DoD News Briefing 7/8 - Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers
NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense
DoD News Briefing Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Wednesday, August 07, 2002 - 2 p.m. EDT
(Also participating was Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.)
Rumsfeld: Where's that lieutenant who said he wanted a seat in here? (Light laughter.)
I have --
Q: We saved him one right here.
Rumsfeld: (Chuckling.) There you go. Good. He must be busy working.
Myers: I just have a brief opening statement. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Earlier today a U.S. soldier was injured while on patrol south of Khost. He was shot in the chest, and he's currently being attended to and getting medical treatment as we speak.
Yesterday in Afghanistan U.S. Special Operations forces operating north of Asadabad returned fire after being fired upon from a blue sedan. Four enemy were killed and one wounded. There were no U.S. casualties. And while searching the vehicle, they found a satellite phone and a large amount of Pakistani currency.
Turning to Iraq for just a second, in just the last week Iraq has fired at coalition aircraft five times in Operation Northern Watch and five times during Operation Southern Watch. We responded most recently on Sunday with three precision-guided munitions against air- defense facilities about 145 miles southwest of Baghdad.
And in Iraq maritime intercept operations, we have diverted 36 vessels in the last one-week period, ending on Monday. The number is a little higher than usual because the Iraqis are using these smaller ships and vessels, these dhows, to try to circumvent their -- the U.N. sanctions there.
And with that, we'll take your questions.
Q: Mr. Chairman, very briefly, do you have any additional details on the man who was wounded at Khost? Was this an ambush? Was this an exchange of fire? Was he just --
Myers: We don't have many details. This is first report. We know one is wounded in the chest and is being taken care of, and we'll provide those details when we know them. We just don't know them right now.
Q: And might I ask you regarding today's report in the Washington Times, have the chiefs -- have the chiefs -- are you now convinced that in the final analysis, it's going to take a military operation to remove Saddam Hussein, and have you-all signed on to that, that idea?
Myers: Well, can I talk about the articles that have been in -- probably the last three or four weeks I guess there have been a series of articles. From where I sit and the people that I talk to on a daily basis, meaning the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other senior military officials, the things that are said and portrayed in the articles simply aren't said or said to me -- they are not accurate portrayals of what I see on a daily basis and what I hear.
And beyond that, the kind of advice that the military provides to Secretary Rumsfeld and the president and the rest of the National Security Council is certainly privileged communications and I'm not going to share that with you here.
Q: Well, do you think these leaks -- Mr. Secretary, do these leaks represent some kind of political jockeying from all sides in town trying to get the upper hand on what they perceive should be done to remove Saddam?
Rumsfeld: I don't have any idea what motivates people. The -- I mean, I've been kind of struck by the articles being so inconsistent one with another. One day it says that the chiefs are totally out of the loop and not being consulted and they're unhappy, another says they are consulted but they don't agree, another says they're consulted and they do agree. I think it's all kind of mischievous and -- but it's not for me to speculate as to why people do things.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I talked to Senator Levin last week, and on the record he said he's talked to a number of top military people and they have significant cautions and concerns about going into Iraq and that the civilian leadership in the building is not giving them due consideration. And I asked him, did you follow this up -- did you check this after these articles came out, and he said no, this was a long time ago after talking to a number of people, uniformed officials.
General Myers, is there a reservoir of concern within the building --
Myers: I think I just answered that.
Q: Well, this is on the record from a top senator, though. I mean --
Myers: I'm just -- I'm just saying that if -- I mean the way things are portrayed in these articles simply haven't occurred in front of me, okay? And I can't talk about our operational plans or what our advice is, and so forth. But you can imagine if we were planning an operation against the moon, that we would have a lot of discussion about how best to do that and so forth. So there's obviously going to be discussion about how we go against the moon --
Q: What about the perception that the civilian leadership isn't giving adequate consideration to the military views? I mean, what's your take on the process by which --
Myers: I'll give you my take on the process -- and this is not Iraq-specific -- but my take on the process, I don't think -- in my time in uniform, in my time in this building, doing what I've been doing as the vice chair -- assistant chairman, the vice chairman and the chairman, we are permitted to give our views frequently and regularly and continuously. And we're asked for our views. And, I mean, there's never been a better exchange, in my opinion.
