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Text: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

Monday, Oct. 8, 2001

The following is a transcript of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's news conference on U.S. retaliatory attacks on the Taliban.

RUMSFELD: Today the president has turned to direct, overt military force to compliment the economic, humanitarian, financial and diplomatic activities which are already well under way.

The effect we hope to achieve through these raids, which together with our coalition partners we have initiated today, is to create conditions for sustained anti-terrorist and humanitarian relief operations in Afghanistan.

That requires that, among other things, we first remove the threat from air defenses and from Taliban aircraft. We also seek to raise the cost of doing business for foreign terrorists who have chosen Afghanistan from which to organize their activities, and for the oppressive Taliban regime that continues to tolerate terrorist presence in those portions of Afghanistan which they control.

The current military operations are focused on achieving several outcomes: To make clear to the Taliban leaders and their supporters that harboring terrorists is unacceptable and carries a price.

To acquire intelligence to facilitate intelligence to facilitate future operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban regime that harbors the terrorists.

To develop relationships with groups in Afghanistan that oppose the Taliban regime and the foreign terrorists that they support.

To make it increasingly difficult to use Afghanistan freely as a base of operation.

And to alter the military balance over time by denying to the Taliban the offensive systems that hamper the progress of the various opposition forces.

And to provide humanitarian relief to Afghans suffering truly oppressive living conditions under the Taliban regime.

I want to reiterate a point that President Bush has made often and that he made again today in his remarks. The United States has organized armed coalitions on several occasions since the Cold War for the purpose of denying hostile regimes the opportunity to oppress their own people and other people.

In Kuwait, in Northern Iraq, in Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo, the United States took action on behalf of Muslim populations against outside invaders and oppressive regimes. The same is true today.

We stand with those Afghans who are being repressed by a regime that abuses the very people it purports to lead, and that harbors terrorists who have attacked and killed thousands of innocents around the world of all religions, of all races and of all nationalities.

While our raids today focus on the Taliban and the foreign terrorists in Afghanistan, our aim remains much broader. Our objective is to defeat those who use terrorism and those who house or support them.

The world stands united in this effort. It is not about a religion or an individual terrorist or a country. Our partners in this effort represent nations and peoples of all cultures, all religions and all races. We share the belief that terrorism is a cancer on the human condition, and we intend to oppose it wherever it is.

The operation today involved a variety of weapon systems, and it originated from a number of separate locations. We used land and sea-based aircraft, surface ships and submarines, and we employed a variety of weapons to achieve our objectives.

As President Bush mentioned in his statement, dozens of countries contributed in specific ways to this mission, including transit and landing rights, basing opportunities and intelligence support.

In this mission, we are particularly grateful for the direct military involvement of the forces of Great Britain.

To achieve the outcomes we seek, it is important to go after air defense and Taliban aircraft. We need the freedom to operate on the ground and in the air. And the target selected, if successfully destroyed, should permit an increasing degree of freedom over time.

We have also targeted command facilities for those forces that we know support terrorist elements within Afghanistan and critical terrorist sites.

President Bush has repeatedly emphasized that we will hold accountable any who help terrorists, as well as the terrorists themselves.

Before I take your questions, let me say that to say that these attacks are in any way against Afghanistan or the Afghan people, is flat wrong. We support the Afghan people against the Al Qaeda, a foreign presence on their land, and against the Taliban regime that supports them.

What took place today and what will be taking place in the period ahead is a part of the measured and broad and sustained effort that the president announced shortly after the attacks on September 11.

General Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will make a few remarks before we respond to questions.

MYERS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

I know you have many questions to ask, so I'll keep my comments brief.

The secretary said today our forces have begun the initial part of military operations in the war against terrorism. About 15 land-based bombers, some 25 strike aircraft from carriers, and U.S. and British ships and submarines launching approximately 50 tomahawk missiles have struck targets, terrorist targets in Afghanistan.

The first target was hit at approximately 12:30 Eastern Standard Time, and operations continue as we speak.

As the secretary said, these efforts are designed to disrupt and destroy terrorist activities in Afghanistan and to set the conditions for future military action as well as to bring much-needed food and medical aid to the people of Afghanistan.

I want to remind you that while today's operations are visible, many other operations may not be so visible. But visible or not, our friends and enemies should understand that all instruments of our national power, as well as those of our friends and allies around the world, are being brought to bear on this global menace.

We are in the early stages of ongoing combat operations, and our outstanding men and women in uniform are performing just as they've been trained to do, and that is to say, superbly.

With that, ladies and gentlemen, we're ready to take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, might I ask without--I know you don't want to give too many details, especially early on. You said 15 land-based bombers, approximately 15. Could you tell us whether B-1s, B-52s and B-2s were used in this?

