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Rumsfeld Delivers Pentagon Briefing

Aired January 3, 2002 - 13:15   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Right on time as they usually are at the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Richard Myers, briefing reporters.



DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ....which includes, first, making sure that Taliban stays out of power so it can no longer harbor terrorists. And today, of course, the Taliban is not functioning as a government. The new interim government is in place and shares our determination to rid Afghanistan of terrorists and to keep them out.

Second, tracking down the Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders and the network there and elsewhere will, of course, take some time.

And third, we're interested in strengthening Afghanistan and helping the Afghan people with the humanitarian assistance, which we have been engaged in from the outset. And certainly, there is need there.

We do want to capture Osama bin Laden and Omar and the Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership. We're working on it, but even if we were to capture them tomorrow, our job would still be far from over.

The network is well organized; it's global. We continue to get additional intelligence information, which reinforces our conviction as to the breadth and depth of that terrorist network. So we do have a good distance to go.

I should note that the president, on Friday, signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, I believe, which provides resources that are needed by this department and our country to defend the United States and our interest around the globe and to continue the global war on terrorism. It also provides funds that will help us in the process of transformation, which we're determined to do.

General Myers?

MYERS: Good afternoon. And again, happy new year to you all.

Our operations in Afghanistan, as the secretary said, continue trying to find the Al Qaeda leadership and the Taliban leadership. And as do that, as the secretary said, continue to try to gather intelligence that we find in various pockets, some of which, we've already reported, has been fruitful in stopping terrorist acts, we believe around the world, for that matter.

Now, we're also spending time dealing with the detainees -- and I'll get into the numbers here in just a minute -- and helping the nongovernmental organizations as they provide humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.

On detainees, we currently have 248 detainees as of this morning -- 225 in Kandahar, 14 in Bagram air field, and eight on the Baton, one in Mazar-i-Sharif.

As you know, we're still working the details of Guantanamo, as the secretary mentioned last week.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, I think it's important to note that there are still pockets of resistance; that it's still a very dangerous place. We remain committed to rooting out the Al Qaeda leadership that remains in Afghanistan, and the Taliban leadership that remains in Afghanistan, and for that mater, destroying the Al Qaeda network worldwide.

And with that, ready to take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are you going to start moving these detainees to (inaudible) over the next couple of days? And have you made any decision on the how, when and where of military court- martial?

RUMSFELD: I spent some time over the holidays digging into those subjects. And we are going to proceed with Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a base there, as a location for some detainees.

RUMSFELD: They are in the process now of beginning the construction, so that we'll be able to provide the kind of security that these people require.

They are very hard cases, for the most part. If you think what happened in Mazar-i-Sharif in the uprising in the prison, you think of the number of Pakistani soldiers that were killed, there have been three or four incidents where these folks have demonstrated their determination to kill themselves, kill others, and/or escape.

So it is important that facilities be appropriate. And as soon as they're well enough along, we'll begin that process.

QUESTION: And the how, when and where of military court martials?

RUMSFELD: Well, as I say...


RUMSFELD: I haven't addressed that particular question, as to where they would be located, with respect to a commission. I did spend a good deal of time studying it and visiting with people about it, and we have a process in place which, over the coming period we'll -- I'm sure well before anyone is assigned to be tried by such a commission -- we'll have completed the kinds of decisions that are -- that need to be made.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, how do you respond to people who are saying that the fact that Omar and bin Laden remain at large and their whereabouts, the United States apparently having no clues as to their whereabouts is making -- is beginning to make the United States look ineffective and at a loss?

RUMSFELD: Well, you know, some things are neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so, I suppose, as Shakespeare said. I just don't happen to think that. I think that the goal of the United States embarked on was to stop terrorist networks that -- and to stop countries that are harboring terrorists.

The Taliban rule in Afghanistan has ended. That is a good thing. It's a good thing for the people of Afghanistan, but it's also a good thing for the people of the world that that country is no longer harboring terrorists. Second, I think that it -- one has to appreciate the difficulty of tracking down a single human being anywhere. Look at the difficulty the United States of America has tracking down the 10 most wanted criminals.