And so I don't know where these things get started. I don't know who's -- I mean, like I said, it is not consistent -- those articles are not consistent with what I see and what I observe and what I hear.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there are two laptops missing from Central Command. We don't know much more than that, other than they turned up missing last week. Can you shed some light on it? Were they taken from General Frank's office? Do they contain classified material, highly classified, "eyes only"? Or what can you tell us about them?
Rumsfeld: (To General Myers) Do you want to comment on that?
Myers: The story is correct, there were some laptops -- two laptops discovered missing at Central Command. They contain -- we think one of them contains classified information. And they have an investigation ongoing under the auspices of CENTCOM and General Tom Franks and they'll try to -- you know, the good news is in this is that they were in a room that is tightly controlled, where access is tightly controlled and they have a lot of detail. And --
Q: Do you think -- do you think that they are, quote, "missing," unquote, or do you think they were actually stolen?
Myers: It could be that. It may be some other things were not -- but it could be that they're missing. I mean, that happens sometimes. But we'll just have to wait and see.
Q: General? General, how is it possible --
Q: Mr. Secretary, today in an interview with the Associated Press, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud said that the U.S. military would not be able to use Prince Sultan Air Base for any attack on Iraq. Number one, have you seen those comments? And your reaction to that statement.
Rumsfeld: I have not seen the comments. I have been told that such a statement was made.
You asked what my reaction is. The president has not proposed such a thing. Therefore, I don't find it really something that has been engaged as such.
Q: Are there contingency plans in place, should that happen?
Rumsfeld: Look, that's -- people are developing hypotheticals on hypotheticals on hypotheticals, and that is about as unuseful as anything I can imagine.
Yes, you had a question.
Q: Yes, sir, following on up the laptop question. I mean, there's been a lot of concern expressed by you at the podium for months about problems with breaches of security, now expanding, for instance, to the Hill and other places. To what extent should there be some concern about -- at least in the military, about the ability to maintain secrets when it comes to within a secure -- this was in a secure room, if these laptops were in a secure room, you know, what -- and in a facility that one would assume is one of the most secure military facilities around the world, you know, is there a problem with maintaining --
Myers: In the end, in the end security comes down to individual responsibility. So if you have individuals that are willing to commit crimes -- you know, in the end it comes down to your trust and confidence in the people that work there. And you do all the appropriate checks and all that sort of thing to ensure that the people have, you know, the right background and motivation and so forth. But in the end it comes down to their individual responsibility. So if that was the case in this case, we'll find that out. If it was the case that they were taken off for maintenance and nobody appropriately logged that in, we'll find that out. So we'll just have to figure it out.
Q: Who had access to the room, General, how many people? And do you know the people?
Myers: I think that's for CENTCOM to worry. We -- that's not the sort of thing -- Tom Franks is worrying about that.
Q: Mr. Secretary, when it comes to this question of support from Saudi Arabia, can you just say generally are you -- do you remain happy with the level of support that you're getting from Saudi Arabia? And are you confident -
Rumsfeld: Oh, I do indeed.
Q: -- are you confident that, if the United States were to have to take military action in the Persian Gulf region, that you would get the level of support that you need from Saudi Arabia?
Rumsfeld: Look. There's the hypotheticals again. I'm not going to get into those. The first part of your question, the answer is of course, we have had a long, close relationship with Saudi Arabia. We have a good number of troops stationed there. We have an ongoing political and economic and military-to-military relationship which is constructive and helpful to both countries. Has been for a long time.
Q: You've often said --
Rumsfeld: I had Prince Abdullah -- Crown Prince Abdullah here as my guest when I was secretary of Defense in 1976. This is not something new.
Q: If I could quote one of my -- one of the most prominent defense experts in this building -- you -- who has said on many occasions you prefer -- you prefer for countries themselves to characterize their contribution to the war on terrorism.
Rumsfeld: I do.
Q: Is that particularly true when it comes to Saudi Arabia?
Rumsfeld: No, it's true with all the countries in the coalition that have been helping us with the global war on terror and who helped in other activities. I think it's generally best for them to say first what they would like to say about how they're assisting. And that's fine. And then we tend to -- to the extent it's accurate, we tend to accurately reflect it, what they've decided they want to say. If they're helping us in ways that are different from that, and they'd prefer not to discuss it, that's their choice, and we can live with that, too. We need all the help we can get.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: I have two quick questions. One, according to the press reports, General Musharraf has said recently that what you and the president and everybody in the U.S. have been saying, Osama bin Laden was behind 9/11 and other attacks against the United States, but he said, no, Osama bin Laden may have not been behind 9/11; someone else. Now, are we going to look for someone else? Or do you agree with General Musharraf statement that --
Rumsfeld: I have not seen his statement. There is no question but that Osama bin Laden has announced, pronounced, and repeatedly commented on his pride in his involvement in 9/11.
