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08 October 2002

Defense Official Says U.S. Seeks to Halt New Terror Recruits

(Undersecretary Feith briefs at Foreign Press Center October 8) (4350)
The United States is conducting the war on terrorism in two primary
ways -- by seeking to destroy and disrupt terrorist networks and
infrastructure, and by working to halt the flow of new recruits into
terrorist ranks, a senior Defense Department official says.
Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith briefed reporters
October 8 at the State Department's Foreign Press Center in Washington
on progress in the war on terrorism and Operation Enduring Freedom,
the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan. He also responded to
questions on Iraq and the upcoming NATO summit in Prague.
Stopping the flow of people into the ranks of terrorists is "extremely
important," he said.
"Our goal, as the National Security Strategy [issued earlier this
month by the White House] makes clear, is ... to make terrorism like
genocide, the slave trade or piracy -- the kinds of activities that no
one who aspires to respectability can condone, let along support."
In Afghanistan, he said, "There's been a fair amount accomplished over
the last year. We have deprived al Qaeda of the quiet enjoyment of
Afghanistan as a base for its operations. We prevented a humanitarian
disaster. ... And we furthermore helped create conditions for the
creation of a broad-based government."
"We haven't eliminated all of the al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan," he
said, but "they are on the run... . [O]ur goal was to do what we can
to destroy and disrupt the al Qaeda network, to make al Qaeda go on
the defensive, rather than remain on the offensive, and I think we've
accomplished that."
Asked about President Bush's appeal to Iraqi generals, in his October
7 address on Iraq, to defy any orders by Saddam Hussein to use
chemical and biological weapons, Feith said "it is clear to us that
there are important conflicts of interest between Saddam Hussein and
his inner circle and virtually every other group in Iraq.... And
Saddam runs a singularly brutal and tight tyranny," presumably
because, if he did not, "the disaffection that exists throughout the
country ... would translate into action against him."
For these reasons, he said, "we believe that officials and military
officers will think twice about fulfilling orders to use weapons of
mass destruction" in the event of a conflict, in order to avoid being
labeled as war criminals.
Feith also told questioners that the U.S. priority for the NATO summit
to be held in Prague in November is "to put NATO on course where it
can remain an important alliance that contributes not only to the
security of Europe but, more broadly, to the military capabilities of
all the alliance members to do important work globally."
Following is the transcript of Feith's briefing:
(begin transcript)
U.S. Department of Defense News Briefing
Douglas J. Feith, USD (Policy)
Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2002 - 8:08 a.m. EDT
Feith:  Thank you.  Good morning.
The war on terrorism began a year ago. For those of us at the Pentagon
and, I'm sure, for many of you, it seems like many years ago. If one
measures one's time in emotional energy invested, it's easy to
understand why it seems like such a long period of time. It's been
very intense.
There's been a fair amount accomplished over the last year. The
Pentagon put together a plan for the war in Afghanistan, organized a
coalition and within a matter of weeks of the September 11th attack
began the war and within a matter of weeks thereafter ousted the
Taliban, vindicating the so-called Bush doctrine that states that
harbor terrorists will share the fate of the terrorists. We have
deprived al Qaeda of the quiet enjoyment of Afghanistan as a base for
its operations.
We prevented a humanitarian disaster. One of the main things on our
minds last year at this time were the projections of starvation
throughout Afghanistan in the areas in particular that the Taliban
wanted to punish, and there was supposed to be widespread starvation.
This gave a very high priority in our thinking to the humanitarian
operations that our armed forces performed, and it's very gratifying
what was accomplished in that area.
And we, furthermore, helped create conditions for the creation of a
broad-based government in Afghanistan. And we had in mind from the
beginning of the war the idea that we were going to liberate, make it
clear that we are liberating, not invading. Our strategy was based on
a light footprint for U.S. forces, who are working with indigenous
Afghan forces interested in ousting the Taliban tyranny.
We wanted to make it clear that we were not approaching this war with
an imperialist or colonialist frame of mind, and so we had no thought
of acting as if we owned the place. On the other hand, we wanted to
make it clear that we had a sense of responsibility and were willing
to stay to help create conditions in which Afghanistan could achieve
stability and, one hopes, prosperity.
