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06 January 2002

Transcript: Clarke Defense Department Briefing January 4, 2001

(ASD PA Victoria Clarke at Foreign Press Center) (5240)
Assistant Secretary of Defense Victoria Clarke briefed.
Following is the Pentagon transcript:
(begin transcript)
United States Department of Defense 
Presenter: Victoria Clarke, ASD PA 
Friday, Jan. 4, 2002
(News briefing at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, D.C.)
Clarke: Good afternoon, and thank you all very much for your time. I
know how busy Fridays can be, so I'll just have a few brief remarks at
the top here and open it up to your questions. And if they stick to
one question apiece, that'll be -- that is not what we're used to over
at the Pentagon.
Let me start with this. It is incredibly important to remember and it
is so obvious, especially today, that the U.S. military and the
coalition partners still have a lot of difficult and dangerous work to
do in Afghanistan. I don't know if you-all just saw General Franks'
briefing, but he did acknowledge that a U.S. Army Special Forces
trooper was killed in a firefight in Afghanistan. And it just points
again and -- underscores what we continue to say and what a difficult
and dangerous mission this is.
That being said, we will remain in Afghanistan in a very
forward-leaning position until we accomplish our mission. And that
includes making sure the Taliban is out of power, so it can no longer
harbor terrorists. And we have made significant progress towards that
goal. There is now an interim government in place in Afghanistan, and
they share our views on terrorism.
Another important part of our objectives:
Tracking down the Taliban and al Qaeda leadership, that which remains,
as well as the al Qaeda network. That will take time.
Strengthening Afghanistan and helping the Afghan people with
humanitarian assistance, which is desperately needed because of the
oppressiveness and the horrible nature of the Taliban rule. This too
is very important work that is ongoing, and we're very strongly
committed to it.
Recent intelligence missions and the work we've done going through
caves and tunnels, and the information we've surfaced after some of
the military operations have confirmed what we have known all along
about the al Qaeda and the Taliban. The al Qaeda is a comprehensive
and extremely well-organized network. UBL's organization is global. It
is certainly not limited just to Afghanistan.
The estimates are anywhere from 50 or 60 to 70 countries that have al
Qaeda cells in them. The scope extends far beyond Afghanistan.
Importantly, it's a movement that is identified by, defined by hatred.
There was horrendous treatment of women and children in Afghanistan as
a result of the Taliban and the al Qaeda leadership. There was a
consistent targeting of civilians, abusing them, torturing them, using
them as shields against military operations, and as you well know,
widespread hunger and even starvation caused by a number of their
actions, including disrupting the delivery of humanitarian assistance,
stealing humanitarian assistance that was dedicated, intended for the
Afghan people.
In contrast, the United States is Afghanistan's largest humanitarian
donor. Even before September 11th, we had already provided $170
million worth of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan -- now
provided more than $187 million worth since October. That includes
food, shelter, blankets, medical supplies. And as the winter is upon
us, a very tough winter, the United States commitment to the Afghan
people is saving lives. One of the top priorities, and I think you
heard General Franks probably address this to a certain extent in his
briefing, is working with the Afghan interim government, working with
our coalition partners to provide hubs, to provide meaningful ways to
deliver massive amounts of humanitarian assistance.
Let me turn a little bit to how we see things since September 11th.
It's important to remember that this was not -- what happened on
September 11th was not just about the United States. That was a
tragedy for the entire world. More than 3,000 people were killed or
are still missing, and they came from over 80 different nations;
people from all walks of life and from many, many different nations, a
wide array of races and religions, including Islam. And President Bush
has said from the outset that this is not a war against a religion or
a people or a country, but against terrorists and their supporters and
those who harbor and foster and sponsor them. And in recognition of
this, just recently, before the holidays here, on December 11th, more
than 120 countries stood together on December 11th, three months after
the attacks, to remember the three-month anniversary. It was an
extraordinary event and an extraordinary symbol of the international
support for the war on terrorism.
