Secretary Rumsfeld Interview With Fox News Sunday
DoD News Briefing
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
Sunday, Nov. 11, 2001
(Interview with Tony Snow and Brit Hume, Fox News Sunday)
Snow: Today marks the two-month anniversary of the September 11 slaughter. Here to discuss America strategy in the war on terror is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Secretary Rumsfeld, why don't we want the Northern Alliance to march into Kabul?
Rumsfeld: I think the way to think of it is this: There is concern on the part of some people, including Pakistan and others, that the situation in Kabul ought to reflect what is ultimately going to be needed in Afghanistan, namely a broadly based government.
And so on the one hand, you have the Taliban and al Qaeda occupying Kabul, viciously repressive -- beating, killing, denying people any sorts of rights or opportunities. So it is important that they be taken out of there and that Kabul be liberated and put back in the hands of responsible people.
Rumsfeld: On the other hand, you have that issue of how do you manage what takes place in a way that it reflects everyone's understanding that, for Afghanistan to have a good future, it's going to have to be broadly representative of the various interests in the country. And that is what you're hearing played out.
Snow: What I'm also hearing is that we're saying, OK, we will allow the slaughter of innocents to continue in Kabul until people outside of Kabul can figure out what they're going to do in the next government.
Rumsfeld: I don't think that I would put it that way. I think what's going to happen is that Kabul will, in fact, be taken at some point, and it will be taken in a time and a manner that it is going to be well understood that it is everyone's understanding that what is needed in Afghanistan and the capital of Kabul is a broadly based government.
Snow: The Northern Alliance says its eager to push into Kabul. Are we going to stand in its way if it goes ahead and tries?
Rumsfeld: Well, we don't have enough forces in the ground to stand in their way. I mean, they're going to make the decision.
And the argument's been made that -- query -- is it possible to advance towards Kabul? We don't know that they can at the moment. They may be able to. And instead of immediately occupying the country, encircles the country and get the Taliban to surrender, and not have the city further damaged, as it's been so terribly damaged over the decades.
Snow: The key sticking point seems to be the fact that Pashtun tribes are not part, really, of the Northern Alliance. The Pashtun, the largest tribal group in Afghanistan, also the group from -- or the tribe from which the Taliban come.
Which Pashtun tribesmen are fighting for us? Do we have any significant help right now in the ground from Pashtun tribes?
Rumsfeld: There are Pashtun tribes that are. And, in some cases, they've preferred not to be identified as, when you say, "fighting for us," I think, in fact, they're fighting for their country. And they're doing it in some instances on their own, in some instances with assistance from us publicly, and in some instances with assistance from us privately.
Snow: Do you truly believe that they're going to be able to get along with the Northern Alliance?
Rumsfeld: You never know. The country has a history of a lot of conflict, a lot of fighting among the tribes.
On the other hand, at some point, there's exhaustion. And if you think of what they went through in dealing with the Soviet Union, if you think of what they have gone through with the civil war, and now with, for all practical purposes, the al Qaeda has taken over the country.
There's been conflict between Omar, the head of the Taliban, and Osama bin Laden, the head of al Qaeda. And one gets the impression from scraps of information that, in fact, that conflict between them is getting resolved in favor of the foreign invaders, the al Qaeda, who are not Afghanistan at all. They're not Afghans, they're Arabs.
Snow: So at this point, we are not going to -- we do not want the Northern Alliance to invade Kabul because we want to keep the Pashtun happy.
Rumsfeld: I would rephrase it. I would say that, for myself, I think it is important that al Qaeda and Taliban be taken out of Kabul and every inch of that country.
Snow: Then why are we waiting?
Rumsfeld: We're not waiting. We do not have enough forces on the ground, the United States, to occupy Kabul. It is a decision that the Northern Alliance will make.
And what you saw recently on television was the president of Pakistan, who has a very important stake in this and has been enormously helpful to us, expressing his concern about something other than a broadly based government in the country and in Kabul.
Snow: Is it your understanding that maybe something like that could be in the works -- is almost in the works? You've got the former King Zahir Shah in Rome, talking to --
Rumsfeld: A lot of people working on it.
Snow: Are we close?
Rumsfeld: I don't know. I'm not managing that piece of the puzzle.