RUMSFELD: They're people who've been on those lists for years and years and years. It's difficult to do. The real task is seeing that they are pursued, seeing that they're tracked down, seeing they're not capable of functioning effectively in terms of conducting the network, and raising money, and recruiting people and training people, which we know. We've caused considerable disruption of that network.

QUESTION: That's not sufficient is it? Or is it?

RUMSFELD: Well, I mean, obviously our goal is to find them, and we intend to keep pursing that. But our real goal is to see that people are not committing terrorist acts to the extent we can stop the recruiting -- we can dry up their funds, we can arrest enough people and gather enough intelligence that it makes it not impossible to be sure for them to conduct additional terrorist acts, but very, very difficult. And that's our goal, and that's what we're doing.

QUESTION: So if they remained at large, but on the run, or hiding out, then you would've accomplished your goal by stopping them from...


RUMSFELD: No, our goal is to find them and bring them to justice, as the president has said. But that's one part of the goal. The other goal is to see that we've reduced down the number of terrorist threats and terrorist acts that occur in the world, and I think we're having some success with respect to that.


QUESTION: General, can you say anything? You mentioned how some of the information found has been fruitful in preventing thwarting terrorist attacks. Can you get into any more detail about that, and also how this information has been used to lead to arrests around the world?

MYERS: I think some of that is still ongoing, so I'm going to refrain from getting into the details on that.

QUESTION: The arrests you mean or...

MYERS: Well, both arrests, and both on thwarting other attacks.

QUESTION: Well, can you say anything about past arrests (inaudible) to the information?

MYERS: I don't have the details on that right now, but the information we have gotten has been very fruitful in many cases, and we think we have thwarted attacks, and it has lead to, if not arrests, to surveillance of terrorist leadership, and that's been very, very useful we think.

QUESTION: One last thing. Mr. Secretary, if you could say anything about the senior leaders you have in hand. Will you be releasing their names at any point?

RUMSFELD: We will at some point. If you take the top 10 or 15 Taliban, the top 10 or 15 Al Qaeda, you know, in each case, there are some that are dead, a small number; there are some that are captured; there are some that we believe are dead and have no evidence that they're alive, but we also can't prove that they're not alive; and some names have been in the press already, and I'm sure others will be released as we go along.

QUESTION: U.S. troops are dropping leaflets that show pictures of Osama bin Laden, what we think he might look like without a beard in Western dress, and I'm wondering if there's any concern that that kind of information, which, obviously, is meant to get information about where he is, might not backfire, especially in the Arab world, where there have already been accusations that the videotape that was found and that was shown was doctored in some way; that, you know, this is proof that America can doctor or make up things. Can you talk about that?

RUMSFELD: I had not thought about it and I was not aware of that particular leaflet, although I think the leaflets have been, generally, very good and very effective, from everything we can tell.

Look, the people who are saying that -- the whole premise of bin Laden's activities in the world are premised on lies and the fact that people will say things like you just said they might say is true; that is a possibility that people will say something that's not true. There's nothing much we can do about it. We live in the world, we get up in the morning, we go about and do our business as best we can.

QUESTION: Getting back to the Guantanamo location for the detainees, you talked about the need to construct facilities there that are adequate to hold them. But can you discuss, please, the delicate, difficult problem of transporting from Afghanistan to there?

RUMSFELD: It's a long way. It's one of the disadvantages of Guantanamo Bay. But it has to be done very, very carefully. Every time people have messed with these folks, they've gotten in trouble. And they are very well trained, they're very hardened and they're willing to give up their lives, in many instances. I mean, think of what's been going on in this hospital down there in Kandahar.

So all we can do is our best. And we planned to transport them and we planned to use the necessary amount of constraint so that those individuals do not kill Americans in transport or in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

QUESTION: If I could follow up, sir, if I could follow up, the question about whether they would be accompanied by marshals who -- United States marshals who have tremendous experience in that, would it be military accompaniment; have you gone into that and the considerations that might affect those decisions?

