've wondered, General, whether the Marines are really going to have to be doing their job essentially alone in the south without the support or of a coalition opposition-type force.

FRANKS: I've been pretty careful all along to say that I had visited with opposition leaders, both in the north and the south. I think the secretary has also mentioned some opposition leadership in the south. And one would not assume that our connectivity has only been with opposition groups in the north. I mentioned, I think, in the last 10 days or so, that we have had special forces and special operating forces in the south of Afghanistan for some time.

And so, I think I'd probably leave that answer at that point. And one should not assume that this Marine force in the south is the only force that we have or have had there on the ground.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there have been reports of some problems in some of the cities in opposition hands, some looting, some other things. Do we think it is in the best interest to have a multinational peacekeeping force on the ground? And is there any difference between how the U.S. judges that and the Brits do?

RUMSFELD: In almost any city in the world where there is a confused situation, a disaster of some type, there tends to be some looting. And it ought not to surprise anybody that when a war is going on and cities are changing hands that, in the process, people leaving do things that one would hope they didn't and, even conceivable, other people in the city might do things that one would wish they didn't.

So I don't think that that's anything that's out of the ordinary.

With respect to a stabilization force, there's been a good deal of discussion about that, and at the present time it has not been felt that a stabilization force was necessarily necessary. Nor has--if it were to become necessary, which it conceivably could, nor has it been decided exactly what the composition and makeup of that might be.

As you know, there are discussions taking place outside of Afghanistan, as well as in the country, among various factions and elements that have every right to be represented in whatever government or whatever effort might take place, particularly with respect to the capital city, but not exclusively the capital city. And how those will evolve over time, it's not clear to me.

The opposition forces, the forces that oppose Taliban, that have occupied cities, have, for the most taken, taken control of those cities in a way that has stabilized them thus far. There are still very dangerous places. There are people undoubtedly who have hidden in back rooms and in homes and do not wish the people of those cities well, and there are people conceivably who've defected who may redefect. So it's not as though it's a perfectly peaceful place. But at the moment, the forces that have taken those towns are providing what stabilizing seems to be appropriate.

I know of no differences between the United States and the United Kingdom.

QUESTION: General Franks?

FRANKS: Yes?

QUESTION: Are there any plans to establish a central command post in Qatar? And if so, would that signal a new phase in the campaign, perhaps military action in other countries?

And I have a follow-up for the secretary.

FRANKS: I think we would not want to foreclose the possibility of the establishment of a forward Central Command headquarters someplace. I would tell you candidly that a number of possibilities have been discussed and the one you mentioned, Qatar, certainly is one of them. They're a friend, coalition member, along with other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. And so, as a matter of fact, I discussed that with the secretary and we're not prepared at this point in time to say, "Yes, we're going to move forward," and so forth. But, of course, we'll be considering that and have been.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up to the secretary.

Some U.S. officials have indicated that perhaps strikes would take place in Somalia with Al Qaeda training camps, and you were asked earlier today whether or not you were aware of any Marines in Somalia, and after a long pause you said, no, there were no Marines in that country. Are you aware of any nonmilitary personnel that might be there assessing the situation at this time?

RUMSFELD: First of all, we all know that's not a follow-up question.

(LAUGHTER)

Second, when I responded to that question in the airplane, I responded generically, illustratively. And I said at the end of my response that I could be saying this about any country in the world; that we do not discuss things that may or may not occur prospectively.

And that it seems to me that the problem of my answering explicitly with respect to something is that, then the second and the third and the fourth question keep trying to rule things out, and the only thing left gets ruled in. And that is not a useful thing for a person in my position to do.

So that nobody else misunderstands my response in the airplane, I do not believe, and I certainly did not intend in the airplane to leave anyone with any impression, with respect to Somalia, that would be any different than with any other of 150 countries on the face of the Earth.

QUESTION: What is your assessment of the situation with Al Qaeda in Somalia and in Yemen?

RUMSFELD: Somalia has been a place that has harbored Al Qaeda and, to my knowledge, still is. Yemen has had--been identified in the past as a country that has an Al Qaeda cell, at the minimum.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FRANKS: No, it was not. It was not an attack that presented an immediate threat to the Marine task force in the south. And I think it would be incorrect to say that it took three and a half hours to do that.

