09 January 2002
Transcript: Defense Department Briefing, January 8, 2002
(Afghanistan/capture & detention of suspected al-Qaida fighters,
Additional strikes on & extent of Zhawar Kili complex, Preparation of
Guantanamo Bay facility for transfer of detainees, Detainee moved from
USS Bataan to Bagram, Usefulness of intelligence gained from
detainees, U.S.-Pakistan military liaison, Status of al-Qaida
organization, Friendly-fire incident investigation, Investigation of
Sgt. Chapman's death, Arrival of Canadian forces, Searching for bin
Laden & Omar, Meeting Indian official, Number of U.S. forces in
General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff briefed.
Following is the Pentagon transcript:
United States Department of Defense
Presenter: Gen. Richard B. Myers, CJCS
Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2002 - 1:19 p.m. EST
DoD News Briefing - Gen. Myers
Myers: Well, good afternoon. I'm flying solo today. The secretary had
a better offer -- for lunch across the river. I'm sure he'd like to be
here if he could.
Let me first say that operations continue. Yesterday our forces in
Afghanistan continued efforts to locate remaining pockets of al Qaeda
and Taliban fighters and their leadership, and they continued to
search for camps and cave complexes which hide these pockets or their
Late yesterday a U.S. team conducting interdiction ops in an area near
Gardez-Khowst located a group of suspected al Qaeda fighters. A group
of approximately 14 individuals was apprehended without resistance.
The U.S. team determined that two of these individuals met the
criteria for detention and moved them to Kandahar. Laptop computers,
cell phones, some small arms, and training documents were also found
and returned to Kandahar with the two detainees, and we're exploiting
those as we speak.
U.S. forces will continue interdiction missions in the region and
search for al Qaeda and Taliban forces and leadership. They continue
their sweep of the Zhawar Kili complex that we described to you late
last week and again, I think, yesterday, with Admiral Stufflebeem up
here. We have found this complex to be very, very extensive. It covers
a large area. When we ask people how large, they often describe it as
Late yesterday they found additional buildings in caves or bunkers in
that area. In response, between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. our time last
night, two airstrikes occurred. In the first, an F-14 dropped two
precision-guided bombs on a building, and we're going to have a video
on that here in just a minute. And about two hours later an F-18
dropped two additional guided bombs on a bunker. The sweep of this
extensive complex continues, again, as we speak.
We also continue our preparation to transfer detainees to facilities
at Guantanamo Bay. We expect the transfer of the first contingent of
detainees to occur soon.
The number of al Qaeda and Taliban detainees transferred to U.S.
control continues to grow and now stands at 364. There are 302 being
held at Kandahar, 38 at Bagram, 16 at Mazar-e Sharif, and eight on the
Now we'll take a look at that video clip of the F-14 strike yesterday
at Zhawar Kili. You can see some vehicles near the compound, as well
as an individual outside the targeted building. These were not
friendly forces, and we had evidence that the compound was active with
And with that, I'm ready to take your questions. Charlie?
Q: Mr. Chairman, the 14 individuals that were detained last night or
yesterday late, were those taken by U.S. forces? And were the two that
you said were determined are those you want, were they senior al Qaeda
Myers: They were taken by U.S. forces, Charlie. And let me just say
about the identity of the two that were taken, they were the ones of
interest that we thought we -- that were senior enough where they
might have the kind of information that we're looking for in terms of
operational methodology, future operations, and so forth. So --
Q: Were they in that complex? Was that in the complex --
Myers: No, they were not in the complex that was bombed. They were
nearby, though. Okay?
Myers: Yes, ma'am?
Q: Could you give us some indication -- you mentioned that trove of
cell phones and laptops. Are you finding -- training documents? What
kinds of things are you exploiting, as you said?
Myers: Well, one of the things we have to be very careful about, I
think, is when we talk about exploiting intelligence information. If
we were to divulge all the intelligence information we get, then it
doesn't become intelligence information. It becomes pretty common
knowledge, and people can then take actions to thwart the advantage we
may gain from that information. So I'm very, very reluctant to say
exactly what we're getting. But you probably have a cell phone. You
know what you have on your cell phone. These cell phones would be like
that, I guess, and hard drives have lots of information on them. So
it's the kind of stuff you would expect to find that might be of
Q: Can you say in a gradation if this is some of the -- like some of
the things that you have found before? Similar or --
Myers: We were just talking exploitation, and I frankly have not seen
any of the products that have come out of that, so I can't talk to you
specifically. I mean that was just last -- just yesterday. So we're
just beginning that.