Q: Thank you, sir. Saudi Arabia. We know that they have been sponsoring or there were at least 15 of the terrorists who hit the United States were Saudi nationals, and, two, even now Saudi government is sponsoring on paying money to the families of the suicide bombers. So, where do we stand -- where do you put this recent report with all these what they have been doing?
Rumsfeld: Well, there was an article in the paper about a briefing that took place here in the Pentagon, as I understand it. I don't know of any DOD employee who heard it, but I'm told that there was a French national, a resident alien who is connected to the Rand Corporation in some way, who I don't know, and who made a presentation at Rand, at Rand's request, on Saudi Arabia and on the region generally.
And there were some people from the Defense -- the Department of Defense Policy Board who heard it and invited this individual to come and make a presentation. He announced that it was not a Rand presentation at the briefing in the Pentagon. It was not the result of Rand analytical work or research. It was his personal views, which is fine. Everyone has personal views.
And he apparently at this Defense Policy Board made a presentation that was somewhat different, but on the same subject of his presentation that they'd heard at Rand. It didn't represent Rand's views. It does not represent the Defense Policy Board's views. It does not represent the Department of Defense's views. And no senior member of the Department of Defense was there to hear it.
And the answer, I guess, is that with respect to Saudi Arabia, it is, as I've answered in the earlier question, a country with which we have a very close relationship. It is quite true that some of the individuals involved in 9/11 had Saudi passports. There were some people with other passports as well. It's true that there are al Qaeda in 40 or 50 countries around the world, and we all understand that. And we value and recognize the relationship we have with that country.
Q: General Myers, you had the soldier wounded today. You had the attack on the Afghan army post outside Kabul. There have been some other skirmishes recently. Does this show an increase in al Qaeda and Taliban activity in Afghanistan?
Myers: While there's been obviously in the last period of time -- short period of time there has been, you know, some increase, whether that's a trend or not, you know, you have to wait and see. But I think, as the secretary has said and I've said for some time now, that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place. And we know there are pockets of Taliban, we know there's pockets of al Qaeda, and that's why we have patrols out there.
I'm not surprised that our patrols are shot at. They're trying to hunt down the enemy, and that's what happens. So we'll just wait and see if this is, you know, abnormal activity or a trend towards higher activity.
Rumsfeld: I didn't finish the thought I had when I said he was a resident alien. My point was, he -- it was not a classified briefing. He doesn't have clearances. So there was nothing classified in the briefer's paper. And I may have said yesterday, in the town hall meeting, that it was a classified briefing, but it was not. It was a closed briefing but not a classified briefing.
Q: I have a related question for the two of you, if I could -- (off mike) -- the pushback among the services and civilian leadership -- the civilian-military disagreements are things that pop up --
Rumsfeld: Could you speak up a little?
Q: Of course. On the question of the pushback from the uniformed services and the reports of that --
Rumsfeld: The alleged pushback.
Q: -- the alleged pushback -- splits and disagreements between civilian leaders and the military pops up from time, well-documented. General Myers, I'm curious. Could you --
Rumsfeld: It pops up from time to time, not well- documented, almost always anonymous. Pardon me?
Q: My question for General Myers is, with your experience, sir, do you see an evolution of that to greater disagreements, not between the civilian leadership and uniformed services, but between the joint operations and the joint planning staff and the needs and desires of the individual services? And related to that, Mr. Secretary, yesterday at your town hall meeting --
Rumsfeld: Well, let me answer that one.
Q: Sure. Will I get my second question, though? (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: Depends on how well we answer this one. (Laughter.)
(To General Myers.) I guess it's to you, but it's an interesting question.
Myers: It is an interesting question, and I guess I'd answer it this way, and, Tom, see if I'm on the mark in understanding what you're talking about. Then I think I'll chime in on the second one if I think I know what Tom's going to ask, but I've got a good answer for a question you haven't asked yet. I hope you ask it.
Q: Did you guys get together ahead of time? (Laughter.)
Myers: Well, not on this.
Rumsfeld: We're together all day.