Against al Qaeda in the rest of the world, we put together a strategy
that made use of the full range of tools of the U.S. government --
financial, intelligence, law enforcement, diplomatic, as well as
We are working globally in the war on terrorism, as you know, with
activities in Philippines, Yemen, Georgia and elsewhere.
As the new National Security Strategy document that the White House
issued makes clear, the war involves two categories of actions. One is
the destruction and disruption of terrorist networks, terrorist
infrastructure. The second category of action is -- we sometimes refer
to as the battle of ideas. And that's the category of actions that
addresses the flow into terrorist ranks of new recruits. It is clear
to us that if we are going to win the war on terrorism, we are going
to have to not only destroy and disrupt current terrorist
infrastructure but address this extremely important question of the
flow of people into the ranks of the terrorists -- people who believe
that it -- that it is legitimate not only to hate so passionately but
also to kill innocent people for political purposes, to target them
for killing for political purposes. Our goal, as the National Security
Strategy makes clear, is to make terrorism -- is to delegitimat(iz)e
terrorism, is to make terrorism like genocide, the slave trade or
piracy -- the kinds of activities that no one who aspires to
respectability can condone, let alone support.
The strategic focus of the war on terrorism from the very beginning
has been the danger that terrorists could obtain weapons of mass
destruction. I mean, it was clear from the opening days of the war
that we had to address this issue. The list of countries that support
terrorists and the list of dangerous and irresponsible countries that
are pursuing chemical weapons, biological weapons and nuclear weapons
-- those lists overlap. And the overlap represents a strategic threat
of great importance. And we see now with the discussion of Iraq and
the danger that the Saddam Hussein regime poses to the world a focus
on precisely that nexus between state support for terrorism and the
pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.
And with that, I think I will stop and be happy to take your
Moderator: Let me remind you, please, to use the microphone and to
introduce yourself and your news organization.
Q: Hi. My name is Dana Budeiri and I work for Al-Jazeera. My question
is, please, have you been conducting any negotiations with the Arab
countries neighboring Iraq on using any of their military bases in
case a war is launched against Iraq?
Feith: We have been talking with countries all over the world about
the nature of the threat, our thoughts about how we're going to
address that threat, and various countries around the world have
expressed an interest in working with us and supporting our efforts in
various ways. We are going to stick to the policy that we've had since
the beginning of the war on terrorism, which is not to comment on what
other countries contribute and to allow each country that wants to
participate in the coalition to characterize its own assistance to the
coalition in the war on terrorism.
Q: Miroslav Komorana, Czech Public Radio. I'd like to go to -- take a
mention to Afghanistan. So can you evaluate what was done, elaborate a
little bit, in that year in Afghanistan. If you can also comment on
the last interview with Hamid Karzai, I think it was on CNN, or just
say what is the situation right now and what are the main objectives
for the future in Afghanistan.
Feith: The situation right now in Afghanistan is, I would say, uneven.
I mean the security situation is uneven. You have in the southeastern
provinces a continued threat from concentrations of Taliban and al
Qaeda forces, and there are ongoing, continual coalition military
operations against the al Qaeda and Taliban forces in that region.
Throughout much of the rest of Afghanistan, the security situation is
better and there is, on our part, a greater emphasis on reconstruction
in the security area and reconstruction in the economic area.
We are looking to develop some of the economic infrastructure. There's
a very important project getting underway to build roads to connect
the major cities in Afghanistan. There is also an intense interest in
building up the ability of the central government in Afghanistan to
provide security throughout the country. There's an effort -- intense
effort to train forces for the Afghan National Army, to train the
police, to help build a judicial infrastructure for the country, and
to address the range of security concerns.
This involves coalition forces as such -- I mean, the forces operating
in Operation Enduring Freedom -- and it also involves the
international peacekeeping forces in ISAF, the International Security
Assistance Force.
