Military

07 October 2001

Transcript: Rumsfield, Myers Brief on Military Operation in Afghanistan

(Secretary emphasizes that al Qaeda and Taliban are the targets)
(4970)
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, briefing reporters at the
Pentagon October 7 on the military operation in Afghanistan, made
clear that it is not directed at the people of that country but
against the terrorists harbored there who have killed thousands of
Americans and whose actions threaten not just the United States but
governments throughout the world.
"We support the Afghan people against the al Qaeda, a foreign presence
on their land, and against the Taliban regime that supports them. What
took place today and what will be taking place in the period ahead is
a part of the measured and broad and sustained effort" that President
Bush announced shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks on New
York and Washington, Rumsfeld said.
"We stand with those Afghans who are being repressed by a regime that
abuses the very people it purports to lead and that harbors terrorists
who have attacked and killed thousands of innocents around the world
of all religions, of all races and of all nationalities," he said.
"The effect we hope to achieve through these raids," initiated "with
our coalition partners, is to create conditions for sustained
anti-terrorist and humanitarian relief operations in Afghanistan. That
requires that, among other things, we first remove the threat from air
defenses and from Taliban aircraft," Rumsfeld said.
"We also seek to raise the cost of doing business for foreign
terrorists who have chosen Afghanistan from which to organize their
activities and for the oppressive Taliban regime that continues to
tolerate terrorist presence in those portions of Afghanistan which
they control," the Defense Secretary said.
The current military operations, he said, "are focused on achieving
several outcomes: To make clear to the Taliban leaders and their
supporters that harboring terrorists is unacceptable and carries a
price; to acquire intelligence to facilitate future operations against
al Qaeda and the Taliban regime that harbors the terrorists; to
develop relationships with groups in Afghanistan that oppose the
Taliban regime and the foreign terrorists that they support; to make
it increasingly difficult for the terrorists to use Afghanistan freely
as a base of operation and to alter the military balance over time by
denying the Taliban the offensive systems that hamper the progress of
the various opposition forces; and to provide humanitarian relief to
Afghans suffering truly oppressive living conditions under the Taliban
regime."
The initial operation, Rumsfeld said, "involved a variety of weapon
systems, and it originated from a number of separate locations. We
used land- and sea-based aircraft, surface ships and submarines, and
we employed a variety of weapons to achieve our objectives."
He said that dozens of countries contributed in specific ways to the
mission, "including transit and landing rights, basing opportunities
and intelligence support. In this mission, we are particularly
grateful for the direct military involvement of the forces of Great
Britain," Rumsfeld said.
The mission, he explained, included bombing runs by U.S. B-2 Stealth
bombers flown from the continental United States, as well as B-1 and
B-52 long-range bombers from the British air base on the island of
Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
Also briefing reporters was Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General
Richard Myers.
"We are in the early stages of ongoing combat operations," Myers said.
"About 15 land-based bombers, some 25 strike aircraft from carriers,
and U.S. and British ships and submarines launching approximately 50
Tomahawk missiles, have struck terrorist targets in Afghanistan. The
first target was hit at approximately 12:30 Eastern Standard Time, and
operations continue as we speak.
"As the secretary said, these efforts are designed to disrupt and
destroy terrorist activities in Afghanistan and to set the conditions
for future military action, as well as to bring much-needed food and
medical aid to the people of Afghanistan.
"I want to remind you that while today's operations are visible, many
other operations may not be so visible. But visible or not, our
friends and enemies should understand that all instruments of our
national power, as well as those of our friends and allies around the
world, are being brought to bear on this global menace.
Airdrops of humanitarian aid began shortly after the first air
attacks, Rumsfeld said. The United States planned to drop some 37,000
pre-packaged meals and medicines in the first stages of the operation,
he said.
The United States has pledged significant aid to the Afghan people,
who have suffered from years of war within their borders.