RUMSFELD: They were.

QUESTION: B-2s were used. And did you have--we're told you had a broad range of targets. Did you hit airbases? Did you attack Taliban jets and airbases?

RUMSFELD: Well, as I indicated in my remarks, it is certainly necessary, if one is going to engage in humanitarian activities that involve the air or the ground, that one would not want to try to do that as long as the Taliban had aircraft or air defense systems that could pose a threat to U.S. personnel.

QUESTION: Just one--I'm sorry, just one brief follow-up. Did the B-2s--were they flying roundtrip from the United States? Because they had been on the Kosovo operations.

MYERS: Yes. Yes, they flew from the continental the United States.

RUMSFELD: Yes, they were.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how extensive the humanitarian effort has been thus far? And how many C-17s' worth of various type of refugee food and blankets and medicine are you dropping? Is there some way to quantify it?

RUMSFELD: It started, oh, 20 or 30 minutes ago. And it's just in its beginning stages.

QUESTION: Can you give us some description of how many tons of food and medicine you're trying to deliver?

RUMSFELD: Well, we could. As I say, it's in the beginning stages and this is a first day. The first day was something like 37,000 rations, as I recall.

MYERS: Correct.

RUMSFELD: 37,500. But whether or not that will all get delivered is something we won't know for a few hours.

QUESTION: It includes more than just food, is that correct?

RUMSFELD: It does. Includes some medicines and that type of thing.

QUESTION: General Myers, can you give us a sense of the weapons being dropped by the bombers? The secretary said this is not an attack against the Afghan people; that would be flat wrong to say. That presupposes we're using precision-guided weapons to avoid casualties. All three of those bombers you mentioned can drop these JDAM satellite bombs.

Is that the sort of ordnance being dropped today?

MYERS: We are using--or essentially have at hand all our conventional munitions. But you're right that the majority of them are precision weapons, but not exclusively, because some targets--we try to match targets and weapons and their effects.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you said and General Myers said that the raids have been ongoing now for about two and a half hours. But using 50 TLAMs, one would assume that there is an end to this initial phase.

Can you tell us if this initial phase is going to go on much longer? Or is it, for all intents and purposes, over as of this point, sir?

RUMSFELD: It is not yet over.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, was Osama bin Laden targeted in this raid? And can you give us, understanding that it's still early, any preliminary assessment of how successful these attacks have been?

RUMSFELD: No, it's far too early to try to measure success.

And the answer is no with respect to him. This is not about a single individual. It's about an entire terrorist network and multiple terrorist networks across the globe.

We would not have actual reports on the success of the various attacks for some time.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are the airdrops that have, you say, just begun, will that be a continuous operation, or is this a one-time effort?

RUMSFELD: The president's approach to this is that it will be continuous, but that it will be broadly based and it will be economic and political and diplomatic, as well as military overt and covert.

And the fact that one sees a cruise missile on television at one moment and does not another moment ought not to suggest that the pressure and the president's approach to this is anything but continuous. It is continuous.

QUESTION: The humanitarian part, I was referring to the airdrops, is that going to be continuous?

RUMSFELD: I don't know quite what ``continuous'' means. 24-hour days, 7 days week? No, unlikely. On the other hand, once there is an opportunity to begin the humanitarian effort on the ground, I suppose it could be characterized as continuous.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you give us any idea whether or not this is, I know it's still ongoing, but is this essentially a one-day operation, this phase? Or should we expect there will be more activity tomorrow?

And the second part, will the United States impose essentially a no-fly zone over Afghanistan, as it did over Bosnia and Iraq in the past?

RUMSFELD: I think that, rather than trying to characterize what the United States is going to do on any given day in advance, that I would prefer to say that this effort will continue in a variety of different ways over a sustained period of time, and that we intend to pursue it until such time as we are satisfied that those terrorists networks don't exist, that they have been destroyed.

QUESTION: No-fly zone?

RUMSFELD: I don't know that I want to characterize it as that. Although, certainly, one would think that if one of your early objectives is to deal with their aircraft and their air defense system, it very likely would reduce the number of Taliban aircraft flying around over Afghanistan, I would hope, yes.

QUESTION: Have you seen any response so far from the Taliban military? Have they flown or have they launched anything?

RUMSFELD: Too early, too early to know.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the Taliban has basically boasted that Osama bin Laden is still alive as well as Mullah Mohammed Omar. What would say to them about that sort of a boast?

RUMSFELD: Well, that Taliban, since the beginning of this, have rejected every suggestion, request or demand made by the United States of America and the coalition partners. They have established themselves as being firmly connected to Al Qaeda and the foreign presence in their country. They have made a choice. And I don't know that there is anything to say beyond that, that they are what they are, and they are bringing great harm to Afghan people.

