of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers
Press Briefing on Operation Enduring Freedom
October 18, 2001
2:00 P.M. EDT
RUMSFELD: Good afternoon.
The military campaign continued yesterday. Chairman Myers will provide some
details on battle damage. We continue to make progress in striking al Qaeda
and Taliban targets across Afghanistan in the north and in the south, and in
creating conditions that we believe will be necessary for sustained anti-terror
operations in the country.
We are grateful to many nations for contributing to this effort. I'll be meeting
with the Italian minister of defense this afternoon to thank him for his country's
support and to discuss the way ahead. The support of allies like Italy and other
friendly countries around the world, certainly including the NATO nations and
the AWACS that's now flying over the United States is critical to the success
of what will be a long and sustained campaign to liquidate terrorist networks
that threaten all of our people.
From time to time, I see references in the press to "the coalition"
-- singular. And let me reiterate that there is no single coalition in this
effort. This campaign involves a number of flexible coalitions that will change
and evolve as we proceed through the coming period. Let me reemphasize that
the mission determines the coalition, and the coalition must not determine the
mission. As President Bush has said, the mission is to take the battle to the
terrorists, to their networks, and to those states and organizations that harbor
and assist terrorist networks.
A month from now, I expect someone somewhere might report that a particular
nation is not doing something or has stopped doing something, and the speculation
could be "Is the coalition coming apart or unraveling?"
Well, let me make clear: No single coalition has "raveled," therefore,
it's unlikely to unravel. It is, as I say, a series of efforts that will involve
different nations at different times doing different things -- some will be
open, some will be less open. As far as we're concerned, that's fine. We want
their help, and we're much more interested in their assistance than we are in
exactly how they do it. Some nations, as you know, are contributing to the military
effort. Others are helping in the financial or economic, diplomatic fronts.
Some are assisting by filling roles that we otherwise would have to fill.
Tomorrow I'll have a chance in Missouri to visit with some of the men and women
in uniform and to thank them at Whiteman Air Force Base and the home of the
509th bomber wing that's flying B-2 missions over Afghanistan almost on a daily
basis. Each time we report on the progress of the war, we are talking about
the accomplishments of young men and women, brave Americans who each day risk
their lives so that the rest of us can live in freedom. The American people
are certainly proud of the pilots, the crews, the teams on the ground that support
these aircraft and these missions, as well as all the men and women who are
involved here at home and overseas. We're grateful for their courage, their
sacrifice, and I look forward to having a chance to thank some of them tomorrow
GEN. MYERS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
As the secretary said, we're well into the second week of the military portion
of our campaign against terrorism, and our operations continue today. We've
made progress in destroying or degrading the Taliban infrastructure and setting
the conditions for future operations, as well as furthering humanitarian relief
Yesterday, U.S. forces struck in more than a dozen target areas that included
terrorist camps and forces; Taliban military facilities, including missile,
vehicle and armor maintenance and storage sites; airfields; troop deployment
and garrison areas; and command and control facilities.
We used tactical aircraft, primarily carrier based, although we did use a small
number of F-15Es that operated from facilities in the region. And we employed
a few long-range bombers. We also used the AC-130 gunship again yesterday. The
carrier, USS Theodore Roosevelt, recently arrived on station in the region,
and her aircraft participated in yesterday's strikes.
We completed four more C-17 humanitarian airdrop missions yesterday, delivering
approximately 53,000 rations, and bringing the total number of rations to over
450,000. And we dropped leaflets in two separate locations in northeastern Afghanistan,
and we continued our Commando Solo radio broadcast missions in conjunction with
We have three video clips to show today. In the first clip, we see a headquarters
building at the Kabul deployment area in central Afghanistan. This facility
consists of buildings, training and firing ranges, vehicle maintenance and storage
for central Taliban corps. As you can see, the weapon hits the center of the
The second clip shows an armored vehicle in the open and the Kandahar barracks
in southern Afghanistan, one of the training facilities and garrisons for the
And the final clip shows a Taliban security post in southern Afghanistan. This
is an example of a target within an engagement zone, as we discussed yesterday,
and the target, a tank, is in a defensive position and is struck with a single
Finally, I'd like to talk directly to the troops that, as the secretary said,
are supporting this effort so well, and to the American people.
I firmly believe that this is the most important tasking the U.S. military has
been handed since the second World War. And what's at stake here is no less
than our freedom to exist as an American people. So there's no option but success.
We owe it to our families, and to the families of peace-loving nations to prevail
in this fight.
So, to every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman and DOD civilian,
and our allies and friends, I say let's stay ready, let's stay focused. Our
victory will be the nation's victory; in a sense, it will be the world's victory,
or for sure, those who love freedom.
We're ready to take your questions. Tony?
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are unmanned but armed Predators now flying over Afghanistan?
And if so, is this a kind of a watershed toward a future possible larger unmanned
RUMSFELD: At the moment, we've decided not to discuss exactly everything we're
doing with respect to Afghanistan. There is no question but that over recent
years, a number of countries have interested themselves in unmanned aerial vehicles
and that they have taken on a variety of roles. We're all aware that there was
a flight from the United States to Australia by the unmanned Global Hawk that
completed that flight successfully. They, for the most part, are engaged in
intelligence gathering, as we all know. And it seems to me that you might be
right that as we go forward, we may find that there are a variety of unmanned
vehicles of different types in different mediums that will be used by militaries
for a variety of purposes that previously had been solely conducted by human
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you've said several times since this began that Special
Operations forces are likely to play a role in this conflict. Could you discuss
a little bit what it is about the Special Operations that brings something unique
to this conflict at this juncture?