The trend right now is toward building up the -- developing these
institutions in those parts of the country, these -- doing these
reconstruction efforts in those parts of the country that are somewhat
more stable. And what we're interested in doing is intensifying what
we call stability operations in those parts of the country that have a
relatively more stable situation. There will be ongoing combat
operations in the areas that require it, but a more intense emphasis
on stability operations where it's possible.
Moderator:  (Off mike.)
Q: Thank you. Hi. I'm Natan Guttman from Ha'aretz newspaper, from
Israel. I'd like to ask about the Hezbollah. Undersecretary Armitage
said that the Hezbollah is the "A-Team of terrorism," and I was
wondering what the administration's plans are to deal with this
terrorist organization.
Feith: It is clear that anyone who contemplates the problem of the war
against international terrorism recognizes that this war is against
not simply a network of terrorists but a network of networks. And one
of the most highly developed and most dangerous networks, as Secretary
Armitage suggested, is Hezbollah. The -- I mean, we recognize that. It
is an organization that is functioning in many continents, not just in
-- I mean, it's based in -- its operations are based largely in
Lebanon. It's supported by the Syrians and the Iranians. It has
operations and cells in Africa, in South America, in Asia. We are
certainly watching it, conscious of it, and it is one of the key
international terrorist networks; there's no question about that.
I think that's all I can comment on at the moment.
Moderator:  (Off mike.)
Q: Thomas Gorguissian, Al Wafd, Egypt. Mr. Secretary, after a year,
what is your assessment of what's achieved? Is the al Qaeda network
less threatening and America is more secure? Be dead or alive -- that
was the bin Laden criteria or, let's say, the yardstick. Is this
factor -- how this factor is affecting your assessment of what was
My second question: In the battle of ideas -- and it's very
interesting to see the different officials talking about battle of
ideas -- how do you define this battle? I mean, it's -- the impression
overseas, especially that part of the world, is that Islam became the
new "ism" after communism. And how do you assess this assessment or
definition or description? And in this battle of ideas, are you just
going to rely on smart bombs?
Feith: As for what's been accomplished with regard to al Qaeda, we
have, as I said, taken the principal base of operations for al Qaeda,
which was Afghanistan run by the Taliban -- we have eliminated it as a
base for al Qaeda to operate from quietly and undisturbed. We haven't
eliminated all of the al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, but they don't
have the freedom of movement, they don't have the easy use of that
base of operations. They are on the run in Afghanistan, and they are
on the run elsewhere, because there have been active efforts by law
enforcement officials in numerous countries against al Qaeda cells,
against their operatives, against their financiers. And our goal was
to do what we can to destroy and disrupt the al Qaeda network, to make
al Qaeda go on the defensive, rather than remain on the offensive. And
I think we've accomplished that. That doesn't mean that the work
against al Qaeda is finished; it's not. And al Qaeda continues to
exist in many countries, including, as I said -- including in
Afghanistan. But it certainly does not have the kind of freedom of
action that it had before the war started.
As for the battle of ideas: This administration has gone out of its
way correctly and intelligently and morally to stress that the war on
terrorism is by no means a war on Islam or in any way disrespectful of
Islam as one of the world's great religions. It is clear that there is
a battle within the world of Islam between extremists and the bulk of
the Muslim world. And in that battle you see forces like those that
were led by Osama bin Laden working to push by brutal and violent
method their version of Islam onto other Muslims.
And the terrorist organizations -- some of the terrorist organizations
that we are concerned about have as their enemies and their targets
not simply the United States or Israel or the West; they have fellow
Muslims high on their list of targets and enemies. And it is clear
that in this battle between most of the world of Islam on the one hand
and these extremist terrorist groups on the other, we have -- the
United States has; I think the whole civilized world has -- a strong
interest in seeing the moderate opponents of the extremists prevail.
And so I would make it absolutely clear that we're not thinking of
this issue from the point of view of a war against Islam, and we are
not thinking of this issue from the point of view of bombs -- smart
bombs or otherwise. We are quite literally talking about ideas.
