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Central Command Chief Testifies to Continuing Worldwide Threats

Aired February 7, 2002 - 09:57   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to leap right now to the commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command, Tommy Franks, who is just testifying. Let's listen in. I think he's talking about the continued al Qaeda threat here in the United States.


GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: ... operate from the battle space of Afghanistan.

I believe that the command and control architecture of al Qaeda has been disrupted. They're certainly are no longer cells of coordinated planning activity linked with, in some cases, state of the art communications operating from within Afghanistan. So Mr. Chairman, I would simply summarize that by saying the harbor is no longer there, the networks are not free to operate on their own terms, a great many of the terrorist themselves have been captured or killed. There are al Qaeda left inside Afghanistan, and they remain the subject of our ongoing military operations, which, as Sen. Warner, said, we will continue until we're finished with that. But I think, sir, that, that is a summary of where we stand right now. The network doesn't operate as a network from inside Afghanistan.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: General, the Central Command is investigating the circumstances of the January raid by U.S. Special Forces in a village of Hazar Kadam. Media report suggest 18 people were killed and 17 were taken prisoner. Can you tell us what the status of that investigation is and what you found out about that incident so far?

FRANKS: Mr. Chairman, I'd be glad to. We had intelligence information that led up to a special operation on two compounds in the area of Hazar Kadam, as you mentioned. I too have read the reports in the media that you have outlined. In a discussion with Chairman Hamid Karzai a few days after that incident, in Kabul, when I visited him. He told me that he was not certain as to the circumstances of that and that he believed that there may well have been some friendlies associated with him in the general area of this contact.

I told him that, based on that, I intended to conduct an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding that. That investigation is ongoing as we speak today. I suspect, as Secretary Rumsfeld said, I think yesterday, that within two weeks' time that investigation will be completed.

A determination that we made early on was that the 27 detainees that we took from these two sites in Afghanistan would be interrogated, and when a determination was made that they were neither Taliban nor al Qaeda and possessed any information that would permit us to do the mission that I described to you a minute ago, that we would turn them over to Afghan authorities. I've also read 27 detainees were released yesterday. In fact, the 27 detainees were given to Afghan authorities yesterday.

The suspicion at the point when we surrendered them to the Afghan authorities is that at least some numbers of them were criminals and they were received by Afghan authorities as criminals.

LEVIN: General, we have, as you pointed out, ongoing operations in Afghanistan, ongoing pockets of resistance, ongoing conflicts between warlords competing for control of territory, still chaos in places, threats in places. You said that the interim president, Karzai, gives Afghanistan a chance. I couldn't agree with you more. He has strongly urged that it may be necessary for the United States to participate in some level in the international security assistance force.

Until there's a national army that is put in place and trained, there has to be an international security assistance force. I think everyone agrees to that. The question is whether or not if U.S. participation, in some level, proves to be necessary in that force, whether or not we would, in fact, participate as the interim president suggests may be necessary. Can you give us the pros and cons of that, and has a final decision been made?

FRANKS: Sen. Levin, I wouldn't prejudge decisions that our president may take on that. I wouldn't really talk about our military-to-military and security cooperation relationship with the interim, the transitional, the permanent government of Afghanistan, because we certainly will have a security cooperation relationship with Afghanistan as it continues to develop itself.

International security assistance, of course, by a very narrow mandate from the United Nations provides for this capability which the United Kingdom currently leads by having set up police precincts and so forth inside the city of Kabul. There is no question that we'll consider things such as the training and the support of Afghan forces as we work with them to create a national army for Afghanistan. There are no question about that.

But the implication of that statement, at least in my mind, is not that we will pick up a substantial role within the international security assistance force. We remain committed based on the guidance that I have from the secretary and the president. We remain committed to the assistance of this growing Afghan capability. We intend to help them form an Afghan national army. We intent to remain engaged with this country for the foreseeable, and longer, future.

The specifics of the contribution by this country, our country, or the contributions by the international community remain open, are being discussed, and specific relationships between assisting in the creation of a police capability within Afghanistan and assistance provided to create an Afghan national army, a lot of discussion continuing to be done about that. But one should take that we will remain engaged in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future.

LEVIN: Thank you, general.

Sen. Warner.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: I'm going to pick up on that line of questions, and following my observations in my opening statement, but it is not to be an occupation army, correct?

FRANKS: That's correct.

WARNER: Good. And the responsibilities of our service persons will not be those of policemen in the streets, once we can establish within the Afghan government structure their ability to do that? Am I not correct on that?

FRANKS: Senator, I believe that's correct.

WARNER: Good. But we've got to explain, you know, each day, each week, a little bit about what we're going to do, so the families of our military people and the people here in this country realize that we succeeded. We may not yet have caught the leadership, be it bin Laden, Omar, or whoever it may be, but we will achieve that some day. Don't you feel that way?

FRANKS: Sir, there is no question about that.