RUMSFELD: I have not addressed it, but my assumption is it'll be done by military personnel.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you talked about the global reach of the Al Qaeda network. President Bush has said publicly that Al Qaeda is operating in some 68 countries around the world. Can you tell us what number or percentage of those 68 countries -- let's say it's 68 -- are active host countries of Al Qaeda and what number of them have merely been infiltrated Al Qaeda?

RUMSFELD: A relatively small number are active host countries compared to the 68, so it would be a minor fraction of that number.

QUESTION: Should those host countries, then, consider themselves possible potential next targets in our efforts?

RUMSFELD: One of the problems with that is, some countries have been relatively hospitable to the Al Qaeda -- relatively small number of countries. Of those, I think, that in some cases they've become less hospitable. They've decided after what's happened in recent months that it's not their first choice to be thought of as a place that is hospitable to the Al Qaeda.

QUESTION: Have they become our allies, would you say, in some cases?

RUMSFELD: That would be a stretch.

(LAUGHTER) QUESTION: Sir, just a quick housekeeping question about what the Congress has been doing lately. You have, for a while, had this goal of turning waste here at DOD into weapons, into programs that could help you prosecute the war on terrorism, that could help you do transformation. One of the things that you've asked Congress to do for you is to give you some relief from these reporting requirements that DOD must provide on an annual basis. It doesn't look like you're going to get that. And so, which reporting requirements that remain now are most egregious in helping you achieve that $5 billion savings that you want to put back into transformation and back into weapon programs?

RUMSFELD: Well, the reports are just a portion of the $5 billion in savings; that includes base structures and a whole host of things. We pull that number out of something less than mathematical precision.

It makes the point that when you have a department this large and you have that many things going on that you need not be doing, a reasonable person from a company or another organization would say, "My goodness, there's no doubt in my mind but that we can save roughly that amount if we were given the freedom to do it."

I think we'll end up getting flexibility from the Congress. The members of Congress I've talked to are sensitive to the issue. Each one looks at it a little differently, needless to say. But I think that there's a recognition in the Congress that it's not right to be wasting taxpayers' money.

QUESTION: General Myers, could you please detail for us movement and placement of American troops and equipment in Afghanistan in the last 24 hours? How many elements of the 101st have gone to Kandahar? Have there been any air strikes; if so, where? Anything different about the movement or number of troops in Tora Bora?

QUESTION: And while I'm at it...

RUMSFELD: Eight-part question.

MYERS: I'm up to the task, sir.


QUESTION: ... are the Marines going out on any other intelligence missions?

MYERS: Can I give a two-part answer to the eight-part question?

I mean, I think it's well known that the 101st is in there to replace the Marines eventually that we're pulling out of Rhino, where the Marines initially went into that; for a forward-operating base in southern Afghanistan, that Kandahar is the region; that elements of the 101st, are -- as I said are in there. There are more to follow. They're not all in there yet, and the Marines are not coming out yet. And so in terms of future operations and when and where, I'm not going to get into that. In terms of Tora Bora, operations there remain like they have been in the past. We're still searching the cave areas with approximately the same number of folks that we started with.

And in terms of strikes, for the last several days, we've had no strikes. This morning, I think it has been reported already, we conducted strikes between 10 and 11 o'clock our time in Afghanistan, on a leadership compound that was fairly extensive compound -- had a base camp, a training facility, and some cave pieces to that -- fairly close to the Pakistani border, matter of fact. And that was the last strike in the last several days. It was conducted by B-1 bombers, by Navy F-18 aircraft and AC-130 gunships.

QUESTION: In the Tora Bora region?

MYERS: It's in the Khowst region, which is south of the Tora Bora region.

QUESTION: Is that that Osama bin Laden compound that was struck in 1998?

MYERS: It was struck by cruise missiles in 1998, and it has been a place where the Al Qaeda goes to regroup.

RUMSFELD: I think we even hit it earlier this year.

MYERS: We may have.

QUESTION: There was lots of activity?