Q: General, you said that there were eight on the Bataan. There had
What happened to the ninth? How are you going to transfer the
detainees to Gitmo -- by plane or ship or a combination? And secondly,
what about John Walker? Is he going to be taken down there or taken
Myers: There were nine. Interesting to see you keep these accurate
tabs of our detainees.
Q: We pay attention to them.
Myers: That's very good. (laughter) There were nine. There are now
eight. One was taken to -- I think we took him to Bagram airport
because the interrogation capabilities we have at Bagram are superior
to what we have on board the ship, and we wanted to conduct some
specific interrogations. So we went there for the better capability.
Q: Can you tell us who he was or who he is?
Myers: No. I'll just say that as the secretary has said on several
occasions here, we -- the Department of Defense will -- is working to
release a list of who we have, who we want -- who we have. There are
clearly some intelligence implications to that information, so it's
taking some time to work through that. But the secretary has promised
he's going to try to release that and he's -- I know we're working on
it. We're all working on that. So I can't make any promises when, but
it -- he will fulfill that promise, I'm sure.
In terms of how we're going to transport them, it looks like initially
we're going to do this by plane, by aircraft. And those details are
being worked by Transportation Command and the appropriate agencies
And in terms of Mr. Walker, I have no indications right now of where
he's going to go precisely.
Q: Is he still on the Bataan?
Myers: To the best of my knowledge, he is, in fact.
Q: General Myers? Yesterday General Franks said in an interview that
the U.S. military would gain custody of one or two Taliban or al Qaeda
of great interest to the United States in the next few days. Can you
elaborate on that at all?
Myers: No. I listened to part of the interview. I didn't hear it all,
and I don't know the specifics. I'd be guessing if I were going to --
Q: May I follow up on that? He might be referring to the two that you
Myers: That's -- I'd have to guess on that, so I'm not going to guess.
I don't know what he was referring to. I'd refer that to General
Franks next time you have a chance to --
Q: General, on the interdiction operations, are they focusing on the
one area near Khowst, or --
Myers: Zhawar Kili, Khowst area. Yes. Right now that's where they're
focusing. I think, as General Franks said yesterday, that a lot of the
work in the Tora Bora area is coming to a conclusion, and so that's
where the focus is right now.
Q: I believe General Franks said that there was an indication that
Osama bin Laden had been in the Tora Bora area. Can you nail down at
all the timeframe there, how recently that might have been? Did he
flee there, does it appear, after September 11th? Any sort of
timeframe there? Any indications of when?
Myers: I think, again, when it comes to that sort of intelligence, I
think we have to be very, very careful about what information we got
when, how we got it, and so forth, because it can be -- it can really
aid the adversary in this case. So I --
Q: But in terms of how long ago he was there?
Myers: I think even that would be -- I think even that could give away
some information that we just don't want to give away, so I'm not
going to go into it.
Q: Okay. Can I talk about Zhawar Kili again?
Myers: Mm hmm.
Q: Can you give us an idea how big that area actually is? You said,
"huge." It's been hit so many times. What condition was it in? And you
said al Qaeda fighters were still there. Are they -- so they're still
regrouping there? You're obviously talking about people who are still
Myers: This compound was several miles away from the Zhawar Kili,
Khowst area. And so it wasn't exactly in there, but it was in an area
we knew the al Qaeda had used going back and forth as a place to stop.
So we were fairly certain of our intelligence there.
But the area itself -- I think General Franks yesterday, didn't he
talk about the numbers of things that were found there?
Q: Could you give kind of the square miles of this area and what shape
it was when you started --
Myers: We'll have to get that for you. I don't have the exact -- the
dimensions of the area. But in terms of the structures, below ground,
in particular, I think as we put people in there -- you know, some of
the things you can't tell sometimes from -- accurately from other
types of surveillance and reconnaissance, you can tell when you get
people in there and looking around. And that's what we found. I think
that's what we refer to when people say it was huge. There was just no
indication of that from any other system. And maybe we can put some
dimensions on that for you. I don't know that we have them back here,
since this has only been ongoing now for a couple of days.