In fact, every day we have assets that watch these lines of communication, and the first thing that's required is--when one sees vehicles moving is to determine whether these vehicles belong to friends or foes. As you know, we move an awful lot of humanitarian assistance up and down the routes inside Afghanistan, and I think you'll also agree that we've exercised every caution to be sure that we didn't bomb those.

And so it may well be true that we watched a convoy for three and a half hours before it was struck. But the Cobra helicopters of the Marines, in fact, were not the first assets that were used on that convoy.

And so that was a routine strike associated with an enemy convoy that was under observation on a time line that we thought was appropriate to the convoy.

QUESTION: The Cobras are not the first, but were they involved?

FRANKS: They were involved, yes.

QUESTION: Even if you're unable to discuss the next set of deployments to the forward operating bases over in Afghanistan, could you tell us whether there's planning to turn that into some sort of permanent installation, either for the duration of this war or for humanitarian and peacekeeping purposes afterwards? I ask because a senior officer that landed with the Marines yesterday declared, "The Marines have landed. America now owns a peace of Afghanistan."

RUMSFELD: Well, let me say this about that. I have, on a number of occasions, pointed out the fact--the unambiguous fact that the United States covets no one else's land, certainly not Afghanistan.

We're there to do a job, we're there to root out the terrorists and the terrorist networks, and to see that the Taliban government that invited them in and has been harboring terrorists is gone. And that is our interest period.

The general, I happen to know, is a very fine officer, and he was clearly exuberent...

(LAUGHTER)

... and he was unquestionably speaking figuratively not literally. And I'm sure that we can all accept his characterization of his situation in that light, aren't we?

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Sir, will we be saying anything like that again, sir?

QUESTION: Could you give us an assessment of...

RUMSFELD: I'm sorry, let me finish. I didn't complete the thought.

General Franks, do you want to respond on that base? That base is there to be used for whatever purpose the general decides.

FRANKS: So when all else fails, perhaps I'll just tell you the truth.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: He was just kidding.

(LAUGHTER)

He always tells the truth.

FRANKS: This is, in fact, a forward base of operations. I think there have been several descriptions of what that means, but the purpose of this--and I would anticipate that at the end of the day, this installation, if you will, this forward operating base will have a number of between 800 and perhaps 1,100 people--I mean, I think that that's what it'll be.

The purpose of the forward operating base is to give us a capability to be an awful lot closer to the core objectives we seek. Now, we all know what those are. We're interested in the destruction of the Al Qaeda network, and we're interested in the destruction of an illegitimate Taliban government which has abused people in this country for a long, long time--the leadership of the Taliban.

Now we can either do that by coming--by making seven-, eight-and nine-hour trips or we can provide ourselves a forward operating base. And so we have provided forward operating base to do precisely what I just described. We may well use assets from that to interdict the roads--to continue the interdiction of the road to be sure that elements in which we have an interest are not permitted to go places where we don't want them to go.

And I will also be telling you the truth if I say I don't know how long that base will be there. It is not an invasion of Afghanistan. As soon as our work is finished, it certainly will be removed, and yes, we may well use it to bring humanitarian assistance in to the people in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, considering the fact that changing sides appears to be, kind of, a well-established situation in this area of the world, what concerns do you have about Taliban defectors, Al Qaeda, ending up basically in a situation where they might be able to infiltrate the so-called opposition forces, especially considering the search of those caves and some role that might be expected for the opposition's help in that regard? How reliable might they be?

RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, I don't believe that any Al Qaedas are being allowed to defect.

My hope is--one can never know--but our hope, clearly, is that they will be imprisoned and dealt with as people who have engaged in mass murder in the world.

With respect to Taliban who defect, it seems to me, it's a different situation. When I use that word I'm talking about Afghan Taliban, as opposed to non-Afghan Taliban. And it seems to me that is an issue that the country will sort through. And they have been in charge of that country. They clearly have done a vicious job on the people of Afghanistan. I think the people of Afghanistan would be ill-advised to leap forward to bring them in and embrace them and have them participate in the new government, but that's for the people of Afghanistan to decide.