Following is the transcript of the briefing:
(begin transcript)
United States Department of Defense
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
October 7, 2001, 2:45 p.m. (EDT)
Rumsfeld and Myers Briefing on Enduring Freedom
(Also participating in this briefing was Gen. Richard B. Myers,
chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff)
Rumsfeld: Good afternoon.
We've said since Tuesday, September 11th that the campaign against
terrorism will be broad, sustained, and that we will use every element
of American influence and power. Today the president has turned to
direct overt military force to complement the economic, humanitarian,
financial and diplomatic activities which are already well underway.
The effect we hope to achieve through these raids which together with
our coalition partners we have initiated today, is to create
conditions for sustained anti-terrorist and humanitarian relief
operations in Afghanistan. That requires that among other things we
first remove the threat from air defenses and from Taliban aircraft.
We also seek to raise the cost of doing business for foreign
terrorists who have chosen Afghanistan from which to organize their
activities and for the oppressive Taliban regime that continues to
tolerate terrorist presence in those portions of Afghanistan which
they control.
The current military operations are focused on achieving several
outcomes:
-- To make clear to the Taliban leaders and their supporters that
harboring terrorists is unacceptable and carries a price.
-- To acquire intelligence to facilitate future operations against al
Qaeda and the Taliban regime that harbors the terrorists.
-- To develop relationships with groups in Afghanistan that oppose the
Taliban regime and the foreign terrorists that they support.
-- To make it increasingly difficult for the terrorists to use
Afghanistan freely as a base of operation.
-- And to alter the military balance over time by denying to the
Taliban the offensive systems that hamper the progress of the various
opposition forces.
-- And to provide humanitarian relief to Afghans suffering truly
oppressive living conditions under the Taliban regime.
I want to reiterate a point that President Bush has made often, and
that he made again today in his remarks. [ White House transcript ]
The United States has organized armed coalitions on several occasions
since the Cold War for the purpose of denying hostile regimes the
opportunity to oppress their own people and other people. In Kuwait,
in Northern Iraq, in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo the United States
took action on behalf of Muslim populations against outside invaders
and oppressive regimes. The same is true today.
We stand with those Afghans who are being oppressed by a regime that
abuses the very people it purports to lead and that harbors terrorists
who have attacked and killed thousands of innocents around the world
of all religions, of all races, and of all nationalities.
While our raids today focus on the Taliban and the foreign terrorists
in Afghanistan, our aim remains much broader. Our objective is to
defeat those who use terrorism and those who house or support them.
The world stands united in this effort. It is not about a religion or
an individual terrorist or a country. Our partners in this effort
represent nations and peoples of all cultures, all religions, and all
races. We share the belief that terrorism is a cancer on the human
condition and we intend to oppose it wherever it is.
The operation today involved a variety of weapon systems and it
originated from a number of separate locations. We used land- and
sea-based aircraft, surface ships and submarines, and we employed a
variety of weapons to achieve our objective.
As President Bush mentioned in his statement, dozens of countries
contributed in specific ways to this mission including transit and
landing rights, basing opportunities and intelligence support. In this
mission we are particularly grateful for the direct military
involvement of the forces of Great Britain.
To achieve the outcomes we seek it is important to go after air
defense and Taliban aircraft. We need the freedom to operate on the
ground and in the air and the targets selected, if successfully
destroyed, should permit an increasing degree of freedom over time.
We have also targeted command facilities for those forces that we know
support terrorists elements within Afghanistan and critical terrorist
sites. President Bush has repeatedly emphasized that we will hold
accountable any who help terrorists as well as the terrorists
themselves.
Before I take your questions let me say that to say that these attacks
are in any way against Afghanistan or the Afghan people is flat wrong.
We support the Afghan people against the al Qaeda, a foreign presence
on their land, and against the Taliban regime that supports them.
What took place today and what is taking place in the period ahead is
a part of the measured and broad and sustained effort that the
president announced shortly after the attack on September 11th. [
White House transcript ]
General Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will make a
few remarks before we respond to questions.
Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
I know you have many questions to ask so I'll keep my comments brief.
The secretary said today our forces have begun the initial part of
military operations in the war against terrorism. About 15 land-based
bombers, some 25 strike aircraft from carriers, and U.S. and British
ships and submarines launching approximately 50 Tomahawk missiles have
struck terrorist targets in Afghanistan. The first target was hit at
approximately 12:30 EST (sic) [EDT] and operations continue as we
speak.
As the secretary said, these efforts are designed to disrupt and
destroy terrorist activities in Afghanistan and to set the conditions
for future military action as well as to bring much-needed food and
medical need to the people of Afghanistan.
I want to remind you that while today's operations are visible, many
other operations may not be so visible. But visible or not, our
friends and enemies should understand that all instruments of our
national power as well as those of our friends and allies around the
world are being brought to bear on this global menace.
We are in the early stages of ongoing combat operations and our
outstanding men and women in uniform are performing just as they've
been trained to do, and that is to say, superbly.
With that, ladies and gentlemen, we're ready to take your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, might I ask, I know you don't want to give too many
details especially early on. You said 15 land-based bombers
approximately
-- could you tell us whether B-1s, B-52s and B-2s were used in this?
Rumsfeld: They were.
Q: B-2s were used. And did you, we're told you hit a broad range of
targets. Did you hit air bases? Did you attack Taliban jets and air
bases?
Rumsfeld: As I indicated in my remarks, it is certainly necessary if
one is going to engage in humanitarian activities that involve the air
or the ground, that one would not want to try to do that as long as
the Taliban had aircraft or air defense systems that could pose a
threat to U.S. personnel.
Q: One brief follow-up. Were the B-2s flying round trip from the
United States as they did in the Kosovo operations?
Myers: Yes, they flew from the continental United States.
Q: Can you tell us how extensive the humanitarian effort has been thus
far, and how many C-17s' worth of various types of refugee food and
blankets and medicine are you dropping? Is there some way to quantify
it?
Rumsfeld: It started 20 or 30 minutes ago and is just in its beginning
stages.
Q: Can you give us some description of how many tons of food and
medicine you're trying to deliver?
Rumsfeld: We could. As I say, it's in the beginning stages and this is
a first day. The first day was something like 37,000 -- as I recall,
37,500. But whether or not that will all get delivered is something we
won't know for a few hours.
Q: That includes more than just food, is that correct?
Rumsfeld: It does include some medicines and that type of thing.
Q: General Myers, can you give a sense, the weapons being dropped from
the bombers, the secretary said this is not an attack against the
Afghani people, that would be flat wrong. That presupposes we're using
precision guided weapons to avoid casualties. All three of those
bombers you mentioned can drop the JDAM [joint direct attack munition
satellite bombs. Is that the sort of ordnance being dropped today?
Myers: We are using, or essentially have at hand, all our conventional
munitions. But you're right, Tony, a majority of them are precision
weapons, but not exclusively, because some targets, we try to match
targets and weapons and their effects.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you said and General Myers said that the raids have
been ongoing now for about 2.5 hours using 50 TLAMs [Tomahawk land
attack missiles]. One would assume that there is an end to this
initial phase. Can you tell us if this initial phase is going to go on
much longer? Or is it for all intents and purposes as on this --
Rumsfeld: It is not yet over.
Q: Mr. Secretary, was Osama bin Laden targeted in this raid? And can
you give us, understanding that it's still early, any preliminary
assessment of how successful these attacks have been?
Rumsfeld: No, it's far too early to try to measure success, and the
answer is no with respect to him. This is not about a single
individual. It's about an entire terrorist network and multiple
terrorist networks across the globe.
We would not have actual reports on the success of the various attacks
for some time.
Q: Mr. Secretary, are the air drops that have begun, will that be a
continuous operation or is this a one-time effort?