Snow: All right.
Rumsfeld: And that is something that the various countries that have an interest on the border, they pick elements within, are all working to try to sort out. And the sooner they do it, the better.
Snow: Ultimately, when you get that kind of equilibrium in Kabul, you're going to need a lot of American forces in there to help maintain the peace?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I doubt that. I think that the United States has got a lot of things we have to do around the world, with respect to the war on terrorism. I suspect that you'll find that it'll be coalitions of the willing from among mostly other countries.
Snow: Let's talk about the situation on the ground -- Mazar-e-Sharif. Is that occupied at this point by the Northern Alliance, or have they secured control of the city?
Rumsfeld: The Northern Alliance has effective control of Mazar-e-Sharif at this moment. There are pockets of resistence within the city that contuinue.
Rumsfeld: In some case they're al Qaeda; in some case they're Taliban; in some cases they're people from other countries that have come in to support Taliban. And they're in enclaves, and they're under pressure at the present time.
The airport has not been fully secured, as of the last report I received, but it is close to being secured.
Snow: Are you --
Rumsfeld: On the other hand, there could always be a counterattack.
Snow: That's what I was going ask. Do you fear that, in fact, the Taliban may have the forces for counterattacks there and also in the Bagram area, north of Kabul?
Rumsfeld: It's very difficult to know. I don't fear it. I think that the forces on the ground are sensitive to that.
We have United States forces working with the Northern Alliance, obviously. We have had for a number of weeks now, working very closely. And that is how we have coordinated the air-ground war together.
I think that they are sensitive to the risk of a counterattack, and I know that. And I also know that they are pursing the Taliban out of the city in several directions.
There are convoys streaming out, and they are being attacked, and every effort is being made to get them to surrender or to kill them, the Taliban and al Qaeda, that are trying to escape.
Snow: Herat, what's the situation?
Rumsfeld: Under pressure. The Northern Alliance forces that are there are putting pressure on Herat. They're putting pressure on Taloqan. And they're also moving south on the Shomali Plains.
Now, what we're seeing happen here is, I think, pretty much what the plan was. It's that, if you have a broadly based, sustained effort that dries up money around the world, that arrests a lot of people and collects intelligence, that uses overt military pressure and bombing -- a lot of bombing -- and it uses every military pressure, the combination of all of that puts pressure on the people in that country and elsewhere in the world to the point where, at some point, things are not going well for them. And things good happen on our side.
Snow: Is the Taliban running scared?
Rumsfeld: I think that they feel the pressure. From everything we can tell, they are -- they have less money. They have poorer communications. Their people are being killed. Hundreds were killed in this latest Mazar-e-Sharif effort. Some of their leadership has been killed. And they're having friction between the al Qaeda and the Taliban.
All of that is good. And it suggests that the plan that's been put in place by General Tommy Franks is, at least thus far, working.
Snow: Speaking of General Franks, the quote last week. Let me play it for you. This is something he said in response to what our view of Osama bin Laden is. I want to get your reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
General Tommy Franks, Commander in Chief, Central Command: We have not said that Osama bin Laden is a target of this effort. What we are about is the destruction of the al Qaeda network, as well as the -- I will call them a non-state -- the Taliban.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Snow: Now, everybody understands we're going after al Qaeda and the Taliban, but Osama bin Laden not a target?
Rumsfeld: Well, what he is saying is technically correct. It is that we go after command and control and military targets. And we all know that Osama bin Laden is the head of al Qaeda, and he is therefore part of that command and control.
General Franks was properly pointing out that we go after him not as an individual. We go after him as the head of the -- now, you may say that's a refinement or a distinction without a difference. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But our business is to kill people who are terrorists and terrorists networks. And that is what we are after.
Snow: If you have a cult of personality -- and I think you could argue that al Qaeda, with Osama bin Laden, is a cult of personality -- that personality at the top is more important than any other. And if it is eliminated, it has enormous ramifications for the functional ability of that network. Correct?
Rumsfeld: And you can be absolutely certain that the president understands that, I understand it and Tommy Franks understands it. And that is the chain of command.
Snow: So if he's not a target, what is he?