President Bush has built an incredible coalition, an evolving,
changing coalition of countries who are dedicated to the campaign
against terrorism, and our approximate estimates include that over 136
countries have offered a diverse range of military assistance; 46
multilateral organizations have declared their support. And with U.S.
leadership and international support, Afghans are putting aside their
long-standing differences and trying to put together a government that
will have meaningful reforms and improvements for the Afghan people.
With that I will stop -- and again, thank you for letting us have some
of your time today -- and take your questions.
Moderator: Just a reminder, please wait for the microphone, and state
your name and news organization when you -- (off mike).
Q: My name is Andrei Sitov. I am with TASS, with the Russian News
I actually wanted to ask you, ma'am, to talk a little bit about your
own efforts in public diplomacy. I do a story on that right now, and
could you tell us how this is organized, how the centers in London and
Islamabad are staffed, how they operate, how you stay on the message,
domestically and internationally, and how you gauge the effectiveness
of your efforts? How are you doing so far?
Clarke: Thank you very much.
There is incredible coordination of many kinds, and -- speaking
primarily for the U.S. government, but I can talk about how others are
involved -- we have close daily, almost hourly coordination with our
counterparts at the White House, at State, at the NSC, at Treasury, at
Justice, at the FBI. And the reason I mention that is because, as we
say all the time, this is not just a military campaign. The war on
terrorism is not just about military activity; it is about economic
activity, diplomatic activity, financial activity. All of those things
together are what is permitting us to be as effective as we have been
thus far. So we have daily, hourly communication with one another.
In addition to that, the interagency coordination in the United
States, we have set up an international communications infrastructure,
if you will, currently based here in Washington, in those agencies I
mentioned, in Pakistan, in London. And we're coordinating closely with
the UK and others to make sure we all know what are the different
parties doing, what are the main themes and messages we're trying to
communicate, what are the major rumors that we need to shoot down --
those sorts of things.
And I'd say I'd leave it for others to judge the results. One of the
things I can point to is, there is an incredibly strong level of
support from the American people, an incredibly high level of
understanding of what it is we're trying to accomplish, how we plan to
go about doing it. So those are the kinds of things we look to in
terms of communications to see how we're being effective.
Q: My name is Paul Coring (sp). I'm with the Globe and Mail of Canada.
I wondered if I could get you to reflect on changes, even since the
Gulf War, of women in the U.S. military. They're playing roles in this
campaign, flying strike aircraft, doing all kinds of things that they
weren't doing even a decade ago. And whereas I realize there's still
exclusions from combat trades in the infantry and Marines, two things
have struck me: one, the variety of roles that they're playing, and
secondly, the almost complete lack of debate that this is engendering
Does that mean it's off the sort of political agenda as an item of
debate and that their role in military operations is fully solidified?
Clarke: I'll tell you what I know, which is -- I'm a newcomer to this
business, but I have heard others reflect on that; that things have
changed so dramatically in the last 10 years in terms of women's
integration into the U.S. military overall, that -- and it is so full
and so complete, that most people don't think it's a story or of
interest any more. We don't even keep incredibly detailed estimates of
who's serving in what capacity -- those sorts of things. We can get
them, but it is such a natural part of the business these days, it
doesn't have that kind of priority to it.
In the beginning of this conflict, starting a couple of months ago,
there were a few reporters who were interested in doing a story --
"Well, let's focus on women in the military." And most of the people
in the services, men and women, said, "But that's not really a story;
we'd rather focus on the job."
You have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of women on aircraft
carriers, you have women flying planes, you have women working in
logistics, and they are widespread throughout. So in terms of the U.S.
military, the integration is pretty successful and pretty complete.
There is always work to be done, but for us, it is pretty much a
non-story. I can't predict, you know, into the future what it will be,
but right now there's just not a real level of interest to that
because it's just a pretty natural integration.
Q: Thank you.