QUESTION: Can you say anything about the Northern Alliance? Was this coordinated with them? And are they picking up any ground as a result of this, or are they linking up with U.S. forces? Can you give us any sense of what's going on on the ground?

RUMSFELD: Sure. There are a number of elements on the ground in Afghanistan, Afghan people, in the Northern Alliance, in the tribes in the south, even some within Taliban, that do not favor Omar and do not favor the Al Qaeda and would wish they were no longer in their country.

Certainly, our interest is to strengthen those forces that are opposed to Al Qaeda and opposed to the Taliban leadership that is so intimately connected to them, and to strengthen all of those forces so that they will have better opportunities to prevail and to deal with what, obviously, is a regime that is enormously harmful to the Afghan people and poses threats to people all across this globe, including the United States of America.

QUESTION: It's been said many times from the podium that there just aren't that many targets in Afghanistan. Apparently, you've found some. Can you explain that?

And also, can you address what seems to be somewhat of an anomaly in this mission--the idea that you're fighting your way in in order to drop humanitarian relief on people? And if the people--if the places where you're dropping relief, if you're getting shot at there, are you not essentially dropping relief on the enemy?

RUMSFELD: Well, first, with respect to the targets, I think I've said repeatedly from this podium that there are not a lot of high-value targets. I've pointed out that the Taliban and the Al Qaeda do not have armies, navies and air forces. And that's clear, they don't.

I've therefore characterized this conflict, this campaign, this so-called war, as being notably different from others.

And it means that what we have to do is exactly what I said in my earlier remarks. We have to create the conditions for a sustained effort that will assist those forces in the country that are opposed to Taliban and opposed to Al Qaeda. And we have to do it in a variety of different ways. We have to dry up their bank accounts. We have to bring political, diplomatic pressure to bear on them. We have to bring economic pressure to bear.

And to the extent we can, use overt as well as covert activities to improve target information, to gather intelligence that will enable us to be more precise in what we do, and to force people to move and change what they're doing, to raise the cost of what they're doing, to attempt to reduce the number of people around the globe who support them and finance them. All of that helps.

The fact is, in this battle against terrorism there is no silver bullet. There is no single thing that is going to suddenly make that threat disappear. Ultimately, they're going to collapse from within, and they're going to collapse from within because of the full combination of all of the resources from all of the countries that are brought to bear on these networks. And that is what will constitute victory.

QUESTION: General Myers, are ground troops...

QUESTION: Will you be providing arms and air cover to the opposition forces to strengthen them?

MYERS: As I say, I don't think--our goal is to make them more successful. Getting into exactly how we'll do that I think I'll defer.

QUESTION: Do you plan to send U.S. ground troops in Afghanistan?

QUESTION: You said a moment ago, you spoke of multiple terrorists networks in multiple countries. Is this phase of the operation going to involve strikes in some other places other than Afghanistan?

RUMSFELD: As you know, we've had a policy here, at least during my tenure, where we don't discuss ongoing operation and we don't discuss intelligence matters.

QUESTION: Do you plan to put U.S. ground troops in Yugoslavia?

QUESTION: Would you please describe the Taliban anti-aircraft system (OFF-MIKE) surface-to-air missiles? And have any of the American aircraft been damaged or brought down?

RUMSFELD: We have no information that any American aircraft has been damaged or brought down at this moment, at least prior to the time I walked in here. There is--as I believe Dick Myers has pointed out, they do have a limited number of surface-to-air missiles and they have more than a limited number of man-operated, man-mobile surface-to-air missiles.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you give us a sense of how many targets you've hit?

RUMSFELD: There's no way to discuss the outcome of this operation.

QUESTION: Are U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan now? And more broadly, could you illuminate at all the so-called less visible side of this operation?

RUMSFELD: Not really. If we wanted it to be overt, we would have discussed it.

QUESTION: And the question about the ground forces, please? My first part was, on the ground--are there U.S. forces on the ground now?

RUMSFELD: If we had--how to phrase this so that it's perfectly clear again. We have not--I need a...

MYERS: More than one operation.

RUMSFELD: Yes. I mean, we've got, we've got--I'm disinclined to talk about things that are in process. And if we had significant numbers of U.S. military on the ground, it would have been known by now.

QUESTION: Do you plan to send troops, Mr. Secretary?

QUESTION: The decision to continue airdrops, is that predicated on some level of confidence that you've taken out at least some of that air defense threat?

RUMSFELD: We certainly would not be using airdrops in portions of the country where we were not satisfied that it would be safe for humanitarian relations. We don't discuss operational activities.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you have any--can you tell us, is there any plans to send significant numbers of...

RUMSFELD: I answered that question before you asked it.