MYERS: Well, there was activity that wanted to be hit.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you characterize what Al Qaeda has now in terms of a military capability outside of Afghanistan? Do they actually have training camps somewhere? Do they have, you know, organized military cells? Physically, what is their military capability outside Afghanistan?

RUMSFELD: I don't know that the word "military" is the right word. It is a terrorist network. And they do have training camps around the world.

RUMSFELD: Sometimes they're active, and sometimes they're less active. We've seen training camps in Afghanistan go from active to inactive for periods and then come back active again.

They have -- if you have activities in -- whatever the number -- 40, 50, 60 countries, as has been said, and if you have bank accounts to the extent that they have, and if you have recruited relatively successfully over a sustained period, and if you had the kind of money and the kind of fake passports and the kind of organization that was demonstrated on September 11, one has to know that there are Al Qaeda- related people with that kind of training, with that kind of money, with those kinds of false passports, with those kinds of intentions that are spread in multiple countries.

QUESTION: And where do you -- for example, training camps: Where do see the highest profile of something like that?

RUMSFELD: I don't know that I want to get into that, because, as I say, they go up and down in terms of profile or levels of activity.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what is the state of play in the reported talks over the surrender of Mullah Omar? Does anybody have any intelligence or information on his whereabouts?

RUMSFELD: You know, the last person anyone should ask about the whereabouts of any of the senior Al Qaeda or Taliban is Don Rumsfeld. To the extent I had any knowledge, it would be self-defeating for our country and for our effort for me to even utter any thought about that, because it would be a clear indication that those individuals should stop being where they're being. So it would be mindless for me to answer a question like that, and I shall not answer a question like that.

QUESTION: Do you think those reports are credible...

RUMSFELD: I'm coming to that. I'm coming to that -- the negotiation question, right?

So I have not in the past and I will not in the future answer those questions about their location. Anyone who does answer those questions, probably either does not know what they're talking about or, if they do, are violating federal criminal law by providing intelligence information that it's against the law to provide to people who are not cleared for that intelligence information.

So I really -- we're looking for them, we intend to find them and we intend to capture or kill them, and that's the best we can do.

As to the negotiation issue, the truth has a certain virtue, and I don't know precisely what's going on with respect to that.

RUMSFELD: I think that the word that's carried in the press may or may not be right on the mark. I think that what takes place in Afghanistan is something like this -- and I'm not going to suggest that it necessarily is in this case, but I have seen it in several other cases -- and it's a situation where someone has -- they had multiple relationships over a period of three decades: people know each other; they've been on this side, they've been on that side. And at a certain moment everyone knows we're looking for Omar or we're looking for some senior Taliban leader.

And somebody thinks they know where they are and they think they may know how many people are with them, guarding them or hiding out with them, whatever the case may be. And they come and they say, "Gee, I think I could talk somebody into doing this, if we would let the lower-level people go or if we would stop long enough for me to get in there, so I don't get killed trying to talk to them." And you end up with all of this taking place with multiple parties.

The people on the ground -- the Afghans on the ground, have an interim government, they have people -- governors of provinces, they have people that are anti-Taliban forces that are helping us and they get into these kinds of discussions.

We are not authorizing, if anyone wonders, pauses or negotiations which would result in freeing of people that ought not to be free, freeing of people who kill other people as terrorists, freeing people who have a record of harboring terrorists and of killing people. We are not in the business of authorizing any kind of negotiation which would let people like that go.

Now, do we control every -- manage every single aspect of who talks to whom, with respect to these various types of discussions? Of course we don't. We give our advice, we give our counsel. I know that the interim government is right on the same sheet of music with us, with respect to this. They want the Taliban caught, they agree with us, they want the Al Qaeda the dickens out of their country.

But you're going to find, I'm afraid, as we proceed down this path of trying to find these 10, 12, 15, 20 people from each of those two organizations and the rest of the Al Qaeda, you're going to hear lots of those things. And I don't know that there's any way that I can explain it any better than that, but that's what's taking place on the ground.