Clarke: Sure. Thank you.
Moderator: In the very back. Right here.
Q: Mike Levalli (sp), Tokyo Broadcasting System. Today, in General
Franks' briefing, he mentioned that U.S. forces had crossed over and
are now working in Pakistan. And please correct me if I'm wrong, but I
think it may be the first acknowledgement by the Pentagon that U.S.
forces are now operating in Pakistan. But even so, could you give us a
little bit more about what they're doing? Are they actually on
missions in search of Taliban and al Qaeda members, or are they more
there as advisers or just to gather intelligence?
Clarke: I didn't see all of his briefing, so I apologize; I don't know
what he said. So I'd rather not be commenting on what he said, since I
didn't see it or haven't seen the words.
We are working closely with any number of people and countries and
entities in this effort. And there are a lot of host nation
sensitivities with various countries in the region.
We -- you know, as a general policy, we tend to let other countries
talk about what their role in the war on terrorism is. What they
choose to talk about and what they don't choose to talk about is okay
with us.
We have been working very closely with Pakistan on this effort for
quite some time now. They have been very supportive. They have been
very helpful. So we've been very pleased with the level of cooperation
and support with the Pakistanis. When you talk about the activity
along the border there, there has been incredibly close coordination.
I, for one, can't go into any details for you about what we might be
doing. And I apologize. I just didn't see that part of his briefing.
Q: (Off mike) -- U.S. troops were operating in Pakistan?
Clarke: My knowledge is that there were not. And we got asked about
that in a briefing the other day. My information was that we were not.
But I'd go with what General Franks said today.
Q: I'm Djono from Suara Merdeka, Indonesia. On the 2002 Defense
Appropriation budget, contains language which appropriating $21
million to establish original defense on the terrorism fellowship
program. I'm just wondering whether you could elaborate that program,
and are there any decision yet on the -- which country is eligible to
receive that?
Clarke: I'm sorry, the last part of your question? Repeat that?
Q: Which country is eligible to the program?
Clarke: I think I heard most of it. And the first thing I'll say is, I
am the furthest thing from an expert on the budget there is. When you
are talking about a budget well in excess of $300 billion, it's hard
enough to stay on top of the big ticket items. But I can make a
general comment about the funds and resources devoted to antiterrorist
You can go back well before September 11th -- you can go back well
before 2001, and Secretary Rumsfeld, both as secretary and in his
private life, was very often encouraging people to understand that we
live in a very different world. You know, our frame of reference was
the Persian Gulf War, in terms of military matters. We need to
understand that we live in a very different world, a very different
context, and there will be different kinds of asymmetrical threats,
including terrorism, and we need to do several things to address those
We need to increase and improve our intel-gathering capabilities. We
need to increase and improve our resources dedicated to anti-terrorist
activity. We need to increase our coordination and integration and
collaboration, in the best sense, with countries around the world who
are similarly inclined.
So in a -- without addressing that particular $21 million out of over
$300 billion, I can tell you, we have a very serious intent, both in
the existing budget and the one that we're putting together for 2003,
focused on anti-terrorism efforts, both at home and abroad.
Q: Parasuram with the Press Trust of India. The war in Afghanistan to
some extent seems baffling, because before the -- at the start, one
got the impression that there were thousands of al Qaeda and Taliban
troops, and most of them seem to have just melted away. You've taken
so few prisoners. And what happened to the rest of them? And are you
sure that after you're back home they will not be re-forming and
taking over the country again?
Clarke: Afghanistan is a very challenging place. You couldn't imagine,
probably, a more challenging place to try to engage in a war.
In terms of prisoners, we think -- you know, the ballpark estimates,
if you will -- some thousands of prisoners in Afghanistan being held
by anti-Taliban forces, about 273, I think it is -- the number may
have changed since this morning, may be slightly more than that -- in
U.S. control -- north of 270 under U.S. control. They are people, both
Taliban and al Qaeda, that we think can be useful for different
reasons or people that we think should be prosecuted.