With respect to defectors, I think that those judgments have to be made at appropriate levels, as to how the various commanders feel about having people from--that had been on the opposite side, now a part of their organizations. And it's clear that thus far they feel that's a good idea, and they have taken them in willingly in a number of instances. And it's not for me to second-guess that.

QUESTION: General Franks, sir, will you please provide an assessment of the type of intelligence that you are currently receiving from Pakistan, whether it's improved, in terms of, perhaps, where bin Laden or other senior leaders are located? Have you narrowed down where they might be located, and is it in Tora Bora?

FRANKS: Well, that's a long question. Let me try--if I forget part of the question, I'm sure you will remind me. Thanks.

First off, to the cooperation with Pakistan, it has been very, very good on both the intelligence side, as well as the support of our operations in there since President Musharraf said that Pakistan will be a part of a world community that will stand against terrorism. And so the cooperation is neither improved nor has it gone south. The cooperation has been very, very good.

President Musharraf's forces are providing assistance along their borders in order to do two things: one, to cause these principle passes to be open so that humanitarian assistance can move into Afghanistan; and secondly, within capability--and I'd emphasize that: within capability interdict the paths through all these mountain passes and so forth. And I think the number is 150 or 170 of these very small sorts of approaches that can be used both to go from Afghanistan into Pakistan and vice versa. And so the arrangement that we find has been very good and it continues to be very good.

And that does not say that I'll stand here and say that some of the forces or some of the leadership that we're after will not be able to get out of Afghanistan. It would be foolish to say that, and so I won't--I won't--say it.

What I will say is, to simply repeat what Secretary Rumsfeld said, there is no place to go, there is no place to hide. If this leadership does come from Afghanistan, it's simply a matter of continuing wherever they go until we find them. We surely will.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) do you believe in the Tora Bora...

FRANKS: I'm sorry, I did forget that question about Tora Bora.

There are two areas that are very interesting to us; one of them for the leadership of the Taliban, and that is out in the vicinity of Kandahar, well reported and true; and the other is in the area between Kabul and Khyber, to include the Jalalabad area and down toward Tora Bora, which you mentioned. And so, these are the two areas that we're paying very, very careful attention to, yes.

QUESTION: What is that, sir? Why particularly in this area?

FRANKS: Because as we have worked through all of the intelligence capabilities that we and our coalition partners have involved in this effort, we have been able to watch a variety of terrain and undertake review of a whole variety of imagery and talk to an awful lot of people over time, and it's just very simply factually is that those are the places right now that we have been led to to pay very close attention to.

RUMSFELD: Let me respond. They are not the only places we are paying attention to.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you started this by saying that we are actually entering the more dangerous phase of this war because we're moving from the cities now to the caves. Do you anticipate that a lot of U.S. special forces or soldiers will be involved in that? Are you going to rely more on the Northern Alliance as you suggested a while ago? And have you received--or the volume or the quality of tips from the reward program, is that bearing any fruit for you?

RUMSFELD: First of all, we have no announcements to make with respect to additional troop deployments or changes in current deployment assignments.

The intelligence information is coming in in large volumes with respect to the leaflets that have been floated down and the radio programs that have been beamed and the normal intelligence-gathering activities in the country. And that information is being analyzed and assessed, and there is no question but that there are people who have found that reward money is an incentive and are busily engaged in trying to earn it.

QUESTION: Earlier you said that there's going to be a shift toward rooting out terrorists where they hide and I was wondering if U.S. forces or any of your other allies have begun actually searching caves on the ground.

FRANKS: As close as I think I'll come to answering your question is to say that we and allies have had assets, people, on the ground for sometime, and as to whether they're involved in caves or involved in the specific activity they're involved in, I don't think it'd be helpful for us to talk about that. But we do have people on the ground, as you know.

QUESTION: General Franks, sir, weapons proliferation seems to have led to some of the problems that we're seeing now in Afghanistan. Is there some, sort of, general policy about who gets to keep the weapons that they overtake as the Taliban has been pushed out, or is that a commander-to-commander deal that's going on? Is the U.S. going to get involved in that at all?