QUESTION: General Myers, just a minute ago, I thought I heard you say that the Marines have not yet pulled out of Afghanistan. Could you clarify then what it was that -- the Marine helicopters that were seen taking off from Kandahar on Monday, fully loaded in combat gear, were those Marines part of that New Year's Day operation?

MYERS: Again, Marines are still conducting operations inside Afghanistan, and will for a little bit for the time to come. But any more speculation on that, on what they were doing, I'm not going to get into it.

QUESTION: The reason that I ask, is because when photographers saw those pictures, they then asked U.S. Central Command if, in fact, something -- some operation was under way. And Central Command very clearly said, "No, there is nothing under way; there is nothing planned." And then it seemed like just 12 or 14 hours later that, in fact, that operation was being talked about by Central Command. And I'm just wondering how that comports with the secretary's statement early on in this war that the Pentagon would never lie, because that was the impression that some people might have been left with.

MYERS: What operation are you referring to, because you're...

QUESTION: The New Year's Day operation, where the Marines went northwest of Kandahar, and retrieved some documents and some intelligence information.

QUESTION: I believe the Central Command said no Marines had left the base. Were those Army special ops troops that somehow were mistaken for Marines by photographers?

MYERS: And I don't know the details. I mean, I'm sure there is some confusion over the details, but if... RUMSFELD: The only thing I recall -- I was on vacation; I haven't been chasing each one of these little stories, but my recollection was that at one point there was some evidence gatherers from the Army. And someone may have gone to provide force protection for them.

Does anyone know the facts? I don't...

QUESTION: There was confusion.

RUMSFELD: Was there? Yes.

MYERS: And there may still be confusion, and maybe...

RUMSFELD: But any suggestion that it's intentional I think would be improper.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I wanted to just refocus here a second on the negotiations question. There's a report out of Kabul from one of the Taliban leaders -- Abul Ahad (ph) I think his name is -- that he would turn over Omar and 15,000 Taliban troops, if the U.S. agreed to stop bombing. Is that a fair offer at this point, or just an offer you wouldn't accept or even consider?

RUMSFELD: It hasn't been made. And I've already said what we would accept. We will accept surrender. These people have killed a lot of people. They deserve to be out of there, they deserve to be punished. And that is what we're there to do.

QUESTION: General Myers, can I ask a quick one? What is the status of the friendly fire investigation from the December 5 that killed three Americans and wounded 19 others? We haven't heard anything about it in the last two or three weeks.

MYERS: That report has been, I think, forwarded up here.

MYERS: I'll have to check on that. I think the investigation is complete.

QUESTION: Can you give us a sense of...

MYERS: I can't give it to you now, but we'll check on that.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, this is your first briefing in the new year, and I wondered if you could -- you mentioned that there is more beyond Afghanistan. I wonder if you could just, very general, give the American people an idea of what lies ahead in this new year, particularly looking at, say, Somalia; do you look at Aideed's tribe? Just give a general overview of what's ahead in this new year.

RUMSFELD: Well, I think that I could summarize what's ahead this way. We've got a lot left to do in Afghanistan.

Second, the intelligence-gathering process is proceeding apace. Indeed, we are increasing our military intelligence gathering and national intelligence gathering for the purpose of attempting to strengthen the knowledge we have about where the potential threats can come from and what we can do about stopping them before they occur.

The law enforcement process is continuing apace. People are being arrested, they're being interrogated. When appropriate, they're being released; and when appropriate, they're being kept and held. And the knowledge that they have is proving to be useful, as General Myers said.

We're still in the process of freezing bank accounts.

In addition, we are dealing with all the countries that have signed on to be helpful in the coalition in various ways, and encouraging them to take steps internally. And steps are being taken internally. Things have been happening in a variety of countries that have been very helpful.

And I suspect that what will take place in the period ahead is that countries will be visited with about the kinds of things we feel they could do to be helpful, and they'll be encouraged to be helpful, and I would suspect that most countries will be cooperative in trying to be helpful.

To the extent that countries are harboring terrorists and not being helpful, obviously, then, they're not being cooperative, and we'll have to find different ways of dealing with them. QUESTION: Can you touch on Somalia or Yemen or anything?