But you're right. As a result of the military activity and the
strikes, quite a few of the people who were doing the harm could have
melted into the countryside. Some of them could have and probably have
gone across the border. Some of them defected and came over to the
other side. There are a variety of things they could have done and
they probably have done.
And you're also right, as -- today's incident is a perfect example --
there are pockets of resistance. There are flashbacks. There are
people who still mean to do harm to the United States, to our
coalition partners, probably to the interim government as well. So it
is still a very, very dangerous place.
And for instance, the strike yesterday near Khost, the large strike
that the United States did yesterday, was in an area, a compound, or
facility that has been known historically as a place where the al
Qaeda would go to regroup.
So that is something some of them are probably trying to do.
And that's why we say -- I know people often get bored and start to
roll their eyes when we say this, but we believe very strongly we're
still in the earliest stages of this war on terrorism, which is about
much more than Afghanistan, and we still have a lot of work to do in
We've made progress; we've made significant progress, if you look at
the objectives we've set out. The Taliban are out of power in terms of
the government. There are still Taliban out there who mean to do harm.
We have somewhat disrupted and disabled the al Qaeda network, but
there's still a lot of work to be done.
Q: Priscilla Huff with South African Broadcasting. Today General
Franks mentioned we're going to see spikes in military action in the
future. Is one of those strikes going to be in Somalia or perhaps in
another country like Iraq? What's the next target?
Clarke: Well, if we knew or know what the right target is, we would
probably not be very inclined to announce it here or elsewhere. Plus,
where we go next and what we do next in the war on terrorism is very
much a presidential decision; it is very much up to him.
We have made it clear -- and I repeat myself -- this war is certainly
not just about Afghanistan. Al Qaeda alone in 50 or 60 or 70 different
countries. And we don't intend to stop just in Afghanistan. We will
continue to prosecute the war on terrorism around the world with the
many, many countries who are committed to the same cause with us. But
as I said, where we go next, what we do next are presidential
Q: Hi. Mike Hiachi (sp) of Japan's daily, Yomiuri. What could you tell
us about your planned presence in Kyrgyzstan? There was a report today
in USA Today about the planes coming into Kyrgyzstan air force bases
in coming weeks. What will the role for those planes and the
stationing of those U.S. forces be in the broader context of the war
against terrorism and in the region?
Clarke: Okay. What I can really address is the broader context. As I
said -- and let me stop for a minute and address coalitions, and then
I'll address your question somewhat specifically.
Again, one of the great challenges we've had in prosecuting this war
is that, in particularly the United States, everyone has a frame of
reference, and it is usually whatever happened last time. So
everyone's frame of reference -- or a lot of people's frame of
reference on this military action was the Persian Gulf War, and they
assumed everything would be very similar. They assumed it would look
the same, you'd use the same things, you'd have the same kind of
coalition. And nothing could be further from the truth. Now we are
going against people who don't have armies and navies and air forces.
So unlike the Persian Gulf War, we warned everybody, don't expect
night after night to see thousands of missiles flying through the air
and thousands of soldiers coursing across a desert.
In another way that this is very different, we don't have "a"
coalition. What we have is evolving, changing coalitions, which change
over time as circumstances and demands and needs require. And so we
have been very, very pleased, as I said, with the support we've
gotten. Some of that support is more visible than others.
And that is fine by us. If people can offer us help and assistance and
be part of the effort to combat terrorism, but they can't have a lot
of visibility for it in their own country, for domestic reasons, that
is fine with us.
So I will tread very carefully on what Kyrgyzstan is doing, because we
really believe it is up to them to talk most about it. We have said,
in a general sense, we want to have as many resources, as many bases
of operation, if you will, as possible, so you have as much
flexibility. And it's always better to be closer to the main activity
than further away. So some help with an airfield, so we can have
planes that don't have as long a haul, is a very good thing. So
contributing importantly to the overall effort, giving us some real
help in the resources -- in particular, what I can talk about -- and I
think General Franks may have addressed this -- really helping us
really helping us in getting planes closer.