Myers: The -- you know, there are tensions in the system. And services have responsibility in statute to organize, train and equip their forces. There are other statutes out there that say the combatant commanders employ those forces. And as you try to become more joint -- the term we use, you know, in using all services' capabilities in a way that a joint commander can orchestrate it in a way that makes them most effective on the battlefield, clearly there might be tensions in many different levels.
There may be programmatic tensions. You know, what new systems are being fielded at what pace, who's putting money into what program.
There may be tensions on what is the operational concept, the joint operational concept, you know as some might perceive it favoring one capability over another.
Certainly, those exist. And they're worked out. There's several well-developed processes to work those out. So, I mean, they do exist. We have great debates.
I would submit -- my personal philosophy is that it's good to have individual services because each of them brings with them a unique culture and unique capabilities. And because you have competing ideas and competing systems, that competition breeds excellence. If you didn't have that, you might wind up with solutions that just aren't the best you could have. So, I think this is healthy. This is good. I think the American people ought to be happy that we're having these. If that's what you were getting at.
Rumsfeld: I think I'd like to elaborate on it. I agree. The problem is you have the four services coming up straight, and up here you need to have joint warfighting capability for the CINC's. What happens right in there is either going to be a result, as the general suggests, constructive tension or it's going to be a train wreck. Either you get these four services to not have each their preferences all the way up and not have them come together in a way that's joint, or you, as the general said, find mechanisms that help to pull them together. And it's that -- that is where the tension occurs. And it is partly statutory designed tension, but it is -- the mechanisms that are there are not perfect, indeed, they fall short of doing it. And what we need to do is to get these four services pointing -- not pointing straight up, but starting to point towards joint efforts earlier at a lower level. And to the extent that happens, then we will be better able to engage in truly joint warfighting without having the train wreck in the middle.
I think we're making good progress on it, and I think your question points to exactly where the tension is, and it is not a matter of civilian military, it is a matter of the service coming up and then the need to get them all through the needle head so that the CINC, who doesn't care where he gets his power -- air power or power to put pressure on a target, he doesn't care if it comes from land, sea or air.
Myers: And these processes we work are not just military or just civilian, they're -- I mean, we're integrated and intertwined in very routine and very profound ways. If that's okay to add.
Rumsfeld: You had a second question.
Q: (Off mike) -- but yesterday at the Town Hall Meeting, you used the metaphor when the phone rings, how the -- whoever is on the other end better be joint interoperable ready, and you said if not, the phone may not ring. Did you have any special service, combatant command, unit or specialty in mind for whom the phone may not be ringing? (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: No. What we've been -- what we've been -- anyone that's not relevant, any element of the armed services that fails to transform, that is, is not pointing towards something that a CINC can readily use, is not relevant in that fight. And now, everyone does not have to be relevant in every activity. But I can't think of anything worse for a professional military person who puts their life at risk, who spends their career caring about their institution, and then in a moment of crisis is found that they have organized, trained and equipped for something that isn't happening. And that is something that I have talked to our NATO allies about. It isn't just joint, to be honest, it's joint and combined; that is to say bringing together other countries as well so that we can operate effectively together. But I think it's just -- I think General Shinseki said it about as well as anyone could say it when he said if you don't like change, you'll like being irrelevant even less.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there has been a cavalcade of American allies and friends that have not expressed support for an aggressive approach towards Iraq -- the kind of aggressive approach that the president and the vice president have been talking about almost daily. Are you concerned at what appears to be the response from so many different countries that the United States is friends with? Do you feel that the American campaign to convince friends and allies of the wisdom of the direction that the president, the vice president and you have discussed -- do you feel that that campaign is going as you had hoped it would? Long way to go? Can you help us assess?
Rumsfeld: You know, normally, when there's a frenzy, it works itself up into a peak and then it tends to exhaust itself and come down. I suspect that that's what we'll be seeing over the coming days with respect to the subject of Iraq. The -- it is almost not possible in this town today to have a discussion on any other subject, it seems. I don't know quite what the answer is.
I have said here and I believe that the president has not made judgments with respect to this. Therefore, expectations and analysis about what amount of support he's getting for something he's not asked for support for is a little hypothetical for me.
I would say that what is really kind of happening and ought to be happening and is very constructive is a discussion of the reality that the democratic countries of the world today, in the 21st century, are living in a world where weapons of mass destruction exist and are proliferating. Terrorist states have them, and terrorist states have relationships with terrorist networks. That means that reasonable people have to expect that there will be an event involving a weapon of mass destruction at some point in the future.