RUMSFELD: It doesn't do any good at all for me to be speculating about different countries and what we might do next, because I think those are all questions for the future.

QUESTION: Just to go back on a couple of points, one, you've alluded here several times today, I think, to the notion that your intelligence gathering has increased your conviction about the breath and the scope of the Al Qaeda network, and I'm wondering if you can somehow quantify that. In other words, the material you've gathered, have you been surprised? If you can't be specific, have you learned new things?

QUESTION: Is it bigger than you thought? Is it deeper than you thought? What have you really learned about it from this intelligence-gathering effort?

And then the quick follow-up I have is on Guantanamo Bay. Is that the only place, the only military facility that the administration is now looking at holding current or future detainees, or is the administration considering any activity at any other military bases for holding detainees, even future ones that you may get?

RUMSFELD: Well, to start backwards, we do not have a good fix on what the total number of detainees will be. Needless to say, our desire is to not have a lot. That is not what we're about -- gathering up maximum numbers. We would like to make sure that the ones that ought to be secured, so they don't go out and kill more people, are, in fact, secured, and ones that need not be are not, and that in every event the maximum amount of intelligence is extracted from them first.

In the event that Guantanamo proves to be inadequate from a size standpoint, there are other places, obviously, that were considered, and while Guantanamo was the least worst, there are others on the list that might be the next least worst.

QUESTION: Do these include -- are you considering military bases inside the United States as possible holding facilities?

RUMSFELD: Certainly for certain types of detainees, yes.

QUESTION: Can I ask you to articulate what kinds? Are these people that could possible provoke an attack, and they need to be in a very, very secure facility? Are you constructing any facilities at military bases...

RUMSFELD: I don't think we'll need to. I don't think we'll have to do that. I think we've got some facilities at U.S. military bases at the present time that have vacancies, and we're looking -- we'll take full advantage of those.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. military prepared to carry out any possible executions of those who could be convicted by a military tribunal?

RUMSFELD: Not an issue we've addressed.

QUESTION: Is that a possibility, however? Would that be carried out by the Justice Department or would that be carried out by the military?

RUMSFELD: This is not an issue I've addressed.

QUESTION: Can we get back to the other part about how deep Al Qaeda is, what you've learned about Al Qaeda?

And if I could follow on to that, if you'll elaborate on how disrupted it is. There's another terror alert today. This was an organization that had very rudimentary communications to begin with; developed these plans in secret. How disrupted are they and what did you learn about them?

RUMSFELD: It's very difficult to answer a question like that. It's like how high is high?

The fact is that Al Qaeda is in dozens and dozens of countries. That tells us something. They are very few organizations that are in dozens and dozens and dozens of countries that are criminals, that are terrorists, that are -- I suppose you could make a case that there are loose linkages in narcotics organizations that might hit dozens and dozens of countries, but I just don't know enough about that to be able to answer it.

But it is a well-financed and, up to now, well-organized and effective recruiting mechanism and training mechanism that operated with a great deal of freedom in an awful lot of places for a lot of years. Now, that's where we found them.

How disrupted are they? I think they are very disrupted. Does that mean that there aren't sleeper cells out there that could be doing something untoward at this very moment? Of course not. There are, we know there are, and we know they plan well ahead.

It takes them longer and it's harder and more dangerous for them to raise money today than it was three months ago. Their communications three months ago were relatively easy, and they're much more difficult today, because there's an awful lot more people attentive to that. Their ability to move freely around the world was much easier three months ago than it is today.

The training -- we've disrupted any number of training camps, and it does take training to become a polished, successful murder or mass murderer. You just don't walk out of grade school with that kind of knowledge; you need to practice and be taught by experts.

So I don't know if that answers your question to your satisfaction, but that is the best I can do. This is a very serious organization, and it's only one of many.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) training camps in Somalia?

RUMSFELD: You'd have to go look today, because as I say, they go in and out. We know there have been training camps there, and that they have been active over the years, and that they, like most of them, go inactive when people get attentive to them.

