Briefing on Dep. Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz' Presentation
September 26, 2001
We had a very good session this morning. I'll give you an overview of what the
presentation, U.S. presentation by Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, focused on. And
a general overview of my impressions on both reaction, as well as some thoughts
on what came out of the first session this morning.
Generally, the session generated an enormous solidarity with the United States,
an outpouring of feeling and some sense of emotion over the events of September
11th. In general, I think it was quite moving. Broad-based support for a campaign
against international terrorism, and I think a very fruitful discussion on the
modalities that countries might be able to bring to this problem.
The U.S. presentation focused mainly on our approach, that this is not going
to be a Gulf War type situation. That the threat is broad based; it is global.
And it is in many cases, subterranean. And it's going to take a broad based
global approach to deal with it. In particular, it's not only going to focus
on international terrorists and their networks but it will by necessity focus
on states that harbor international terrorists.
Another major point that we were trying to make here today was that this would
require a long-term commitment, this will be a sustained campaign. It is not
a one-battle war. It will require patience. And it will require that in particular
that we focus all the tools and strategy of national power and international
power. While this was one of the focuses of discussion, given the fact that
this was a room full of defense ministers, it was focussed on military issues.
The very important point that came out of this was that many of the appropriate
responses and techniques for dealing with the problem of international terrorism
transcend military. There was quite a bit of discussion about interrupting financial
networks, using economic tools and resources, applied in a variety of ways.
Some humanitarian and other ways to deal with this problem including diplomatic
efforts to isolate states that harbor international terrorists, as well as maintaining
political will to do so.
Another important point in our approach was to focus on the problem of weapons
of mass destruction. There is an alarming coincidence, and perhaps coincidence
is the wrong word, between those states that harbor international terrorists
and those states that have active and maturing weapons of mass destruction programs.
This raises the specter of potential access to weapons of mass destruction by
international terrorists. It also potentially creates a problem for dealing
with those states that harbor international terrorists so this was a focus of
I think the reaction to our presentation as well as the general outpouring of
solidarity was very positive. In fact, I can say there was not a negative tone
struck in the room the entire discussion time. I think NATO is firmly behind
the United States; I think the countries individually are behind the United
States. One of the things I think was emphasized, certainly by the U.S. but
even echoed by others, was that this effort is going to require really a myriad
of coalitions over a long period of time to deal with the problem and of transcending
many different countries.
One of the things that was a focus of our thinking and it was echoed by many
others was the idea that this is in no way a war against Islam or any other
religion or ethnic group. It is a war against terrorists. It is a war against
tyranny in its simplest form. And in fact we believe we have common cause with
many of the people who are living in the areas as directly or more directly
affected by international terrorists than the United States or many of the European
countries around the table.
Another important point that was made by our side, and I think also echoed by
other ministers, was that we must continue to focus as well on other important
issues, including the Balkans, the situation in Macedonia. And most particularly,
we must continue to devote attention to -- and the resources to -- transforming
our militaries to deal with these kinds of asymmetric threats.
Indeed, one of the key points is that two weeks ago, we were trying to determine
whether or not we could afford to spend five or ten billion dollars more on
our defense budget. Within one day, we completely changed that viewpoint. I
think there is a sense that more resources are going to have to go to transforming
the military so that it can help us along with other diplomatic, political and
financial means to deal with this kind of asymmetric threats.
With that I'll open the questions --
QUESTION: Are you shifting away from looking at Osama bin Laden? I mean is he still
viewed as the prime suspect, or is he sort of receding somewhat?
ANSWER: Well, you know the terminology of suspect makes it sound like a criminal
investigation, and we don't really view our approach to it that way.
QUESTION: The president has suggested that though --
ANSWER: I think that Bin Laden and his organization, the Al-Qaeda network, clearly
remain a focus of our attention. But one of the features of international terrorism
is that these networks overlap. They cooperate. They're transnational in character.
They deal with many states. I think the president has made it clear that dealing
with this problem in any sort of satisfactory way, comprehensive way, is going
to require the United States and those allies, coalition partners, look beyond
individuals and look beyond even individual networks.
QUESTION: I'm getting the sense here that the United States at this meeting is more
interested in looking at nonmilitary approaches that the NATO allies can intensify
together in this fight. I heard a stress on intelligence sharing. I heard a
stress on trying to unmask these people, go after their finances. Is that the
case, and is it the case that the United States, in terms of a military response,
is looking at a much more limited so-called coalition than NATO?
ANSWER: I wouldn't characterize the military and non-military things in an exclusive
way. Intelligence can help you to prepare the battlefield. Likewise military
action can help you to gather intelligence. And so these things cooperate, one
with the other. I think we're looking at the broadest range of actions. I think
what we are trying to highlight is -- perhaps unlike the Gulf War situation,
which was in its essence more purely military -- is that dealing with this problem
is going to require a broader set of tools. And one of the things that I would
really focus on is the financial network, the ability to shut off sources of
funding for these terrorist networks.
QUESTION: I heard concerns that some allies may find it harder to that, find it harder
to get at financial sources than others. Can you elaborate on that?