The thing that people are wrestling with is, what does that mean? What -- how ought democratic states to behave when their margin for error has shrunk and the risk for being wrong is no longer hundreds or a few thousand people, but potentially tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people?
And that issue is not an easy one. Clearly, it calls for nations to engage their political capabilities, their economic capabilities and, as we've done in Afghanistan, our military capability. It is something that people have to consider, and they have to consider what are the penalties for acting, as some say, in a self-defense way but in an anticipatory self-defense way or a preventive or preemptive self-defense manner. What are the penalties for doing that versus the benefits? And by the same token, what are the benefits and penalties for not doing it? And we know pretty clearly, if we're dealing with weapons of mass destruction, that the penalties for not dealing with that type of a problem successfully, whether political or economic or military, can be quite severe and serious.
And I think that it is that that is being elevated to some extent but it tends to get deteriorated into a particular situation of one country or another and who's for it and who's against it. And I would say that we're at a relatively early stage in the dialogue, the international dialogue and discussion and debate on this issue, and I think it merits thoughtful comment rather than trying to particularize it with a series of hypothetical compound questions, if there is such a thing --
Q: (Inaudible) -- grant that the president and the vice president have been talking about what to do about Iraq on almost a daily basis.
Rumsfeld: Well, the problem I've got is, I didn't come down here and say a word about Iraq, and you could also say that today I've been talking on it. Why? Because I have been told by the press corps that you like someone to come down and brief every week. And so we try to feed that appetite. But if the appetite is for nothing other than Iraq, then all I could say if I came down is, rather than being accused of fitting into the category you're lumping the president and the vice president, I'll answer on anything other than Iraq. But I decided not to do that; rather, I tried to elevate it up above Iraq and look at it on a broader basis because I really believe that if there is an event that occurs a month, six months, a year from now and people look back, they will say: Oh, I wish I'd had that discussion; I wish we'd considered that; I think we should have given more serious thought to that question if we're putting at risk tens or hundreds of thousands of human beings. And what could we as democratic systems; systems that don't covet other people's land; systems that aren't running around killing innocent men, women and children; systems that don't make war on each other, how do they live in a world where terrorist states and terrorist networks had and are getting weapons of mass destruction? What ought they to do? That's a very important question.
And I think it's a good thing that countries are talking about it. And if one wants to say, well, at this particular moment in history, the stars and the moons are not all lined up behind one person's view or another person's view, that's fine. There ought to be a good discussion and debate about it. And I think the Senate ought to -- and the House ought to discuss it as well.
Myers: Can I stay on that plane with you? Jack, just another piece of this that -- and I've discussed this with the secretary. But, you know, it used to be in the Cold War, we used to talk about intent and capabilities. And we could never discern intent. That was always sort of a mystery, but we knew that our old foe, the Soviet Union, had certain capabilities. So, what we did was build to those -- you know, counter those capabilities.
I think what informs this debate, when you talk about weapons of mass destruction and the terrorist threat, that the intent question, which has always been the hardest one to answer about an adversary, always the most difficult, is very clear in this case. Their intent is to do away with our way of life, to do away with our freedoms. Capabilities, it turns out, are just a little murkier, although we know that there are countries out there that are producing and conducting research and development in weapons of mass destruction. So, it's interesting how this has -- how it's changed in just a decade, how you look at the problem. At least, it is to me. And I think that intent issue goes along with the WMD to make this worthy of lots of discussion.
Q: General, you've --
Rumsfeld: Yes, right here.
Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. I'd like to go back to Saudi Arabia and the Pentagon board of advisors, please. Word has it that -- the report from the region is that the people are very disturbed, but that the extremists are very happy, and they say that this proves that America is not really our friend. Are you in contact with anyone in Saudi Arabia in trying to clear this up?
Rumsfeld: Sure. Sure, we've called and talked to some of the folks. So have I. And they fully understand that things like that happen where someone has an opinion. It has nothing to do with this administration or the government of the United States or anyone in this department or anyone in the Department of State. It has to do with an individual who had some views. And this is a free country. Everyone in the world gets used to seeing things in the press or said in the Congress or other places, and we'll live with it fine.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. North Korea made a formal apology for their NLL, northern limit line intrusion. On the other hand, they claim NLL issue is a subject between U.S. and North Korea, not South Korea. What is the --
Rumsfeld: I'm sorry. I missed that last part. Could you repeat the question?