FRANKS: The level of our involvement is, as we have said all along, to identify opposition leaders with whom we share a mutual objective. And the ones that I've spoken to--and, as I mentioned, I spoke to some within the past four or five days, and there is agreement that larger weapons, tanks, you know, anti-aircraft systems and these kinds of things, out on the streets in Afghanistan do not have a place in the future.

And as the secretary said, now, exactly which leader will do precisely what, I don't think we want to speculate right now. But that's the approach that we're taking.

RUMSFELD: I would add this: With respect to weapons of mass destruction, you can be certain that in the event weapons of mass destruction are located, that the United States would be very interested in getting their hands on them and would be very interested in seeing that they did not remain in the country with anybody.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FRANKS: Let me go back to add a point. I talked to--my answer had to do with larger conventional systems. Obviously, weapons of mass destruction, we'll provide no option on that. That is non-negotiable. We will not leave weapons of mass destruction in this country.

QUESTION: Sir, can I follow-up about something you talked about earlier, General Franks, about the questions about weapons of mass destruction and your very thorough search to see if there's any evidence of the development of them, and when you were sure, after an extended period, you would then report that?

FRANKS: Right.

QUESTION: You've had an extended period to look for some of these. Have you found any evidence yet there of the development of weapons of mass destruction?

FRANKS: What we have found in a variety of laboratories is laboratory sorts of paraphernalia. We have found a variety of chemical compositions and these sorts of things. But one would also be able to associate that with the making of fertilizer or with the making of any other sort of product. And when I said it will take some time, that's what I'm talking about.

Of course, we have acquired a great deal of samples, and now what we need to do is be very thorough in their analysis.

QUESTION: Given the obvious convenience to the general being here in Tampa, can either one of you anticipate the frequency of having these briefings here? And if they do become rather frequent, Mr. Secretary, what does that do to your schedule?

RUMSFELD: Well, you can be certain they will not be frequent for me. I have a full life elsewhere. I wanted to come down here to see General Franks and his team and have a chance to thank them and visit with them and get briefed up.

But I do not anticipate being down here.

FRANKS: And let me provide further on that also. As we have gone through now 50-plus days, we within the Central Command have taken a decision that to do an effort like this, to do a press briefing once or twice a week was something that would be helpful to the command and to the American people. And so, we started, I guess, a week or 10 days ago, working our way through where we would do this and how we would do it, to do it once or twice a week in coordination with Secretary Rumsfeld's people.

This just happens to be the first of those, and I would anticipate once or twice a week when we have something to say, we'll schedule a news conference. But it's just, sort of, a lucky coincidence for us that the secretary happened to be coming down today. As a matter of fact, when he told me yesterday that he was going to come down, he didn't even know that we were having this press conference today.

RUMSFELD: And I would add that when General Franks comes to Washington we do like to pull him down into the press room at the Pentagon as well.

QUESTION: A question for General FRANKS: On your plane (ph), Mr. Secretary, you talked about (OFF-MIKE) Northern Alliance is saying they believe it's been subdued. I wonder if General Franks could give us the latest assessment of Mazar-i-Sharif as well as Kandahar.

FRANKS: I'd be happy to.

Mazar-i-Sharif, according to my people who are on the ground there, and you know several of them were hurt yesterday in an air strike, is not yet fully under control. I mean, the city itself as it has been now for a week or 10 days. The city is doing fine. People are going about their business. But in this fort complex where this fight started, it is not yet fully under control, and I'm not sure that that amounts to in numbers, but my people tell me that there are probably 30 or 40 very hard-core people still on the inside, and it's just very simply a matter of rooting them out to the last person.

QUESTION: And Kandahar?

FRANKS: Kandahar is a very confused place right now. We see evidence that a great many people of the non-Afghan type are working very hard to get out of Kandahar. We have applied pressure to the city of Kandahar, both from the north and from the south, by tribal elements--southern tribal elements. And that's where it stands right now.