And there are governments that stand for certain propositions and that
have -- there are countries that have large Muslim populations that
function perfectly moderately and aspire to the same kinds of basic
values and principles that we aspire to, that want prosperity and
political stability and respect for the rights of their people. You
know, at the top of the list is a country like Turkey. There are
countries throughout the Muslim world that share, I think, important
principles with us. And we have a strong interest in showing that
those countries can be successful, can provide good lives for their
people, can be an important integrated part of the international
Those are all aspects of this battle of ideas that I referred to, and
it's an important part of our strategy for dealing in the war on
terrorism and specifically, as I said, to delegitimat(iz)ing the kind
of inhuman tactic of extremist groups -- in particular, the purposeful
killing of civilians for political purposes.
Q: My name is Nestor Iqueda (ph), and I am an AP reporter for Latin
My question is not directly related to the war on terror, but to the
U.S. military establishment. And as you know -- well, I am raising
this question because among your responsibilities there are one that
regards relations with foreign countries.
As you know, the defense minister of Chile is in town and she is going
to meet this morning with the secretary of Defense. And for a long
time, Chile has been looking for some kind of acquisition of a fleet
of at least 10 or 15 F-16 U.S. bombers. And the last year, the U.S.
has agreed to make steps for releasing those planes to Chile.
My question is, is it the time for handing now to Chile this fleet of
Feith: I am not going to comment on the specifics of that case, other
than to say that the minister will be meeting with Secretary Rumsfeld
today. They're going to be talking about the upcoming ministerial
meeting of defense ministers that Chile is hosting, I believe, in
November. The ministerial will be taking place just a day or two
before the Prague NATO summit, which means you've got two enormously
important events back to back. And I think that they will -- those two
will help set a course of cooperation that the United States is going
to be pursuing with countries throughout Latin America, and then, a
day or two later, with the countries of Europe. And I think the
combination should help further dispel the large amount of persistent
nonsense about the United States as a unilateralist country. We have a
great interest in working with friends all around the world, and we
have lots of important defense relationships. And I think the
conference that Chile is going to be hosting in November is going to
help demonstrate that and advance that purpose.
An element of those relations is defense trade, as your question
highlights. But as I said, I don't want to get into the, you know,
specifics of particular arms sales right now.
Moderator:  (Off mike.)
Q: Giampiero Gramaglia, Italian news agency ANSA. Two related
questions, back to Afghanistan. First question: Last week Italy
committed some combat troops to the war against terrorism in
Afghanistan. Are more combat troops still needed in Afghanistan, and
what for?
Second question: Are you satisfied, one year after, with the level of
security and stability you described before in Afghanistan?
Feith: I would take the second question first. One is never satisfied
with the level of security and stability if one has to continue to
perform combat operations. Combat operations are a way of saying that
you're not quite satisfied. So there is more work to be done, and we
won't be satisfied until those kinds of operations are no longer
I guess that helps answer the first part of your question, which is,
why has the Italian government just said that it's going to send the
Alpini Battalion to Afghanistan? And the answer is that there is a
continuing requirement for combat operations, and that Italian
contribution is important and useful and much appreciated.
Moderator:  (Off mike.)
Q: Nick Childs from BBC. President Bush in his remarks last night on
Iraq made an appeal or issued a warning, depending on your point of
view, to Iraqi generals, should it come to a showdown, not to follow
the orders of Saddam Hussein if it comes to the use of chemical and
biological weapons, or they would be treated as war criminals. Given
the potential importance of this issue, can you say what else you
could do to get that message through to same generals or soldiers,
should it come to a showdown?
Feith: This is a subject about which we have given a fair amount of
thought, and it is clear to us that there are important conflicts of
interest between Saddam Hussein and his inner circle and virtually
every other group in Iraq. And the difference of interests is not
simply between the regime and all of its security forces, on the one
hand, and the people of Iraq, on the other, although there are
important differences there, but there are also important differences
within the ranks of the regime and its security forces.