Q: They claim --
Rumsfeld: "They" being the North Koreans claim --
Q: Yes, North Koreans claim the NLL issue is a subject between U.S. and North Korea not South Korea. What is your comment?
Rumsfeld: (To General Myers) Why don't you answer it?
Myers: Well -- yeah -- there have -- (chuckles). North Korea has claimed that the -- they have complaints about the Northern Limit Line, I think was your question, and that's understood. My understanding is that was discussed by the U.N. and North Korean representatives recently at Panmunjom and they wanted to have further discussions on that. I don't know what they decided on that particular issue. But I know that is an issue.
And I also know, though, that I think besides the apology, I think there's -- I think Korean forces and the United Nations command, who will be helping conduct the salvage operation of the South Korean ship, I think there's general agreement by the North Koreans that they will support that salvage operation and not turn that into an incident.
Q: General, could you just go back to the top of the briefing for a moment? You outlined a series of events that have occurred in Iraq that indicate an uptick of activity. Can you just give us a general idea about what you think it means? What should we take -- what should we read into that? What's going on there? What does that represent?
Myers: From time to time, when I have a statement, I like to mention -- we were focused so much on Afghanistan for a while, I like to mention a few things that are going on in Iraq and to remind you and the American people that we in fact have crew members flying over Iraq, that they get shot at, that they respond from time to time; that the Iraqi -- so, in essentially trying to prohibit coalition forces from enforcing the U.N. -- the Security Council resolutions, and also that they're trying to circumvent the oil-for-food program that the U.N. monitors by allowing smugglers to take oil out and provide revenue directly to the regime. And that's -- and just to kind of, every once and a while, refresh people that this goes on.
The uptick in activity in the maritime operations is due to the use of smaller ships as opposed to larger ships because Iran has denied use of their coastal waters. And I think the air activity, it goes in spurts. We do not see it -- I don't think we see a trend there.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Q: But, General --
Q: Mr. Secretary? On Afghanistan --
Q: General, just to follow up -- (cross talk) --
Q: On Afghanistan, what do you foresee now as the future for U.S. troops in Afghanistan? It's been sort of quiet, other than these few little latest skirmishes. If the troops are running out of searching for al Qaeda, are they going to be moving into more security areas? What do you see as what's going to be happening in the future in Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: Well, that's an important question, and General Franks has briefed on the fact that he believed that we would move through several stages in the Afghanistan effort and that we are now in the third stage, and it is the task of trying to deal with the relatively small pockets of remaining al Qaeda and Taliban. And so that level of effort, as you can tell by just watching things from day to day, is coming down.
There are still incidents, and there will be -- continue to be incidents. But what's happened is, the presence and security presence of the coalition forces, the ISAF and the U.S. forces, with the coalition forces, have been contributing to a more stable country. It also has served as a deterrent to al Qaeda and Taliban coming back in.
As we moved away from the heavily -- heavy war portion of it and the kinetic aspects, where there was bombing and ground forces and various major efforts, occupying cities -- as we moved away from that, the coalition forces and the ISAF have been focused more on humanitarian activities, on civil works assistance. They've been focused more on helping to train police and border patrol. The ISAF, for example, has been helping to train some of the Afghan national army. The United States has. The French have. Others have. And it has kind of migrated from a -- less conflict and less battles, minor skirmishes, into more of the latter, more of the civil works and humanitarian and just providing security in the area.
And at some point, we will end up in the force stage where it will be essentially that, but still have to do some of the going after pockets of Taliban and pockets of al Qaeda, to the extent they are found. And --
Q: And General Myers, your thoughts about moving more into the security realm?
Myers: I think the secretary -- I think he covered it. I think that it was absolutely right, I think. And that's -- there's discussion ongoing right now with General Franks and the secretary and others in government about, you know, where are we and how do we move to the next -- the next phase, if you will.
Rumsfeld: We simply did not go through all this to then turn around and say, well, that's that and let's let it turn right back into a training camp for al Qaeda. We can't have that.
Myers: This is planned. I mean, this is in the -- it was event driven, so you can't say on a certain date. And we're reviewing -- he's reviewing events right now.
Rumsfeld: In the back?