Rumsfeld: He is clearly a target as the head of the -- as the commander in chief, if you will, of the al Qaeda.
Snow: OK. Secretary Rumsfeld, stay with us.
We'll be back with more after this break.
Snow: We're back with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Also here with questions, Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News.
Let's close the loop on Osama bin Laden. Do we have some idea of his whereabouts?
Rumsfeld: The task of finding the leadership of al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden, and killing them or, as the president has said, bringing them to justice or bringing justice to them, but in any event, stopping them from committing terrorist acts, is something that is difficult. It is like looking for a needle in the haystack, to find the handfuls of people and that central command when it's mobile. It's moving. It's constantly hiding in caves and tunnels and changing its location.
And we've got rewards out for those folks, with the thought that there may very well be people in that country who would like to enrich themselves at the expense of these foreign invaders who've come in and taken over their country.
So we keep getting scraps of information. And they're on the run.
Snow: So, we do or don't know sort of generally where he is?
Rumsfeld: Well, of course, you either have him or you don't in life. And, you know, if you're chasing a chicken around the barnyard, are you close or are you not close until you get him? Because it's constantly moving and moving and moving.
Hume: Mr. Secretary, one of the reasons I think this issue about Kabul and its disposition and whether the Northern Alliance should or should not take it now keeps coming up is, it's in relation really to the question of whether you have been asked to, in a sense, try to manage and fight this war without full resources, with a hand, as they say, proverbially tied behind your back. And you've been loyal in insisting that that's not the case.
And I want to take you back to something you said en route to Moscow on November 2. And you said, "I don't think it's possible to manage the work on the ground, the war campaign on the ground, against a political time table that's unpredictable. We can't know how long that will take or how it will shake out."
Continuing, "For us to sit around at any stage of this, for us to have sat around or currently sitting around saying, we'll we're smart enough to think that maybe we can delay this so that this happens instead of that, and wait until that process, which is unpredictable to happen, would be mindless. We have not done it in the pass. We are not doing it now. And we do not intend to do it in the future."
I think some people reading that.
Rumsfeld: Wow, that was a mouthful.
Hume: That was you, sir.
Rumsfeld: Sounds good to me.
Hume: Well, I think the question the question that would rise out of what's now happened with what the president said last night is, are you not in effect now being asked to do precisely that; that is to say, hold off until this happens, we can get this diplomatic piece in place, and so on?
Rumsfeld: I mean, I like that statement that I apparently made. I don't think it is possible to manage everything on the ground that the CINC, Tommy Franks, and the Northern Alliance military leadership, Dostam Faheen (ph) and that group, I don't think it is possible to manage all of that perfectly to fit some sort of an uncertain political agenda around the sides.
To the extent one can, ought one try? Sure. Does it make sense to try to indicate to the world and to the Afghan people that we understand that it ultimately will take a broad-based government for that to work? Does that make sense? Sure, that makes sense. And I agree with the president in that regard.
Hume: Well, I know. But is it helpful to a war effort to have the president, the commander in chief, get up and say that the military prize of prizes, the capital of the country that forces familiar to us are trying to get control of, are not going to take the place?
Rumsfeld: First of all, Kabul is not the military prize of prizes. It may technically be the capital, but for all practical purposes the Taliban have their capital in Kandahar.
Second, Kabul is a disaster area. It has been destroyed by the Soviet Union. It's been destroyed by civil war. It is a terribly damaged place.
Third, whoever takes it, is going to have to feed it. And the humanitarian assistance that is going to be required in there rapidly is going to be enormous.
Now, what does all that say? It says that the real prize of prizes, to use your words, is the Taliban leadership and the al Qaeda leadership and the al Qaeda fighting forces and the Taliban fighting forces. And that is what we are going after. And they are not, for the most part, in Kabul.
Hume: Well, then, why all the --
Rumsfeld: And the real task is to get them and kill them or capture them.
Hume: Well, I have to ask the question, then. If it's not the prize of prizes, then why all the political sensitivity about it?
Rumsfeld: Because it has the symbolic element that you've suggested.