Rumsfeld: The president's approach to this is that it will be
continuous, but that it will be broadly based and it will be economic
and political and diplomatic as well as military, overt and covert.
The fact that one sees a cruise missile on television at one moment
and does not at another moment ought not to suggest that the pressure
and the President's approach to this is anything but continuous. It is
continuous.
Q: The humanitarian part -- I was referring to the air drops. Is that
going to continue?
Rumsfeld: I don't quite know what continuous means. Twenty-four hour
days, seven days a week? No. Unlikely. On the other hand once there is
an opportunity to begin the humanitarian effort on the ground I
suppose it could be characterized as continuous.
Q: Mr. Secretary, can you give us any idea whether or not this is, I
know it's still ongoing, but is this essentially a one-day operation
in this phase, or will it, should we expect there will be more
activity tomorrow? And the second part, will the United States impose
essentially a no-fly zone over Afghanistan as it did over Bosnia and
Iraq in the past?
Rumsfeld: I think rather than trying to characterize what the United
States is going to do on any given day in advance, that I would prefer
to say that this effort will continue in a variety of different ways
over a sustained period of time, and that we intend to pursue it until
such time as we're satisfied that those terrorist networks don't
exist. That they have been destroyed.
Q: A no-fly zone?
Rumsfeld: I don't know that I'd want to characterize it as that,
although certainly one would think that if one of your early
objectives is to deal with their aircraft and their air defense
systems, it very likely would reduce the number of Taliban aircraft
flying around over Afghanistan, I would hope. Yes.
Q: Have you seen any response so far from the Taliban military? Have
they flown? Have they launched anything --
Rumsfeld: It's too early to know.
Q: Mr. Secretary, the Taliban has basically (inaudible) that Osama bin
Laden is still alive as well as Mohammed Omar. What would you say to
them about that sort of a boast?
Rumsfeld: Well, the Taliban since the beginning of this have been
rejected every suggestion, request or demand made by the United States
of America and the coalition partners. They have established
themselves as being firmly connected to al Qaeda and the foreign
presence in their country. They've made a choice. And I don't know
that there's anything to say beyond that. They are what they are, and
they're bringing great harm to the Afghan people.
Q: Can you say anything about the Northern Alliance? Was this
coordinated with them? Are they picking up any ground as a result of
this? Or are they linking up with U.S. forces? Can you give us any
sense of what's going on on the ground?
Rumsfeld: Sure. There are a number of elements on the ground in
Afghanistan, Afghan people in the Northern Alliance, in the tribes in
the south, even some within Taliban that do not favor Omar and do not
favor the al Qaeda and would wish they were no longer in their
country.
Certainly our interest is to strengthen those forces that are opposed
to al Qaeda and opposed to the Taliban leadership that is so
intimately connected to them, and to strengthen all of those forces so
that they will have better opportunities to prevail and to deal with
what obviously is a regime that is enormously harmful to the Afghan
people and poses threats to people all across this globe including the
United States of America.
Q: Do you plan to put ground troops in Afghanistan?
Q: -- as you've said many times from the podium, there just aren't
that many targets in Afghanistan. Apparently you found some. Can you
explain that? And also can you address what seems to be somewhat of an
anomaly in this mission, the idea that you're fighting your way in in
order to drop humanitarian relief on people. And if the people, if the
places where you're dropping relief, if you're getting shot at there,
are you not essentially dropping relief on the enemy?
Rumsfeld: First with respect to the targets, I think I've said
repeatedly from this podium that there are not a lot of high value
targets. I pointed out that the Taliban and the al Qaeda do not have
armies, navies and air forces, and that's clear. They don't. I've
therefore characterized this conflict, this campaign, this so-called
war, as being notably different from others. And it means that what we
have to do is exactly what I said in my earlier remarks. We have to
create the conditions for a sustained effort that will assist those
forces in the country that are opposed to Taliban and opposed to al
Qaeda and we have to do it in a variety of different ways. We have to
dry up their bank accounts. We have to bring political, diplomatic
pressure to bear on them. We have to bring economic pressure to bear.