We do not discuss operations.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, much of the country is in the--at least controlled now by the Taliban. Does that mean that--and a lot of the--most of the refugees actually are--or internally displaced people are in those sections of the country.

Does that mean that those areas will not get the relief as quickly, that other non-Taliban-held areas will get it more quickly?

RUMSFELD: Well certainly non-Taliban areas would get it more quickly.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can we define a little bit about the humanitarian airdrops? Are these going to be, for the most part, high-altitude airdrops? Going to use pallets and parachutes? Or just kick them out the way we did over Kosovo and Bosnia?

RUMSFELD: It's more like the latter, but greatly improved. We know the effectiveness of those airdrops was less than desired. So between now and then, they have been working with the deliver means to improve that. We think we can be fairly effective from high altitude. And we're targeting remote locations where it's difficult to get trucks in.

This has all been coordinated fairly well, very well with USAID.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. You're not just kicking out the rations, though, by themselves. They're coming down via parachute or some means to the ground, or aren't they?

RUMSFELD: No, the delivery mode is pretty much like you described. A little more sophisticated than that. But it's not by parachute.

QUESTION: Is there a danger posed to the people on the ground that you are trying to help? As the humanitarian aid comes in, are you exposing them to fire? Or are these two operations wholly separate?

RUMSFELD: There is no risk to the people on the ground that would have an interest in receiving the humanitarian drops.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, were C-17s used to drop the humanitarian daily rations today? And if so, how many?

MYERS: There were two C-17's planned today to drop humanitarian rations.

QUESTION: And that was 100 percent of what was carrying the HDRs?

MYERS: For the first day, that's correct.

QUESTION: How can you drop at a high altitude? I mean, as a lay person--without using parachutes and not destroy them?

RUMSFELD: Well, the system has been designed to do just that. And like I said, they have been testing ever since allied force stopped. Shortly after that, we began testing to make sure we could accurately deliver these, and that has been ongoing. We will be able to put them where we want to put them.

QUESTION: So that they...

RUMSFELD: Correct.

QUESTION: General, don't they have precision radars that can map an area and drop it within a certain bull's eye?

RUMSFELD: Well, let me just go back. We have high confidence we will be able to drop where they're intended, where Afghan citizens are. And there are several ways to do that. Absolutely.

QUESTION: As part of effort today, are you dropping leaflets? Have you begun radio broadcasts from Commando Solo and some of the other assets that you have that can do directive messages to the people who may not understand what you are doing?


QUESTION: Both of those?


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are you asking, sir, the Taliban to form a government or are you waiting for the total defeat of Taliban?

RUMSFELD: That really is the business of the Department of State. And what we are doing is we are attempting to help those and advantage those that oppose Taliban and that oppose Al Qaeda in that country in a variety of different ways.

And how that might evolve, and mean, what that might mean from standpoint of the future of Afghanistan, it seems to me is a good distance off. And it is not an issue that this department really is involved in.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are additional steps being taken to strengthen security in the United States in anticipation of some possible retaliation for this attack?

RUMSFELD: Well, most of the kinds of attacks that we have seen tend to have been planned months and months and months, in some cases years, in advance. So the idea that any attack that could occur now would conceivably characterize as in retaliation for something, I think, would be a misunderstanding of the situation.

The United States is, as President Bush has indicated, is on a state of heightened awareness. And the armed forces around the world are on a state of higher alert than is normal. The forces in the United States are on a higher alert than has been the normal pattern for our forces.

And the various organizations that deal with law enforcement in the United States, the FBI and state and local officials, are certainly aware that, as of September 11, we have to be sensitive to the possibility that there can be various types of terrorist attacks in our country.

And as a result, the president has marshaled a great many of the capabilities of the United States government, including the military, to assist in seeing that we do what is possible.

But the only way to deal with these terrorist threats is to go at them where they exist. You cannot defend at every place, at every time, against every conceivable, imaginable, even unimaginable, terrorist attack. And the only way to deal with it is to take the battle to where they are and to rout them out and to starve them out by seeing that those countries and those organizations and those non-governmental organizations and those individuals that are supporting and harboring and facilitating these networks stop doing it and find that there's a penalty for doing it.

QUESTION: Apparently, there were strikes in Kandahar and Kabul, and there's talk about the electricity system going down. Are you running the risk of being characterized as attacking the Afghan people rather than the military targets?

RUMSFELD: You know, in this world of ours, if you get up in the morning, you're running a risk of having someone lie and someone mischaracterize what it is you are doing.

What the United States of America is doing is exactly what I said. It is attempting to defend the United States, by taking this battle to the terrorists that have killed thousands of Americans and have threatened not just United States but regimes throughout the world, because they are determined to find ways to intimidate the rest of the world and to terrorize the rest of the world. And we are determined not to be terrorized.

Thank you very much.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company