Q: Mr. Secretary, if I could follow up on something you said at the town hall meeting about force protection in the United States, you said it's ridiculous that we can't contract that out. I wonder what sorts of things are the MPs and such doing that perhaps they ought not be doing, and what ought they be doing instead.
Rumsfeld: Well, it's not just people who are officially designated military police. If you're not allowed to use contract employees to provide force protection for a facility or an activity in the United States, then you have to use military forces. You have to use people who are in uniform, who may or may not be military police. They very likely would not be. And they would be assigned the task of providing that force protection. It is an activity that lends itself to contractor work, and it would be better if we would have the men and women in uniform who came into the service and asked to be trained and equipped and engaged in military roles to go do those roles rather than having to do some roles that could as easily be done by civilians.
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: I'm not going to get in -- the force protection issue is for the local commanders from place to place and the combatant commanders. I'm not going to try to micromanage and say which building ought to have what kind of force protection. I don't know that I'd be terribly good at it anyway.
Q: General, just a few moments ago you appeared to lump Iraq and al Qaeda together as far as their intent. Do you have --
Myers: I was at a higher level than that. I was -- (laughter) -- I was talking about weapons of mass destruction and terrorists and the intent question.
Q: Well --
Myers: So if I made --
Q: I was just wondering if you have any harder evidence at this point linking al Qaeda and Iraq.
Myers: I didn't mean to --
Rumsfeld: And which country?
Q: Iraq and al Qaeda.
Rumsfeld: Oh, we're back on Iraq. I didn't realize that. (Laughter.)
Myers: Yeah, I certainly didn't mean anything by anything I said to indicate that we had any -- any --
Q: Has your state of knowledge of the connections between Iraq -- if any -- between Iraq and al Qaeda -- has that changed?
Rumsfeld: Since when? Since when?
Q: Since --
Rumsfeld: Yesterday? No.
Q: A month.
Q: Well, since you have -- put it this way, do you have any evidence at this point, any hard evidence, of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda in terms of cooperating or working together?
Rumsfeld: If you're asking, are there al Qaeda in Iraq, the answer's yes. There are. It's a fact.
Q: What about Iraqi support for al Qaeda operations?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that I want to go beyond what I've said. I think that -- I've said that -- I can see the headline tomorrow, "Rumsfeld Comes Down and Spends an Hour on Iraq." (Laughter.)
Q: (Are you going to stay for an hour ?)?
Rumsfeld: Forty-five minutes.
I mean, the fact is when we went into Afghanistan, a lot of al Qaeda left. A lot were killed, a lot were captured, and a lot left. And they are in neighboring countries and a variety of different locations around that region, and they're in areas south of there, and they're in areas in Asia and other countries. That's just a fact.
Q: I have a question for General Myers. I will not mention the country. But you talked about the northern and southern no-fly zones of a certain country, and that activity had picked up. If I remember the figures correctly, in the south, five in the past week is pretty much on the par with what's been going on this calendar year, but there seemed to be an increase in the north. And when General Rosa was here at that podium, he said that the Iraqi air defenses were some of the best in the world. And in the past, it used to be that the retaliatory attacks were pretty much that. If we were painted or illuminated, we would go after SAM's and AAA. Now, we seem to be going after C3&I. Is this a concentrated effort now to downgrade or neutralize and destroy that country's air defenses?
Myers: The effort is to protect the air crews that fly over Iraq to enforce --
Q: I mentioned the name. I did mention --
Myers: Yeah. To enforce the U.N. Security Council resolutions. And so, for those coalition air crews, we just want to protect them, and that's why air defenses are very often the target.
Q: Did you expect -- (inaudible) -- in Israel? Did you see that you made the front page of all the Israeli papers today?
Q: Apparently your comments at the Town Hall Meeting yesterday that seemed to suggest that the Palestinian Authority would not be able to reach a peace agreement were widely interpreted as being --
Rumsfeld: Yeah. I went back and looked at my remarks, and then I looked at the president's two speeches, and I don't see any difference at all. I mean, it's just -- the position of the United States government is what it has been, it's what the president and the secretary have said, it's what I've said it is, and it continues to be.
There are people who love to look for some word that is not in exactly the same place as it was in someone else's mouth. But I can't find a dime's worth of difference between what I said and what they've said, and there is no difference in the policy. And if some country or some writer wants to pretend there is, I suppose that's their privilege.
Q: To follow on Tom -- (last name inaudible) -- story about the tension between --
Rumsfeld: Whose story?