And to the extent we can use overt as well as covert activities to
improve target information, to gather intelligence that will enable us
to be more precise in what we do, and to force people to move and
change what they're doing, to raise the cost of what they're doing, to
attempt to reduce the number of people around the globe who support
them and finance them, all of that helps.
The fact is in this battle against terrorism there is no silver
bullet. There is no single thing that is going to suddenly make that
threat disappear. Ultimately they're going to collapse from within and
they're going to collapse from within because of the full combination
of all of the resources from all of the countries that are brought to
bear on these networks. That is what will constitute victory.
Q: General Myers, ground troops. Have you  -- 
Q: Will you be providing arms and air cover to the opposition forces
to strengthen them and --
Rumsfeld: As I say -- our goal is to make them more successful.
Getting into exactly how we'll do that, I think I'll defer.
Q: Do you plan to put U.S. ground troops into Afghanistan?
Q: Mr. Secretary, you said a moment ago, you spoke of multiple
terrorist networks in multiple countries. Is this phase of the
operation going to involve strikes in some other places other than
Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: As you know, we've had a policy here, at least during my
tenure, where we don't discuss ongoing operations and we don't discuss
intelligence matters.
Q: Do you plan to put U.S. ground troops into Yugoslavia?
Q: Would you please describe the Taliban anti-aircraft, the AAA
surface-to-air missiles, and have any of the American aircraft been
damaged or brought down?
Rumsfeld: We have no information that any American aircraft has been
brought down at this moment, at least prior to the time I walked in
here. As I believe Dick Myers has pointed out, they do have a limited
number of surface-to-air missiles and they have more than a limited
number of man-operated, man-mobile surface-to-air missiles.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could you give us a sense of how many targets you've
hit
Rumsfeld: There is no way to discuss the outcome of this operation.
Q: Are U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan now? And more broadly,
can you illuminate at all the so-called less visible side of this
operation?
Rumsfeld: Not really. If we wanted it to be overt, we would have
discussed it.
Q: And the ground forces, please?
Q: My first part was, are there U.S. forces on the ground in
Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: If we had, how to phrase this so that it's perfectly clear
again.
We have not -- we've got -- I'm disinclined to talk about things that
are in process, and if we had significant numbers of U.S. military on
the ground, it would have been known by now.
Q: Do you plan to send troops  -- 
Q: -- air drops, is that predicated on some level of confidence that
you've taken out at least some of that air defense threat?
Rumsfeld: We certainly would not be using air drops in portions of the
country where we were not satisfied that it would be safe, for
humanitarian relief purposes. We don't discuss operational activities.
Q: Can you tell us is there any plan to send significant numbers of --
Rumsfeld: I answered the question before you asked it. (Laughter) We
do not discuss operations.
Q: Mr. Secretary, much of the country is at least controlled now by
the Taliban. Does that mean, and most of the refugees actually or
internally displaced people are in those sections of the country. Does
that mean that those areas will not get the relief as quickly? That
other non-Taliban held areas will get it more quickly?
Rumsfeld: Certainly non-Taliban areas would get it more quickly.
Q: Mr. Secretary, can we define a little bit about the humanitarian
air drops? Are these going to be for the most part high altitude air
drops? Are you going to use pallets and parachutes? Or just kick them
out the way we did over Kosovo and Bosnia?
Myers: It's more like the latter, but greatly improved. We know the
effectiveness of those air drops was less than desired, so between now
and then they have been working with the delivery means to improve
that. We think we can be fairly effective from high altitudes, and
we're targeting remote locations where it's difficult to get trucks
in. This has all been coordinated very well with USAID [U.S. Agency
for International Development].
Q: To follow up, you're not just kicking out the rations, though, by
themselves. They're coming down via parachute or some means to the
ground? Or are they?