Q: Are you suggesting, General, that the largest part of this compound
was actually underground?
Myers: I'm just saying there is a large piece of it that was in caves
and underground and that the structure was more extensive, I think,
than we had forecasted it to be, and that, you know, as General Franks
said, when they find tanks there and artillery and so forth, this is a
Q: General, on Kandahar, do you see the growing number of prisoners
that you're having there as a security force to U.S. forces? Is that
part of why you seem to be moving relatively quickly to Guantanamo?
And has the military made any new decisions about whom you will move
first, including whether the first or next batch of folks that you do
move will be those subject to military tribunals?
Myers: Obviously, any time you have detainees who will sacrifice their
life to kill you or what you stand for, I mean, that's the most
dangerous type of individual you can have in your control. And so,
with nearing 400 of those individuals, or 300-plus now, 320- some, at
Kandahar, it is. It's a security issue you need to deal with. The
folks at Kandahar are dealing with that security issue and they take
every means available.
The pace we're on to move to Guantanamo -- you said quickly -- it's on
the pace that we've tried to stay on. This has been something that's
been in the works for some time. And it's not any quicker or faster or
slower than it ever was. We want to make sure the facilities in
Guantanamo Bay are adequate for the task. And this is serious
business. We've gotten help from experts in this business, both our
own military detention people who work this issue, and Bureau of
Prisons and so forth. So we're trying to make it ready in Guantanamo
to start relieving some of that pressure in Kandahar.
In terms of who first, yes, we know who first, and as far as I know,
it has nothing to do with tribunals or any of that. It's -- so I'll
just leave it at that. And I'm sure as we start to transfer people in
this department --
Q: Well, when you make that, can you help us any more on how you would
make that transportation? Could who-first have to do with the
intelligence you hope to get from them?
Myers: No, I'll leave that to someone else because I've not been part
of who-first, how we pick the first ones, but that's something you
might want to address with the secretary later on.
Q: General Myers, may I go back to your taking of the two of great
interest? I wondered if you could elaborate as best you can in
generalities. They were terrorists. Were they people who might have
been in close proximity to terrorist leaders, who might have had, say,
information on command and control? Can you say just generally what
you might have, and again just generally the information that you
might be gaining from that intelligence on computers, just generally?
Myers: I don't think there's much more I can offer than what I've
said, except that they are al Qaeda, as opposed to Taliban. So it --
they become very interesting to us because they're a part of the
worldwide network of terrorism that al Qaeda supports.
And so we would hope to be gleaning, you know, information that might
point to future operations, other operations, so forth.
Q: In general, why would you single out those two as opposed to the
other 12? I mean, can you say in general why you might choose these
two as opposed to the other 12 you didn't choose?
Myers: I think because -- (chuckles) -- I mean, not to be flippant at
all, because we thought they had -- they're the -- they were the types
of individuals -- and we had people looking at this that -- you know,
that people make those judgments on these people that we detain, and
some just have more intelligence value than others. And so you can't
detain them all, so you pick the ones that you think are going to be
the most fruitful, and that's exactly what happened.
(cross talk) Yes, sir?
Q: General, to follow up on that, though -- just to follow up, could
you give us some sort of context as to what sort -- are we getting any
intelligence out of some of these prisoners? Are we getting none?
Some? Are we --
Myers: We've -- I mean, we said before -- last time I was up here we
talked -- I think we've talked about it at least twice the last two
times I was up here with the secretary -- that indeed we are getting
some intelligence on this. We think we have thwarted some attacks. But
to go into any more detail starts to give away what we know and what
they don't know we know, and so we've got to be very, very careful
there. But yes, this has been somewhat fruitful.
Q: One more question, to follow up --
Myers: One more follow-on.