We have gone through this without--intentionally not striking hi-collateral damage targets, and so that certainly includes in Kandahar. We do not intend to go in and begin to just bomb the city of Kandahar. We will pursue Kandahar militarily, the same way we have pursued the cities in the north, and you've seen the result of that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FRANKS: The Marines will be used exactly as the secretary said yesterday and I said today. They're within about 70 or 80 miles of Kandahar. Their very presence does, in fact, provide pressure. But I will not characterize the intent of them being there as a force to attack Kandahar. That simply is not the case, that's not why we put them there.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) What is your input?

FRANKS: I truly am glad you asked that.

We have a great many nations around the globe who are participants in and supporters of our efforts against terrorism--to counter terrorism. Specifically, at our headquarters over here we have more than 20 military liaison teams from 20 different nations. We meet with them every day. We discuss what our plans are. We provide them intelligence and operations summaries. We ask that they be in contact with each of their capitals. And what we do is we coordinate everything from military offerings of each of these countries, where we would like to place them in our planning construct, when we would like to use them, for what purpose. And so that is the purpose of Coalition Village.

We work with them to ensure that they have communications with each of their capitals. And in addition to that 20, we have an overall total of about 50 who are providing staging, basing, overflight and a variety of assistance.

And so that is what this--and I think, sir, you've said this is a floating coalition and indeed it is. But in terms of the part that is associated with our work vis-a-vis Afghanistan, this is the 20 that I described who are with us at MacDill, and they have been there and I believe they'll remain. They're working with us every day.

RUMSFELD: I would add that one of the important aspects of what they've provided also is intelligence and that that has contributed significantly to the pressure that exists on terrorist networks not just in Afghanistan, but elsewhere around the globe.

QUESTION: General Franks, you mentioned you've acquired a great deal of samples as far as the chemical samples.

FRANKS: Right.

QUESTION: Where did those have to be...

FRANKS: Samples and papers?

QUESTION: And papers. Where did those have to be tested and do they include what appeared to be vials of sarin gas found in Afghanistan?

FRANKS: Well, let me begin at the end. If I thought I had my hands on a vial of sarin gas, then I'd be a bit more circuitous in my answer. And so, no, we have not found something that we believe is a specific thing. That's why we're going to test them all.

Now in terms of where they go, they go to a whole variety of laboratories working with a whole variety of institutions in this country and so that's how they're handled.

RUMSFELD: We'll probably take a couple more questions maybe. Yes, one here. Go ahead. Yes? Shall I get the laser out?

QUESTION: Yes, hit me.

General, you mentioned the two places that we're narrowing the focus of our attention: the Kandahar area and the Kabul to Khyber area. Is that because we have reason to believe from intelligence or other information that that's where Osama bin Laden is?

FRANKS: Well, as I said, these are two areas that are of particular interest and let me tell you why they're of interest. If you think about the totality of the country of Afghanistan--in fact, give me that first graphic and I'll just show it to you. Sir, may I borrow your pointer?

RUMSFELD: I'll point, you tell me where to point.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKS: OK.

RUMSFELD: I've been waiting all day to do this. I mean...

FRANKS: Just hit me in the back of the head, Mr. Secretary.

(LAUGHTER)

If you take a look at Afghanistan, then what you find is up here in the north, all the way from Taloqan, Kunduz, Mazar-i-Sharif, all the way out to Herat, and along through Bamian in the center, and back across Kabul, where do we find opposition leaders in control of the real estate right now? Well, that's where we find them.

If you take a look at areas where we have less control by opposition groups right now, then one of the areas you find is over here in the vicinity of Jalalabad, and I mentioned the corridor from Kabul over to the Khyber Pass, to include coming down here--you asked me about Tora Bora. Well, one of the general areas that we do not have firm control of is this general area in here, and so, of course, we're paying very close attention to that. The other one that we do have good control of, because we talked about it a minute ago in Kandahar, so this then is the secondary where we have interest.

Now, for me to say, "Well, yes, one is Osama bin Laden and the other is the leadership of the Taliban," well, I wouldn't do that, because I don't think I want to tell you.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Sir, is that because of (OFF-MIKE) or, as you were talking earlier, specific intelligence, which goes beyond just eliminating the rest of the country?