And I think that's probably why the president of Pakistan, who knows an awful lot about this subject, as do the other neighbors -- even the pro-Northern Alliance are suggesting that the Northern Alliance be very careful about Kabul. That is to say, some of the friends to the north are suggesting, if they get near Kabul, surround it, encircle it, try to get the people to surrender, rather than damaging the city --
Hume: Lay siege? Are you talking about a siege here?
Rumsfeld: Not siege, no. To isolate it and prevent the Taliban from getting in or out, and trying to get them to surrender in some way.
Snow: Secretary, the Northern Alliance has said, look, we know that we have a spotty record on human rights --
Snow: We know a lot of people don't trust us. We're going to behave.
Snow: You don't believe them?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I do. I think --
Snow: So then -- again, a lot of people are scratching their heads, who are trying to figure out, why, if this at least has symbolic significance, does one encircle it, rather than simply take it and move on toward Kandahar?
Rumsfeld: Well, we do not have anywhere near as much going against the Taliban and against the al Qaeda in the south as we do in the north. The pressure that's being applied at some point is going to cause tribes in the south to decide that the Taliban's done, that the al Qaeda can be thrown out, and that it is worth their placing a bet on the forces, anti-Taliban forces and the anti-al Qaeda forces, and they're then going to become mobilized. That is what is needed.
We do not -- the United States does not have the forces on the ground to march to Kandahar. The tribal elements in the south do have that capability. And the continued pressure with U.S. air power and with special forces on the ground, and a variety of other things that the United States is doing on the ground in various locations of that country, will help to put the Taliban and the al Qaeda on the run.
Snow: Is it not our philosophy that, if we have battlefield victories, people in the south are going to jump to our side?
Rumsfeld: It is, and we're having some battlefield victories. The Northern Alliance is, and now it's time for the southern tribes to get active.
Snow: All right. Now, in Pakistan, there are a series of madrasas. Those are schools that are supplying warriors right out of Pakistan into Afghanistan. Now, Pakistan is supposedly our ally.
Why can't they stop --
Rumsfeld: They're not supposedly our ally. They are very helpful.
Snow: Then why aren't stopping these people?
Rumsfeld: First of all, the border is porous. It's a very difficult thing to do. Ask why aren't we patrolling our border with Canada? A, it's long, and B, it's porous. That's why. There's just history of years and decades of movement back and forth by tribes.
Snow: I dare say, if we had fighters come pouring over the Canadian border, we would be deploying our resources.
Rumsfeld: Well, I would say this. First of all, the people that are pouring over the Pakistani border are nowhere near as many as the implication and reports have suggested.
And second, a number of them got to Mazar-e-Sharif, and a lot of them were killed. And a lot of them are on the run. And a lot of them are currently cornered in an enclave inside that city. And I think that it's going to be a little discouraging for those folks.
Hume: You're worried a little about the airport. At least you said it isn't quite secure there, at Mazar-e-Sharif.
Rumsfeld: Not quite.
Hume: As these forces that have been driven out of there seek to regroup and perhaps counterattack, are they out in the open where we can easily hit them from the air or more easily hit them from the air? In other words, are they really in a position to counterattack, or are they vulnerable to air?
Rumsfeld: I'm not on the ground, and I guess I'm a cautious, conservative person. So I wouldn't say they're not in a position to counterattack.
We do know, of certain knowledge, that there are streams leaving, and that they are being attacked from the air.
Rumsfeld: And they are being chased from the ground. And we are getting a number of them.
Hume: All right. And you haven't -- you don't have any casualty estimate, do you, on the enemy side?
Rumsfeld: I do, but it's so early and so uncertain, it's --
Hume: Well, we would be delighted to hear it, though.
Rumsfeld: It's -- well, there's -- it's more than 200, clearly. And I've heard numbers higher, but they haven't done a body count.
Hume: Let's turn to the question of chemical and biological weapons. One of these peculiar statements that emanates from al Qaeda, presumably from bin Laden himself, says he's got chemical and biological, nuclear and biological weapons. What is your take on that?
Rumsfeld: Well, he is a person who I am relieved to find out is accident-prone. He's made mistakes lately. He's made statements that have been very harmful to his cause.
Snow: How so?
Hume: What are you talking about?
Rumsfeld: Well, he's -- first he attacks the United Nations and lumps every country in the world that is associated as being outside of the acceptable range of behavior. Then he discusses his access to chemical, biological and nuclear or radiation weapons.