Q: Tom -- his question.
Rumsfeld: Oh, his question.
Q: Tom's question about the tension between the CINC -- the combat commanders and the service chiefs, the governing doctrine --
Rumsfeld: Wait a second. Wait a second. Let me calibrate that slightly. The tension is not between them, it's between their responsibilities. It is the fact that the services come up this way with their roles under the statutes, and the CINCs have their responsibility, which is to take capabilities from all four of those and see that they mesh into a coherent whole. So it's not -- it's not -- it would be wrong for people to go out of here and say, "Oh my goodness, there's a big fight between the CINCs and the chiefs," because there isn't. It is a serious, substantive statutory need to blend their respective roles.
Q: So the statute that covers that relationship is Goldwater-Nichols, and we're about 15 years into the existence of that. It wasn't here when you were here the first time.
Q: General Myers has lived under it for its entire duration. The question is, is that doctrine -- is that law still appropriate? Should it be amended? Should there be a change in the statutory relationship?
Rumsfeld: We have not sat down and said, "Gee, we think, it requires statutory change." We have spent many, many hours wrestling with the fact that things do not come up in an orderly way so that they can be easily rationalized and balanced against each other. They simply don't. They come up by service, to some extent. There are some mechanisms, like JROC and others, that work to achieve things like interoperability. But -- and then it's through the good will of the chiefs and the CINCs and the various budget process that -- the budget process that exists, the defense planning guidance -- all of those things have as their task trying to see that what ends up, what the ultimate product is of -- all of the money that's spent and all of the efforts that are invested in these things end up in a coherent whole.
I don't know quite what the answer is, and I would like to find a way to have the services, as they do their work, begin pointing -- at earlier stage begin pointing towards what necessarily has to be the final product: a set of capabilities that the CINCs can draw on to defend and deter for our country.
It -- if it comes -- the later it comes up, the -- correction; the -- if the -- the straighter it comes up and the later it is before they start pointing towards that desired outcome, the more -- the sharper the curve has to be and the more -- the greater the grinding that occurs in the budget process.
And I think I've explained it brilliantly. (Laughter.)
Myers: I use concrete -- but that's okay. (Laughs.)
Q: Mr. Secretary, based on your comments today, should those in the apparently Iraqi-obsessed media and on the Hill conclude that we're as likely to go after other nations harboring terrorists or with links to terrorists as Iraq -- not less, not more, just as likely?
Rumsfeld: Wouldn't that be delightful?
Q: Such as Saudi Arabia? (Laughter.)
Rumsfeld: Oh, my goodness, no!
Q: Well, Mr. Secretary, you do use the occasion -- you flay the press for what you call the obsession with Iraq, and yet you do use the occasion to make the point that there are al Qaeda in Iraq. Are there al Qaeda and --
Rumsfeld: (Inaudible) -- I didn't make the point. I didn't use the occasion.
Q: (Off mike) -- before you have said repeatedly --
Rumsfeld: I was grilled by your colleagues, and I needed to respond honestly and directly and forthrightly.
Q: Are they there with the blessings of the Iraqi leadership?
Rumsfeld: You have to ask them.
Q: Are they in Saudi Arabia?
Rumsfeld: Are al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia?
Q: Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia.
Rumsfeld: There are al Qaeda in 50 or 60 countries. There's no doubt but they're in Yemen, they're in Saudi Arabia, they're in the United States, they're in Iraq, they're in Iran, they're in Afghanistan, they're in Pakistan. They're undoubtedly in some of the northern countries above Afghanistan where they fled. They're undoubtedly in Southeast Asia. I mean, they're all over. There's thousands that were trained in Afghanistan alone.
Q: That's not answering the previous question. It was a good one.
Rumsfeld: What was it?
Q: Should we infer that since you don't like us to talk about Iraq, that there are equal -- it is at least as likely or maybe --
Rumsfeld: (All of that ?) question. (Laughter.)
Q: Well, even if you just shrink it down to the other two countries that were in the axis of evil?
Rumsfeld: As you know, those are not decisions that are made in this building. They're not decisions that are made by General Myers or Don Rumsfeld. So --
Q: But who's calling -- (inaudible)?
Rumsfeld: The president has said that he thinks that terrorism constitutes a serious danger to free people. And he has said that he thinks that countries that harbor those terrorists ought to be persuaded not to do that. There we are.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.