Q: Jose Carreno of El Universal of Mexico.
Clarke: How are you?
Q: I'm well. How are you?
Are you concerned  -- 
Clarke: If you work -- if you work with the U.S. Trade Representative
for a few years, as I did, some of these faces are familiar. (Soft
Q: Are you Thelma or Louise, by the way?
Clarke: Pardon me?
Q: Are you Thelma or Louise, by the way?
Clarke: Am I  -- 
Q: Thelma or Louise?
Clarke: Oh, can't remember. (Laughter.) I can't remember.
Q: Now are you concerned, or the U.S. government concerned, anyway,
that you are embarking in a sort of an endless and victory-less war?
Clarke: As someone who's lived in this town for over 20 years -- and a
lot older than that, which I don't want to admit anymore -- I have
never seen the American people more committed, with greater resolve to
a cause than this. And clearly, the impact of September 11th was
extraordinary. For many, many years, we have been blessed by geography
and good neighbors. So the events of September 11th, I'm sure, have a
lot to do with that, but I have never seen the American people this
united, this committed, this dedicated to this very, very important
cause that isn't just about us. It is not just about us.
But there is this incredible sense that you have to pursue it. There's
an incredible understanding that it will be very long and very
difficult. It won't be clean and neat and linear, and there may not be
hard edges to it, but, as I said, the American people seem to have an
incredibly high understanding for that and an incredible amount of
support to pursue this as aggressively as we have to and for as long
as we have to. Terrorism, by its very nature, is not something you can
defend against every single threat out there. So you have to take the
battle to them, you have to go to the sources, you have to go to those
that harbor and foster and sponsor them to root it out.
And just the reverse of what you're saying. I've just never seen that
kind of commitment.
Moderator: Thomas?
Q: Thomas Gorguissian, Al-Wafd, Egypt. I will try to complete the
question of Pepe, asking if you describe exactly how the American
people are united and committed and not questioning even what's going
on. Do you doing any kind of estimate or guessing how the rest of the
world is looking to this war? Again, it's a war. By all means, it's a
war, and bombing is going on and all these kinds of damage may take
place. We don't know.
And the second question is somehow related to it. And it's --
unfortunately it's a completion of the -- my Russian colleague
question. As a spokesperson, how do you see or how do you evaluate
your work in taming the beast -- I mean the press -- and make your own
Clarke: Two very different questions, so I'll try to remember both.
But the first one -- do we pay attention to, are we listening to what
is going on around the world? Absolutely. Absolutely. We could not do
this alone, so we are constantly working with, consulting with,
talking with literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people
around the world from over a hundred countries on how the best way to
prosecute this war. I think one of the reasons for the success thus
far has been that kind of extraordinary sensitivity, and to say in a
very non-patronizing way, we appreciate whatever you can do to
contribute to this effort, and far be it for us to tell you that it's
all or nothing, or you have to let us completely run the show and you
have to let us say whatever we want to say about your country's
contributions. I think it's been an extraordinarily sensitive
appreciation that different countries have different concerns and
needs -- appreciate and value that they share with us this desire to
root out terrorism and work with them in a very flexible fashion. So
we are extraordinarily sensitive to that, and I think that's what's
contributed to the success thus far.
On the other one, I will just -- I will leave it to others to judge
the success of our efforts in terms of communications.
And I think our job is pretty straightforward; is to explain this is
what we're trying to accomplish, give as much information as we can
about what we're doing -- and I'm really speaking from the Pentagon's
perspective here -- without endangering operations or putting lives at
risk, and be very straight and very direct with people.
So I will leave it to others to judge how we're doing. But I will say
this; one thing that we hear again and again and again from the
general public -- they call in, they e-mail, they send mail, which
takes a long time to get through -- and you constantly hear, "We
appreciate that you're so straight with us. We value the candor, the
honesty, the directness of how you all are talking about this war."