Myers: No, the delivery mode is pretty much like you described. A
little more sophisticated than that, but it's not by parachute.
Q: Is there a danger imposed to the people on the ground that you're
trying to help as the humanitarian aid comes in? Are you exposing them
to fire? Or are these two operations wholly separate?
Rumsfeld: There is no risk to the people on the ground that would have
an interest in receiving the humanitarian drops.
Q: Mr. Secretary, were C-17s used to drop these humanitarian daily
rations today? And if so, how many?
Myers: There were two C-17s planned today to drop humanitarian...
Q: That was 100 percent of what was carrying the HDRs [humanitarian
daily rations]?
Myers: For the first day, that's correct.
Question: How can you drop them from a high altitude -- I mean this is
a lay person's question, without using parachutes and not destroy
them?
Myers: The system has been designed to do just that. And like I said,
they've been testing ever since Allied Force stopped. Shortly after
that we began testing to make sure we could accurately deliver these,
and that's been ongoing. We have high confidence that we'll be able to
put them where we want to put them.
Q: -- so that they  -- 
Myers: Correct.
Q: General, do they have precision radars that can map an area to drop
within a certain bullseye?
Myers: Let me just go back. We have high confidence they'll be able to
drop where the intended Afghan citizens are, and there are several
ways to do that.
Q: As part of the effort today are you dropping leaflets? Have you
begun radio broadcasts from Commando Solo and some of the other assets
that you have that can do directed messages to the people who may not
understand what you're doing?
Rumsfeld: Yes.
Q: Both of those?
Q: Mr. Secretary, are you asking sir, the (inaudible) governments or
you waiting for the defeat of Taliban?
Rumsfeld: That really is the business of the Department of State. What
we are doing is we are attempting to help those and advantage those
that oppose Taliban and oppose al Qaeda in that country in a variety
of different ways. How that might evolve and what that might mean from
the standpoint of the future of Afghanistan it seems to me is a good
distance off, and it is not an issue that this department really is
involved in.
Q: Mr. Secretary, are additional steps being taken to strengthen
security in the United States in anticipation of some hostile
retaliation for this attack today?
Rumsfeld: Well, most of the kinds of attacks that we've seen tend to
have been planned months and months and months and in some cases years
in advance. So the idea that any attack that could occur now, would
conceivably characterize as in retaliation for something I think would
be a misunderstanding of the situation.
The United States is, as President Bush has indicated, is on a state
of heightened awareness. The armed forces around the world are on a
state of higher alert than is normal. The forces in the United States
are on a higher alert than has been the normal pattern for our forces,
and the various organizations that deal with law enforcement in the
United States, the FBI and state and local officials are certainly
aware that as of September 11th we have to be sensitive to the
possibility that there can be various types of terrorist attacks in
our country. As a result the president has marshaled a great many of
the capabilities of the United States government including the
military to assist in seeing that we do what is possible.
But the only way to deal with these terrorist threats is to go at them
where they exist. You cannot defend at every place at every time
against every conceivable, imaginable, even unimaginable terrorist
attack. And the only way to deal with it is to take the battle to
where they are and to root them out and to starve them out by seeing
that those countries and those organizations and those
non-governmental organizations and those individuals that are
supporting and harboring and facilitating these networks stop doing it
and find that there's a penalty for doing it.
Q: -- there were strikes in Kandahar and Kabul and there's talk about
the electricity system going down. Are you running the risk of being
characterized as attacking the Afghan people rather than military
targets?
Rumsfeld: You know, in this world of ours if you get up in the morning
you're running a risk of having someone lie and someone
mischaracterize what it is you're doing.
What the United States of America is doing is exactly what I said. It
is attempting to defend the United States by taking this battle to the
terrorists that have killed thousands of Americans and that threaten
not just the United States but regimes throughout the world because
they are determined to find ways to intimidate the rest of the world
and to terrorize the rest of the world, and we are determined not to
be terrorized.
Thank you very much.
Press: Thank you.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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