Q: And on the leaflets that were dropped, that showed Osama bin Laden
in civilian clothes -- has that yielded any new leads or any
Myers: I can't state specifically if it has or it hasn't. I just don't
Q: There's been a report out on two Taliban leaders. The Afghan
Islamic press says that the minister of defense for the Taliban,
Mullah Al-Badullah (sp), I think his name is, and a former minister of
justice, Mullah Taruq Tarobi (sp) or something like that, have agreed
-- have surrendered to anti-al Qaeda forces. Will the U.S. demand that
they be turned over to the Marines or U.S. forces?
Myers: Obviously, individuals of that stature in the Taliban
leadership are of great interest to the United States, and we would
expect that they would be turned over. Absolutely.
Q: Are you going to pressure them to turn over or --
Myers: We expect them to turn them over. Let me just leave it at that.
Q: With a quick follow-up on the Franks interview with AP yesterday,
he implied that the U.S. has an understanding with Pakistan to allow
U.S. troops in a hot pursuit mode to go into Pakistan to track down al
Qaeda or Taliban leaders. CNN reports that Pakistan is denying such an
agreement's been made. Can you clarify that?
Myers: The relationship we have -- obviously, Pakistan has been very
supportive in many, many ways. We know about the airspace and so on.
And what we have day-to-day with the Pakistan Army and Pakistan forces
are either liaison elements or so forth. We do not operate
unilaterally inside Pakistan.
Q: Sir --
Myers: Yes, sir?
Q: I wonder if you can bring us up to date on any reconstitution of al
Qaeda operations in other places, particularly Yemen and Somalia. And
with respect to Yemen, what's your assessment of this sort of
after-action report, if you will, on the Yemeni forces' action against
al Qaeda there?
Myers: To the first question, on reconstitution of al Qaeda, you're
talking about reconstitution in terms of location after Afghanistan,
maybe for training facilities and so forth? I think that, first of
all, we need to say this about the al Qaeda organization: it is still
an organization, still a viable organization capable of terrorist
acts, probably worldwide.
And so there's a fairly good base there that we are yet to get at.
We've worked the Afghanistan piece and we think that's had some
impact. It may lead to future operations that will be successful, and
I'm not talking now just military operations, but other operations as
Where they're going to go next is the subject of a lot of analysis
right now, and we're going to have to watch the indicators, all the
intel indicators and other governments as they help us with this to
try to figure out where they might go establish, and I can't -- it's
too early to say where that might be.
And in terms of Yemen's support to the war on terrorism, I think I'll
stick by the secretary's guidance on that, or his druthers on that,
which is to let the Yemeni government speak for themselves. The only
thing I would say is that the Yemeni government is taking measures to
combat terrorism, and I'll just leave it at that.
Q: General Myers?
Q: Can you give us a sense of the scope of U.S. forces that you think
might be necessary in Pakistan in searching for bin Laden, and does it
go beyond Special Forces? And I have a follow up.
Myers: I'm not going to -- I will never speculate on the number of
forces that it might take to anything, as a matter of fact. But as I
said, in Pakistan, the Pakistani government has been very cooperative.
I would expect them to be cooperative in any -- if there were -- if we
thought UBL was in Pakistan, I think we could rely on the Pakistani
government and their forces to participate, and our role would
probably be a liaison role. That would be speculation again.
Q: Is it fair to say there might be an increase in the role of the
United States in Pakistan in the search?
Myers: Again, I think the Pakistani government has been very
cooperative in these matters, and we can count on their cooperation.
And that's -- so I'd -- but I'm not going to speculate again. I mean,
but that's where I'd leave it.
Q: And another -- just another point. The Afghan officials are
reporting, as before, that the ministers -- Taliban ministers of
Defense, Justice, and Mines and Industry have surrendered. Is that a
credible report to your knowledge?
Myers: We're going to check that out.
Q: General Myers?
Q: It's been a month since the last friendly fire incident which
killed the three soldiers. Have you since then, as a result of
investigation, either instituted any new procedures or upgraded any
equipment or taken any other steps that would prevent such accidents?
Have you learned anything from this?
Myers: Let me -- a couple of parts to the question. First of all, this
was asked the other day, I think by you, Tony. The investigations are
not complete. They're not through to General Franks at Central Command
yet, so there's nothing that can be released at this point. As they
work their way up the chain, though, that will be of course looked at,
and there will be -- eventually there will be a report.