WARNER: All right. But the remarkable series of achievements laid out by our president as goals have now been done, and we can begin to look to transition, let other agencies of our federal government and other countries come in and pick up those responsibilities, because you want your forces ready and positioned to pursue the terrorists elsewhere in the world, if that be the decision of our president and, hopefully, coalition members.

FRANKS: Sen. Warner, as we said, our operation as part of Enduring Freedom represent one piece of our national approach, our strategic approach, to this global War on Terrorism. And so, yes, sir, I would say that the way you described it is precisely correct.

WARNER: Let me pick up on another remarkable chapter of this conflict, and indeed your own role. One day you're a combat soldier, next day a diplomat, dealing with not only border nations, but others coming in. Then if I may say, with a little levity, politician, because of the war factions.


WARNER: ... to him as the commander in chief of the forces. You have had a greater degree of authority and perhaps maybe a greater degree of cooperation from those countries that have stepped up to contribute in this effort. Is that a fair observation? FRANKS: Sir, I don't know that I would say that the degree of authority I have had is any greater than that Wes Clark had during the campaign you mentioned. I would say that the remarkable clarity of guidance from the defense secretary and from our president, the degree of confidence which they have placed in our ability to direct this campaign, deserves note.

One of the lessons to be taken from this at strategic level is the value of what I just described. And so, sir, it is true that on a great many occasions, I have traveled through the region, I have met with the leaders. We have discussed the issues that need to be resolved in order to ensure basing, staging overflight. I would also point out that great many diplomats, the secretary, as well as our own secretary have traveled to the region. I wouldn't need to remind the chairman and you, Sen. Warner, of the value of your trip to meet with the leaders. All of this served as an enabling approach.


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Also, at this time, back in this country, watching Capitol Hill. Two things to keep eye on. We're watching Enron on the right. And we're watching Tommy Franks, head of Central Command, on the left, testify in front of a Senate committee. When we last left off with Tommy Franks, he was talking about the current campaign in Afghanistan, and how much still is left to be done. We'll go back to Enron in a moment, but now, here's Tommy Franks.


FRANKS: We even received some great assistance by the National Geologic Survey as we were determining which of these could support command and control of operations and size and depth and this sort of thing. In fact, Senator, as you said, hundreds of these -- of these complexes have been destroyed. Some destroyed to the point where it was -- where it was not worth our energy to go and completely dig them out. What was in there will remain in there for eternity.

In a great many cases, we have reopened them and gone into them and then reclosed them. And, so, I won't even try to give you an answer that -- that is directly objective in terms of "No, there's no possibility." What we want to be sure of is that there is neither the capability of people to go back in them, nor the inclination of a state to support people who would go back in them, such as al Qaeda did.

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: And that would be one of the things that you would want to have accomplished before you told the commander in chief, "Mission's accomplished in Afghanistan."

FRANKS: Absolutely, sir.

NELSON: Thank you. Then, with respect to the '03 defense budget. I've reviewed a great deal of the budget, and of course listened to General Myers yesterday say that 60 percent of the weapons that were used were smart weapons, strategic weapons of that sort and that the munitions are also in low supply and we have to rebuild our supply.

Are we going to be able to have enough conventional weapons to continue to do the kinds of things we need to do while we rebuild the smart munitions?

FRANKS: Senator, as best I can tell, we can do what we need to do. As you certainly know, and I think as General Dick Myers said, we expended something around 18,000 munitions in this, and about 10,000 of those were precision munitions. Probably half of that 10,000 were these pieces of ordnance you described that we used also in cave closing, the JDAM.

NELSON: Right.

FRANKS: And so I think there is a major effort being supported by this committee, as well as the other body, to move forward with additional procurement of munitions and so forth in the future. Whether we have enough to do anything we may ever want to do in the interim, until all of that comes online, sir, I wouldn't want to speculate. But we do still have substantial stockage level.

NELSON: Well, it's probably a question that if we were going to get into specifics, it would be better raised and answered...

FRANKS: Yes, sir.

NELSON: ... during the closed session.

FRANKS: Yes, sir.

NELSON: But for the benefit of the American people, we are not at that point where we can't continue to do what we need to do...

FRANKS: That's right, Senator.

NELSON: ... at the present time.

FRANKS: That's right, sir.

NELSON: In terms of Iraq, do we think at the present time that it's a strategic threat to the United States? Obviously there continue to be concerns that there are weapons of mass destruction being created and maintained there and support maybe of some of the enemies that we're trying to rout out. But is it a strategic threat at the present time?

FRANKS: Sir, since the end of the Gulf War, we have seen no evidence that Saddam Hussein was willing to undo his weapons of mass destruction program. So he had the interest, and he continues to have the interest.

And I believe, sir, were there are no other to reason to characterize Iraq as a strategic risk, I would do so. In my opinion, this pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is a great threat to a great many nations on this planet. And so I would say, yes, it does represent a strategic threat and, of course, remains on our list of states which sponsor terrorism. And I think I'd probably leave it at that point, sir.

NELSON: Believe my time is up. I thank you very much...

HEMMER: Tommy Franks, he's been testifying for about an hour's time, right now.




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