QUESTION: Can you, sort of, confirm that Indian Defense Minister Mr. George Fernandes is here, or is coming on your invitation? And also, what is the reason at this time, because India and Pakistan is like on the brink of war and the military is on the border?

And last week, Pakistan...

RUMSFELD: Now wait a second. Let me answer one of those to start out with.

You're correct: The minister of defense in India I invited when I visited there last year at some point, and he is coming -- at least he's scheduled to come. I look forward to receiving him. You're quite right: There's a tense situation between India and Pakistan, and the president and the secretary and others of us have been on the phone with participants on both sides of that, and we're hopeful and encouraged that they'll sort through these issues in a peaceful way.

QUESTION: And, sir, just to follow, last week, General Musharraf was in China shopping -- military shopping spree, while you've been going in war, I mean, Afghanistan and he was in China shopping for military equipment and all that, and he bought at least 46 fighters. So where do these two countries stands now, because Indian defense minister is coming here, and Pakistani president was in China shopping for military? And what is the future of these two countries or...

RUMSFELD: I don't think they're going to go to war. I think they're going to sort these things out. I know that the president's anxious to see that happen. I know that Prime Minister Blair is working toward that end. I know that both sides, President Musharraf and the prime minister of India, as well as their cabinet officers, have been on the phone repeatedly with us and with other countries. And I am hopeful that they will move through this period that is unquestionably a tense period in a way that is respectful the risks to each side and the power of the weapons that each side has. And I personally have a good deal of confidence that that'll be the case.

RUMSFELD: In each case, we've seen things that have led to some tension. On the other hand, we've seen some steps that have reduced that tension. And I'm hopeful that we'll see more of the latter than the former.

QUESTION: Last week you announced that the nuclear posture review would be released this week. Could you give us an update on that?

RUMSFELD: You know, I probably shouldn't have used that word. It's correct: We're releasing it to the Congress, and it is classified.

I went upstairs after I said that last week, and I thought the implication would be released, meaning to the public, and I apologize for that.

I have asked our folks to see if we can take that classified version and declassify it, find a way to do whatever we have to do to it so that it's available. Because I think it's an important document, it is a significant change in U.S. offensive nuclear weapon approach and it is a different strategy, as well as the deep reductions that are proposed in it. And because of its importance and because of the new direction it takes, I think it belongs in the public in some form. So we're working on that.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you or the general explain the seeming dichotomy of having the Army 10th Mountain Division just over the border from Afghanistan, and then the Marines being the service of choice to do mountain operations? Is it the warning that former Deputy Secretary Hamre used to make that if the Army didn't change it would become irrelevant or was it just a question of you didn't have airlift for the 10th Mountain Division or a fact that they're organically were not set up correctly? Is there some lesson out of this that we're not seeing that the 10th Mountain Division was not engaged in a major way, whereas the Marines were? What was the reason for that choice?

RUMSFELD: I'll give you the short answer. The combatant commander, Tom Franks, made a judgment.

You want to give him a better answer?

MYERS: Well, I think I would ask General Franks that, because the secretary is absolutely right: He was the one that decided on the forces he used, and I think it had a lot to do with proximity at the time we wanted to use forces. And you'll see that change over time; you're seeing that change right now.

I would discourage you from trying to draw other lessons from that. I don't think there are any lessons in there. I think that was combatant commander's call. He made it. And you'll see that change over time.

RUMSFELD: Last question?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you. I want to raise, again, the issue of civilian casualties. Apparently, a representative of the United Nations over in the region today had some critical things to say about continued bombing and the resulting casualties. Do you have any response to that?

RUMSFELD: Well, I'll make a brief comment about it. There are several attacks in the last half of December that have been -- where questions have been raised. In the case of one in late December, December 20 or something, as I recall, the CINC had and the United States intelligence community had multiple intelligence -- pieces of intelligence information that qualified that as an appropriate target.

RUMSFELD: On a later one, December 26, we believe that Ahmadullah, the Taliban intel chief, was in that compound, along with a number of other Taliban, and we have no evidence that he's alive, to reverse the phrase, which suggests he might very well have been in that compound, along with a number of his associates.