In the meantime, though, of course actions were taken immediately to
try to determine what had happened and then take actions based on
that. And when I was over in the region, matter of fact, right before
Christmas, I talked to the people involved in some of that, in terms
of procedures, mostly, procedural improvements that would prohibit
that in the future.
Q: So there was a problem with procedure? The procedures weren't --
Myers: You could tighten up procedures. The investigation, again, it
was not complete at the time, but there are ways to check and double
check your work. And there were -- we call them tactics, techniques,
and procedures. There were improvements made to our TT&P [tactics,
techniques and procedures] to help preclude it as the investigation
continues, because it's prudent stuff to do. It's going to help in any
case, and it's not going to have anything but a beneficial impact
Q: General, the U.S. forces that are sweeping through the Zhawar Kili
area, have they encountered any resistance? And also, do you have
better idea at this time what happened in the case of Sergeant
Myers: To my knowledge, the forces that are in the Zhawar Kili area
have not encountered resistance.
In terms of Sergeant Chapman and his tragic death, that investigation
is ongoing. I know there's been a lot of speculation, but I think we
need to let the investigation run and to get a clearer picture on
exactly what happened on that day.
Q: General, can you give us a more precise idea of what you mean when
you say that "transfers to Guantanamo will begin soon"? And also,
could you tell us -- my understanding is, there are cells there now
for about 50 prisoners already on the base. Is that the initial limit
on what you'll transfer, or are you going to set up tent camps until
you have more additional permanent facilities?
Myers: I'm going to leave it at "soon." "Soon" is -- "soon" is about
as good as good as I'm going to -- can do because, as I said before,
we've got to ensure that the facilities on Guantanamo are sufficient
to hold the type of detainees that we're going to hold. And it's
obviously -- it's got to be done right. So there is no pressure on
Southern Command, in this case, who is responsible for this activity
-- there's no pressure on them or the Joint Task Force that's going to
be conducting activities in this camp to hurry this along.
And the number of cells you talked about is close to being right, but
we're going to bring cells on, it looks like, fairly quickly, and they
will not be of the same variety in Kandahar. They will not be --
they'll be a more -- more permanent type -- I hate to use the word
"permanent" -- but they're not going to be tents. They're going to be
secure facilities that will be brought online, and they will not be
temporary in the sense that we're going to replace them right away.
Now in the long run, they may give way to other structures, but
they're going to be good for the foreseeable future. Okay.
Q: Could you tell us what happened to the other 12? Were they let go
or were they handed over to Afghan troops? From that podium, Rumsfeld
has been very clear that all al Qaeda are to be detained. And also,
could you give us a better description of what you mean by "better
interrogation capabilities" in Bagram? Because it certainly sets the
mind to wondering what you're doing.
Myers: The other 12 -- I have to -- I do not know what happened to
them. I assume they're in the hands of the Afghan administration. And
in terms of interrogation capability, we have, of course, special --
specially trained individuals that have the capability to do the
interrogation and --
Q: That were in Bagram.
Myers: Well, they're in several places, obviously. They're in
Kandahar, as well. But the -- in the case of the kind of information
we wanted and putting all our capabilities together, it was determined
that Bagram was a better spot for this individual to be interrogated.
Myers: Yes, sir, in the very back.
Q: A question about the 725 Canadians, I believe, are going to
Kandahar. Can you tell us what you know about that deployment, and why
it's -- how and why it's come about, and perhaps whether you have any
concerns about difficulty integrating this foreign contingent with the
American troops who are there now?
Myers: First of all, I guess it was announced in Canada yesterday that
they would have a contingent going to Kandahar. We were aware of that,
of course, but I think the Canadians announced it. And I don't want to
comment for the Canadians. I'll only say that we appreciate the help
we're getting from all our partners on this war on terrorism. I have
no doubt, because of the way we exercise and cooperate with the
Canadians on a daily basis, that there will be any problems with
integrating that force into our own force. This will simply not be an
issue. I think they'll meld in very nicely. And the offer is much
Q: Was it necessary?
Myers: Absolutely. Absolutely necessary.
Myers: One more.