And it is very well known that in the fighting in Desert Storm, back
in 1991, there were numerous defections by Iraqi armed forces. And
Saddam runs a singularly brutal and tight tyranny, presumably because
he has to; presumably, because if he didn't, the disaffection that
exists throughout the country, including among people in his
government and including among people in his armed forces, would
translate into action against him. And it's with a recognition of that
fact that we believe that officials and military officers will think
twice about fulfilling orders, in the event of a conflict; they would
think twice about fulfilling orders to use weapons of mass destruction
because if there were to be a military conflict, there is no question
about how it would ultimately come out. And there will be life after
the conflict, and people who have an interest in, you know, living
that life without being treated as war criminals will not want to
engage in the worst kinds of behavior and will not want to be
connected with the use of weapons of mass destruction.
Q: (Off mike) -- Egypt. You mention there will be life after Saddam
probably. In the case of Kosovo and Bosnia it was mentioned -- and
correct me, if I'm wrong -- that American troops are not trained for
peacekeeping, for peacekeeping and nation-building. Is there any
change now in the preparations so the issues of Iraq, and before that
Afghanistan, both these countries need peacekeeping, of course, first,
and then nation-building.
Feith: Well, I don't think it's correct to say that U.S. troops are
not trained in peacekeeping. That is one of the things that U.S.
troops know about and are trained to do.
The term nation-building has a lot of baggage in it, so I don't favor
that term. What I would say is, as I mentioned with regard to
Afghanistan, we recognize that we have a strategic interest in the
stability of Afghanistan, in helping to create the conditions that
will allow an Afghan government to assume responsibility for the
country, provide security in the country, lay a foundation for
economic activity in the country and prevent the country from
reverting to its status as a base of operations for terrorists.
And that -- we have a strategic interest in that. We do not want
Afghanistan to become once again a haven for terrorists.
In thinking about Iraq, we are considering, while the diplomacy is
going on in the hope that we can achieve our purposes without war --
we are naturally doing -- thinking about what might happen if there
were to be a war. And if there were, we recognize that the postwar
reconstruction efforts are enormously important and that we would have
an important responsibility. And I'm sure that the United States will
step up to that responsibility together with other countries.
And in a situation like that, one has to balance two important
thoughts and communicate two important thoughts. One of them is the
commitment after a conflict like the conflict in Afghanistan or a
possible conflict in Iraq -- the commitment to stay and fulfill one's
responsibilities, to lay the foundation for a degree of stability and
reconstruction in the country, and at the same time, the commitment to
leave -- because we have no interest in running somebody else's
country or owning somebody else's country or imposing our will on
other people. And it's important to strike that balance in a
responsible and prudent fashion so that you make sure that you take
care of the interests that led to the military action to begin with
but also show the appropriate respect for the rights of the people in
the country.
Moderator:  Take questions from -- (off mike).
Q: (Name inaudible) -- Czech Public Radio. I'd like to ask you, what
will be the priorities in Prague summit, and how the U.S. policy will
there react on the present stage of war -- terrorism?
Feith: The priorities for the Prague summit are to put NATO on course
where it can remain an important alliance that contributes not only to
the security of Europe but, more broadly, to the military capabilities
of all the alliance members to do important work globally.
There's a recognition that the kind of threats that we face as an
alliance are global and they can emanate from anywhere around the
world. And what NATO is interested in doing is operating -- I mean, to
put it schematically -- operating at three levels.
One is the level of strategy, and developing a common view of what the
global and strategic security environment is and where NATO fits in.
Secondly, at the level of capability, so that once NATO recognizes
that the security challenges are what they are, they are global, we
are going to have to react as an alliance to threats that we become
aware of on the basis of intelligence that is itself evanescent, and
if it's not acted upon quickly will be irrelevant. So NATO needs a
global capability, it needs a rapid action capability. And therefore,
it needs the kinds of equipment and the kinds of organization that
will allow it to do rapid action at long distances.
And then the third level is command control. It needs -- once it has
that strategic view and it has the right capabilities, it needs the
right kind of decision-making apparatus so that it can act quickly.
And those are, I think, three themes that weave together into a
concept of an important, relevant NATO moving forward to deal with the
kinds of problems that we anticipate having to deal with in coming
Thank you.
Moderator:  Thank you.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site:

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