On the 28 December attack, the reality is that there were multiple intelligence sources that qualified that target, and there were multiple secondary explosions out of that target; that is to say, significant explosions from more than one location as a result of the attack, which would tend to persuade one that it was a military target.

QUESTION: Do you think it's time to consider at this stage of the offensive there to begin making bombing a last-resort option?

RUMSFELD: Well if you look at the amount of bombing we've been doing in recent week and a half, why it's obvious that that is not your first choice. They don't have targets that are necessarily appropriate for bombing in large numbers. It's rare, it's unusual, and clearly the AC-130, which does not drop bombs but unloads an enormous amount of ordnance, is often a more appropriate weapon for precision targeting.

And you know, if you take this subject generally, there are certain things that have to be said. Number one, nobody wants to see a single civilian death. There's never been a conflict where there have not been civilian deaths. If one were to take this activity in Afghanistan and rank it as to the number of civilian deaths, and the care and attentiveness that has gone in to try to have the right weapon and the most precise method of doing things, I can't imagine there's been a conflict in history where there has been less collateral damage -- less unintended consequences.

With respect to the problem, clearly, we want to try to get to the -- we want to try to know what the facts are, and to the extent there are facts that suggest there were civilian casualties that might have been avoided, then we'd want to find ways to avoid them in the future.

But if one took all of the allegations that have been made about civilian casualties and analyzed each one down to the last nit, you would find that there have been conscious, repeated lies on this subject since the beginning of the campaign.

RUMSFELD: We know that of certain knowledge. We also know that there have been some civilian casualties, and we regret that.

QUESTION: Could I try and ask you about the question of the saving of lives by humanitarian, just in that context? Because a number of NGOs -- could I get General Myers, just for a second?

A number of NGOs, when this thing all began, were making some very dire predictions about starvation, because of the drought and so on. And then when the military operations began, they said, "Oh, that's just going to make it even worse and so on." I wonder whether General Myers, or you, Mr. Secretary, could address the role that -- now the NGOs are saying, "Oh, everything's going to be OK" -- the role that U.S. military operations had in facilitating that. I mean, what's your thinking of balancing the two things was during the operation?

RUMSFELD: Well, I'll just say this: If you think about the numbers of people that were killed by the Taliban and the number of people that were starving, and think of the amount of food and the amount of winter gear and the amount of medical assistance that has been provided to this country by the United States and by coalition countries and by other countries, the circumstances, the lives of the people of Afghanistan today are so vastly better off than they were three months ago, that it's breathtaking. And we need to keep that in balance.

MYERS: The only thing I would add to that is that the current effort, I think, focuses mainly around making sure that the airports are opened back up and accept flights. And that's where a lot of the effort is going right now, and that will have -- is having, I think, an affect, as the NGOs report that they're able to get in the tonnage now they need to sustain the population through the winter. And that's very good news.

RUMSFELD: There is still the problem -- while the total tonnage is very high and well above the level, last time I looked -- I'm about three days out of date -- but last time I looked, it's well-above the level to prevent starvation in the country, the problem of distribution still remains an issue, because it is difficult to move things out into certain parts of the country.

Thank you very much.

WOODRUFF: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in his first briefing of the new year, telling reporters, among other things, that the war against terrorism, in his words, is "still in a relatively early phase." He says reports about mopping up in Afghanistan notwithstanding, it's, in his words again, "just getting under way." He said that this -- terrorism is not regional, it extends well beyond Afghanistan, and he said the U.S. intends to continue its efforts as long as necessary to get rid of the Taliban and the al Qaeda.

And just quickly, on one other point, he and General Myers, the head of the Joint Chiefs, both said there are still pockets of resistance, that Afghanistan remains a very dangerous place. And one other point. They are downplaying, both of them, reports that negotiations are underway with various anti-Taliban elements in Afghanistan to try to win the release or the capture of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban. Again, this is the first briefing at the Pentagon, of this year, of the Pentagon -- of the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.




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