ANSWER: Well, I haven't seen any indications from discussions today that there's
any reticence to that. I think, generally speaking, ministers recognize that
this is a key tool and it's going to require that, in all of our governments,
that different components, different aspects of the government cooperate with
one another. This is not just a defense problem or Minister of Defense or a
DoD problem. It's a problem that transcends that, and it's going to require
coordination in our government among different governmental organizations. I
think that there was a recognition by the ministers that it's also going to
require similar coordination within their governments.
QUESTION: Two questions of precisely what happened. First of all, did the deputy secretary
deliver that confirmation that the attacks originated from abroad that are required
for Article Five to be invoked and to kick Article Five into effect? Was that
ANSWER: The presentation that the deputy gave focused on the themes that I gave you,
focused on our approach. It was not our intention to come here and deliver anything
specific, or even provide specific information on where we thought the attacks
came from. Our general view is that -- and I think the president has made clear
-- that we believe that these attacks came from an international terrorist network.
We're continuing to investigate the sources of that. But again, the broader
point must be made that we see this as a problem that cannot be solved by looking
at, or dealing with a single entity, a single individual. We feel that the events
of that day speak for themselves.
QUESTION: And secondly, did he make a list or any demand of kinds of things, precise
things, that the United States is looking for as it moves the campaign forward?
I mean, you've mentioned intelligence sharing, but there are other things. Is
it, you know, will we need commandos or overflight rights?
ANSWER: There was a broad discussion. I would characterize it as a broad discussion
of some of the things that the various countries could bring to bear, but the
United States certainly made no demands of anybody. And our intervention highlighted
some areas, intelligence sharing and the like, that we believe would be fruitful
for cooperation in the early phases of this very long campaign. But no, we did
not get into a discussion of sort of specific requests from specific countries.
QUESTION: You mentioned there's no coincidence and then you said, "Actually I
take that word back," but you mentioned reference of those states which
harbor terrorists and those who were potential for WMD. Could you elaborate
on that, and was Iraq brought up?
ANSWER: There was no specific discussion of countries. The concern about weapons
of mass destruction -- I say this is really two-fold. On the one hand the United
States, its allies and maybe in particular, our forces that would be deployed
abroad in support of this operation may have to deal with weapons of mass destruction
and weapons of mass destruction attacks.
Of course, the second issue has to do with whether or not some of these regimes
are potentially unstable, and it may well be that weapons of mass destruction
could fall into the hands of terrorist organizations and be used domestically.
So we highlighted that as an area that we think is something that the alliance
in general, but the United States in particular, is going to focus on over the
next weeks and months in dealing with this terrorist threat.
QUESTION: But you didn't talk about specific countries?
QUESTION: Did any of the Allies ask you specifically to lay out a date or a timeline
for military action?
ANSWER: No. The discussion was much more generalized
QUESTION: And the deputy secretary didn't do that?
ANSWER: No. And I wouldn't be able to comment on that anyway.
QUESTION: I'm not asking you for the date. I'm just asking you if the discussion took
place, and you say "No?"
ANSWER: No, it didn't take place.
QUESTION: In the bilaterals, do you anticipate making specific requests of the five
countries you'll be meeting with?
ANSWER: We have had good discussions in the bilaterals. Obviously, the nature of
any request that we would make would be something that we would not talk about
in public, since those requests might, in fact, deal directly with operational
security, and issues of maintaining operational security. I would characterize
our discussions as more of a general nature in this round of bilaterals.
QUESTION: Is the fact that Pakistan has nuclear weapons of paramount concern since
they are a potential partner in going after Afghanistan? But if it should work
the other way and the present government should somehow fall, couldn't those
nuclear weapons somehow fall into the hands of the Taliban? Is that something
that you're particularly concerned about?
ANSWER: I think obviously the fact that, even before this attack, the fact that Pakistan
had nuclear weapons was an issue of international interest. But I don't regard
it as a concern that is absorbing the focus of our government. It certainly
wasn't an issue that the Ministers decided to take up.
QUESTION: Was there any suggestion, in the discussion on Balkans, that the United States
might have to pull back at least some of its troops or assets in that region
as part of this war on terrorism, this struggle against terrorism?
ANSWER: We have not really discussed the issue of the Balkans. It was not really
discussed in the morning session. There may be some additional discussion of
that. The United States' commitment -- it's force commitment to the Balkans
-- remains solid. And at this point we do not foresee any need to have to do
that. But I am -- I would suppose that one option is if particular assets, for
example, what we call "low-density, high-demand assets" were required
elsewhere, that might be an area where we would go to an ally and request that
they provide kind of that capability.
QUESTION: What are some of these -- I've heard that phrase a couple of times today
and I'm not familiar that -- what are you talking about? Are these like the
drone spy planes?
ANSWER: Search and rescue, things like that.
QUESTION: It seems that a lot of the discussion by defense ministers has focused on
non-defense issues. Is that, I mean intelligence sharing can be a defense issue,
but interdicting finances and intelligence on identifying cells within various
countries aren't traditionally the purview of militaries. So why this forum
for those particular discussions?
ANSWER: I don't want to leave the impression that defense issues were left off the
table. These are ministers of defense. They are focused very much on defense
issues, allocations of defense assets and things like that. I think it was an
important point to make though - any opportunity we can make the point that
this will have to be a multifaceted campaign, that it cannot be viewed strictly
as that there is a military-only solution. The problem is something multifaceted
- and this is an opportunity to get ministers to have a discussion about this
and to take this discussion back to their capitals so that they can inform their