Q: If we could follow up on the Chapman comments you made, Admiral
Stufflebeem termed it a possible set-up, that they were investigating
it as a possible set-up, which suggests there may have been a
betrayal, perhaps, by one of our so-called "allies" in the region.
Have you done any -- have you implemented any procedures to assure
operational security and to ensure that our allies are indeed our
Myers: First of all, I'm going to avoid characterizing that situation
with those kind of words. I mean, we just don't know yet. That's why I
said we need to complete the investigation and determine the best we
can what happened. Let me assure you that the folks on the ground over
there that are involved in those kind of operations -- I met with lots
of their leadership when I was there right before Christmas. Clearly
this is -- I mean, they understand the situation on the ground. They
understand how dangerous that is. I don't know how many times we've
stood up here and said this is a dangerous place, that allegiances
sometimes change and that you've got to be very, very careful. And our
people on the ground are probably some of the smartest in that regard.
They've been over there now operating for months, with other folks as
well. So, I mean, there's a fairly good knowledge of this. So I think
we just ought to wait for the investigation to finish and then we can
have a much clearer appreciation for what actually happened, rather
than speculating on this.
Q: General, the admiral yesterday referred -- with, I thought, some
frustration -- to the chasing of shadows, referring to Taliban and al
Qaeda, perhaps even to Omar and Osama bin Laden. I wanted to ask you
to elaborate on that, about whether or not that has receded into the
background as a priority, whether there is frustration on the part of
the military in constantly having to address the questions at
briefings like this about "Where's Omar?" Where's Osama bin Laden?"
Myers: I did not hear Admiral Stufflebeem use the term "chasing
shadows," but -- so I can't address what was in his mind. I can say
that from the beginning, what we want out of this is the al Qaeda
leadership and the Taliban leadership. And of course, that would
include bin Laden, and that would include Omar.
And I don't think -- nobody is frustrated. This is very, very
difficult work. Somebody reminded me how difficult it was in Panama to
go after the Panamanian leader when we'd been in the country for how
many years and -- so this is difficult, difficult work. I think we're
getting better at it, oh, by the way, and I think bringing all the
instruments of national power to bear on the problem, we're going to
-- we're going to be successful in the end. So I don't -- I'm not
frustrated. I don't think Admiral Stufflebeem is frustrated, and I
don't think the secretary's frustrated -- (inaudible).
Q: General, follow-up on that, please?
Myers: Yes, sir.
Q: Yes, sir. One question.
Indian home minister, Mr. Advani, is coming tomorrow here to meet with
the highest official, including you, I believe. And he's carrying a
list of at least 20 terrorists who are based in Pakistan, carried out
attack on the Indian parliament, and is asking all the ministers,
including Secretary Rumsfeld, to press General Musharraf -- which you,
I believe, have a blind in faith in him -- to hand over those people
to India. And he's coming to discuss -- to fight terrorism combined --
that's India and the U.S. -- to go after terrorists. So do you have
any comments on any of these visits?
Myers: No, I think that's -- I mean, I'm a military man, and that's
probably not something I would get directly involved in. I think we'll
just have to wait till the minister gets here tomorrow, and we'll
participate in those conversations. I think everybody's goal, though,
is the same, and that is, we'd like to have a world where the
terrorists are not free to operate, wherever they come from.
Myers: Charlie, first and last question.
Q: Have you a ballpark figure of how many American troops are on the
ground now in Afghanistan?
Myers: Sure. That's --
Q: Between 3,000 and four (thousand).
Myers: Yeah, 35 --
Q: Would you say that?
Q: I'm sorry.
Myers: Between 3,500 and 4,000 in Afghanistan.
Q: What's the 10th Mountain (Division) doing? Anything?
Myers: The 10th -- (chuckles) -- that was the last question.
But I will just say this, because the commander of the 10th Mountain
used to be here on the Joint Staff not too -- until not too long ago:
They are probably the most widely dispersed division in the United
States Army. They're in the Balkans, and they're also in Afghanistan.
So that's all. I'll just leave it at that. I don't want to go into
specifics of where exact units are.
With that, thank you very much. Thank you.
Q: Thank you.
(end Pentagon transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list