I'm encouraged that he apparently is feeling a lot of pressure and is not as clever as people have given him credit for.
Rumsfeld: With respect to the weapons themselves, we know several things. We know that he has had a desire to get those capabilities. We have any number of scraps of intelligence that shows that he has been actively seeking, over a sustained period of years, chemical, biological and nuclear-radiation -- hyphen radiation -- capabilities.
Second, we know that terrorist networks have been fostered and harbored by terrorist states. And the terrorist states are on the list. And if you look at those terrorist states that are on the list, we know of certain knowledge that they have chemical, biological, and that they have been very actively seeking nuclear and radiation weapons.
Now, it does not take a leap of imagination to suspect that if al Qaeda has a close relationship with a number of nations, and they have those weapons and he has wanted those weapons -- and we know that for sure -- that he either has or will have or wants to have those capabilities.
Snow: Which states are helping him?
Hume: You don't know which, though? You don't know whether it's has, will have, or wants to have, or all of the above?
Rumsfeld: Well, the problem with answering that question is, I know a lot about it from intelligence. On the other hand, you have to know a lot more to know precisely whether you have those capabilities in a manner that they're readily usable, and in what way and where, and under what circumstances. And that makes a big difference in their lethality.
Hume: Can we put you down as doubting that at this stage?
Hume: Can we put you down as seriously worried that they have those?
Rumsfeld: Oh, you bet.
Hume: Now there is said to be -- the New York Times reports this morning that there are a couple of factories, plants, one in the Mazar-e-Sharif area, one near Jalalabad, that have gone unattacked so far that may be the source of this sort of thing.
What's the deal there?
Rumsfeld: There have been a variety of reports about plants, factories, laboratories that may or may not have Osama bin Laden connections, that may or may not have connections with respect to chemical, biological and radiation or nuclear capabilities, and/or narcotics.
A number of them have also have had a role in the heroin trade or the narcotics business.
Hume: Have you hit them? Are you going to hit them?
Rumsfeld: First of all, we don't know where all of them are.
Hume: What about those I mentioned?
Rumsfeld: So when we say them --
Hume: Or the --
Rumsfeld: -- there are some that have hit, and there are some probably that have not been hit.
One thing to remember about biological weapons is you can have a laboratory that is capable of producing biological weapons that is small and even mobile. That is to say, a large trailer can have the capacity to create biological weapons that can bring about enormous carnage in the world.
Snow: So it is --
Rumsfeld: So it's not like these are big fixed -- necessarily, big, fixed, obvious targets.
Snow: So let's get the fix on this. If you know about them, do you hit them?
Rumsfeld: If we know about something that -- and of course, you have to remember what you can know from the air is different from what you can know from the ground. So when we say "know," what we really mean is, if we have suspicion or information, intelligence that suggests something might have such a role, then you're faced with this issue: Are you best taking it out, or are you best learning more about it?
Snow: OK, final question. Vice President Dick Cheney came out last night; he's been somewhere. Are we going to see more of him?
Rumsfeld: He is engaged in the government of the United States every minute of the day. I am on the phone with him. I am on video with him, as is the president. He is an active participant in every aspect of it.
To the extent there may or may not from time to time, be situations where, for continuity of government reasons, it makes sense to separate the president and the vice president physically in location, they do that. And they make very thoughtful, measured judgments about when that's appropriate.
To the extent it seems not to be necessary because the threat level is such, then in fact they're perfectly willing to be co-located.
Snow: Does that mean he's in Washington more than we've been led to believe?
Rumsfeld: It means that he has -- we have not been misleading anybody with respect to him. When he is separate from the president, it is because there has been a conscious decision made that continuity of government requires that.
Snow: Why would only one person be required for continuity of government? It would seem you're a pretty important guy. Why don't they ship you someplace else?
Rumsfeld: The pattern tends to be to keep the principals, the president, the secretary of defense, the two people in the national command authorities, connected. And we are connected. It would be more likely that I would send my deputy away, as the president has sent his vice president away from time to time.
Rumsfeld: And I've done that from time to time, and will do it as appropriate.
Snow: OK. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, thanks for joining us.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.