And I think that is -- this is just my personal, Torie Clarke opinion
-- I think that is one of the reasons we have been relatively
successful in keeping the American people's support of this effort. I
think the American people challenge things every single day, and I
think they think about this war, they think about the military in ways
they never did before. But I think the reason their support -- one of
the reasons the support is so strong is because we have been so
straight and so honest with them. When bad things happen, we say so.
We have made it so clear that this is going to be very difficult and
there will be casualties. And they appreciate that kind of directness.
Q: (Name inaudible) -- Associated Press of Pakistan. You have spoken
of al Qaeda network is in 50 to 70 countries. So do we take it that
the U.S. is going to invade all these countries one by one? If not,
how are you going to take them out?
And while you speak of the war on terrorism, you make absolutely no
mention, I notice, of the underlying causes of terrorism -- at least
some causes, with some of which the U.S. has identifiably not been in
sympathy with.
Clarke: Okay, the first part -- and, fortunately, you know, several
questions often get asked of others before you. The secretary got
asked that exact question yesterday. "You mentioned 50, 60 countries.
Does that mean -- " you know, "Which is next?" and "What's the
lineup?" and, "You're going to systematically do the exact same
We can disabuse you of anything. No two situations are exactly the
same. And the level of al Qaeda presence in each of those countries is
very different. And even within a particular country, the level of
activity ebbs and flows and changes. Terrorist training camps, for
instance; they can be up and operating one week, and gone the next. So
it's a very different, very fluid situation.
Some of those countries that have been known over the last several
years to be supporters, somewhat friendly to al Qaeda, have shown
themselves to be a little less friendly and a little less welcoming of
that presence in their country.
And then I'll just go back to what I said before. In terms of military
action and in terms of what we do next and where we go next in the war
on terrorism, those are decisions the president will make, and that's
just not my place to talk about.
And then you talk about the underlining (sic) causes of terrorism, and
you start to get into areas -- it's just not my place to talk about
those things. There are lots of different reasons for terrorism, and
I'm sure you're far more articulate on it than I am.
In the case of al Qaeda, they claim it is in the name of lots of good
and wonderful things. It's a movement based on a bunch of lies, is
what it is. I mean, I'll focus on al Qaeda for you. It's based on a
bunch of lies and torture and abuse and just incredible, horrible,
horrible people who are desperately interested in building their
And if you think about what happened on September 11th -- I mean, I
don't care what your cause is, I don't care what you think your needs
are, I don't care what you think your gripe is. To spend months and
months and months planning the massacre of thousands of people, of
innocent civilians, on September 11th -- so I don't -- I don't pretend
to understand, to be the great expert on what are the causes of
terrorism, but I'll tell you there is no excuse for that. And you'll
hear that from us quite a bit.
Moderator: Well, we've got time for one more. Ben?
Q: Thank you. My name is Ben Bangura (sp). I would appreciate if you
could give us an update on U.S. military cooperation or assistance
with sub-Saharan Africa, which has been, I think, under review.
Clarke: Again, very difficult for me to talk about too many specifics.
But as a general matter and as a general principle, we are very, very
strong believers and backers of military-to-military cooperation. It
increases the level of understanding and appreciation and support.
And Secretary Rumsfeld could stand up here -- I wish he could answer
this question, because he could give you several personal examples of
very important leaders he has met over the last 10, 20, 30 years who
had some experience, in their training or in their education, where
they were part of a U.S. military-to-military exchange, and they said
it made a dramatic difference in how they viewed the United States.
They recognized the United States has no desire or interest in other
people's lands, those sorts of things. So as a general matter, we're
very committed to military-to-military cooperation.
And with that, I will thank you all very, very much, and wish you the
best of luck, and nice to see some old friends again. Thank you.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site:

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