FRANKS: When we started this operation, here's what we said. We said in the totality of Afghanistan there's about 10 percent which belongs to opposition leaders and about 90 percent or so is land that is controlled by the Taliban. We said that what we're going to do is, we're going to establish--we may not eviscerate--but we're going to establish conditions so that we can move in and out of here. And then for about two weeks to three weeks, we said, we went after air defense systems to set conditions so that the Marine task force, which was inserted yesterday, can, in fact, move in and move out at will.

At the same time, I believe, we said we're going to work with opposition groups where it serves our interest and where we see mutual benefit in doing that. The result of all of that was, that if you take the northern part of the country all the way from Herat, all the way to Taloqan and Kunduz, then what you find is that has now come under opposition control. So I think it would not be correct to say, "Well, it's gone too fast or it's gone to slow."

Keep in mind what we're after. We're not after the ownership of Afghanistan. What we're after is the destruction of terrorist networks with global reach and an illegitimate government, in this case, which harbors them.

And so it truly is a matter of tightening the noose. It truly is a matter of smoking out the leadership that we're after. And in order to do that, it's, sort of, one, sort of, stage after another, and that brings us up to where we are today.

We do not yet have control of this region by opposition groups. We do not yet have control of this region by opposition groups. And so we'll simply continue to do that, we'll simply continue to tighten the noose until we get where we want to go.

QUESTION: How much would you just describe relates to or fulfills, I guess, whatever prior planning went into this, and how much of it, frankly, is a surprise?

FRANKS: Well, I'll let the secretary answer that. He approved the plan.

RUMSFELD: How much of this is a surprise; what is "this"?

QUESTION: How much progress have you made? How much can you describe in terms of areas you do not having control of?

RUMSFELD: Well, let me respond this way. I think that what was taking place in the earlier phases was exactly as planned. The conditions were being set for what needed to be done. The air defenses were being taken out. And we were putting people on the ground, so that they could be begin assisting with respect to resupply and targeting, and the like.

It looked like nothing was happening. Indeed, it looked like we were in a--all together now--quagmire.

FRANKS: Sir, I was going to stalemate.

RUMSFELD: Stalemate, yes.

But in fact, we were not. It was proceeding along, and pressure was being built, and the capabilities to do what has since occurred were being established.

The next phase, of course, was the substantially improved targeting that resulted from having special forces on the ground, and the pressure that has been applied diplomatically, from an intelligence standpoint, by the opposition forces, and by the air capabilities communicated and coordinated with the ground capabilities of the United States.

Now all of that combined created a situation where the pressure was sufficient that the Taliban decided to, in some cases fight and be defeated, and in other cases evacuate and try to escape, and in still other cases defect. It now looks like things are going along quite well, superficially, just like in the first phase superficially it looked like things were not going along very well.

And I would submit that what we have said from the outset is correct; that this is going to be a very difficult period. Those cities are not safe. There are people in those cities who are hiding and who are perfectly willing to tie grenades around their bodies, blow up themselves and whoever else happens to be standing around. There are people who have defected who may redefect. There are people who have gone across borders who may come back across borders.

It is a difficult environment for the Americans that are there. It's a difficult environment for the coalition forces that are there. And it's a difficult environment for the opposition forces who are attempting to provide some stability in those villages and towns.

Now, the general has said what the task is, and that is not done and we need to keep at it and we will keep at it. But we have to recognize that it's not over, it's going to take some time, it's going to be difficult, it's going to be dangerous and people are not going to live who are in situations like I've characterized or like this riot in the compound up in Mazar-i-Sharif. People are going to die because of the risks and dangers that exist there.

Does that respond to your question?

QUESTION: Yes.

RUMSFELD: Good.

We're going to call it there. I can't see--I hope I didn't miss a lot of people back here because I couldn't see back there.

Thank you very much. It's good to be with you.

QUIGLEY: And thanks a lot for being here in Tampa.

RUMSFELD: Did everyone see Admiral Quigley? I want everyone to know that he's only on loan. General Franks has captured him.

QUIGLEY: Well, sir, perhaps we could discuss that.

(LAUGHTER)

© 2001 The Washington Post Company


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