RUMSFELD: Well, yes. If you think of what one's options are, they're relatively
limited. The al Qaeda and the Taliban and terrorist networks anywhere in the
world are without armies and navies and air forces; therefore, one cannot deal
directly with those capabilities. Terrorist networks for the most part even
lack countries, although countries do harbor and facilitate and assist them.
Therefore, when -- one has to ask the question, "How do you deal with that?"
We know we can't deal with it through defense. The only defense against terrorism
is offense. You have to simply take the battle to them because everything --
every advantage accrues to the attacker in the case of a terrorist. The choice
of when to do it, the choice of what instruments to use and the choice of where
to do it, all of those things are advantages of the attacker.
That means that we simply must go and find them.
How do you do that? You don't do it with conventional capabilities, you do it
with unconventional capabilities. And therefore, the United States and other
countries in the coalition simply have to fashion ways to use the kinds of technologies
that we have and the kinds of capabilities that we've developed over years to
accomplish the task. And that means it's going to be a variety of different
things, as I say, some that are open and some that are less open.
QUESTION: So you don't find them from the air. In other words, the activities
that we've seen so far have been strictly from the air.
RUMSFELD: There are things you can find from the air. You can find clusters
of forces. You can find, as General Myers just pointed out, certain types of
weaponry, tanks or what have you. You can find buildings that are used as headquarters
or are storage areas for artillery and the like.
But you cannot really do sufficient damage in that regard, particularly in a
country that has been at war for ages and ages, and has been pummeled. So what
you have to do is you have to find ways to take all of these capabilities --
financial, economic, political, diplomatic, military, overt and covert -- and
create enough pressure that they have to move, that they can't -- that they're
in a situation that's uncomfortable, that's undesirable; it's either dangerous,
or the people there don't want them there, or the people that were there with
them are no longer with them. And it will be a series of small incremental things
that will alter the circumstance for those folks, and they'll end up having
to do things differently than they've been doing it, and they'll have to stay
on the run. And ultimately we'll find them.
GEN. MYERS: Could I just --
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could I just follow up on that, please?
GEN. MYERS: Let me just emphasize a point here the secretary has made. We have
said earlier that we're going to use the full spectrum of our military capability,
and the trick is trying to match capabilities to the effects that we want to
have on the war on terrorism. And that's something that General Franks considers,
you know, every day, all day long, trying to find the right capability. And
that's what it's all about.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary --
GEN. MYERS: And so it can be very conventional, like you're seeing now a more
conventional sort of thing; it can be unconventional, as the secretary said.
It's going to be this wide spectrum. And on any given day, it could be one or
the other or both.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we were told yesterday by a deputy director of operations
for the Joint Staff that the aerial -- the air tasking order is still being
sent back to Central Command in Florida, that the range of targets is being
set there before it's being sent out to the air controllers.
And yet you have told us that you were trying to streamline the operation. And
it does seem to many of us that maybe it's cumbersome, and maybe the business
of the command structure is not working. Are you going to move Central Command
or some authority closer to fray to have decisions made faster and closer to
RUMSFELD: General Myers and I have talked about that with General Franks. General
Franks is comfortable where he is at the present time. He is planning at some
point to possibly visit some aspects or elements of the forces in the region
and some of the important people who are cooperating with us there. But at the
present time, there's no chance -- there's no plan to permanently move his headquarters
from Florida to the region.
GEN. MYERS: The only thing I would say to that is I think certainly as far as
we're concerned, we've got the technology that they are linked very well with
the in-theater forces and the command- and-control elements that are in theater.
And I know of no instance where that has slowed anything down.
RUMSFELD: I agree, and I think the characterization that some have suggested,
that you're reflecting, that it's cumbersome, I think has not proven to be the
GEN. MYERS: And I would just only add that we do have one military commander
that has the responsibility, and that's General Franks down at CENTCOM, and
everybody understands that.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in 1993, U.S. Army Rangers were attacked by forces
in Somalia. Now, eight years after the fact, is there evidence that that was
-- that there was a connection between that event and Osama bin Laden and the
al Qaeda network? Are there still al Qaeda forces in Somalia, and would Somalia
be a possible future area where you might be forced to take action?
RUMSFELD: Well, Dick, calibrate me if I'm wrong. But I think that there is considerable
speculation that al Qaeda might have been involved. There is no question --
but I can't prove that. I'd have to go back and check and see. But I've read
the same speculation.
There is no question but that al Qaeda is still involved in Somalia. And we
don't discuss future operations.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as you break down the Taliban's military capability,
and other parts of the U.S. government are looking for a way to create something,
and you keep referring to the "post-Taliban era", is the Pentagon
prepared to continue to go about its business even if there is not any kind
of organized power-sharing organization in Afghanistan? You're going to continue
to pursue al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, regardless whether or not there is chaos
on the ground in Afghanistan? Can you help us with your vision of --
RUMSFELD: Well, of course, that is kind of a hypothetical question assuming
the worst. First of all, I don't know how you would characterize how Afghanistan
has been doing in the last five years.
So you have to realize what the base is. It was a nation that was pummeled by
the Soviet Union. It's a nation that's been in civil war. It's a nation where
people are starving. It's a nation where much of major cities are rubble. It's
a nation where there has been substantial out-migration within the country and
outside the country. So, to suggest that it was a happy situation, of course,
would not be correct, as you know well.
The situation on the ground is what it is. Our task is to go in and get the
terrorist networks and end that threat from Afghanistan. That's the Department
of Defense. The interest of the United States, of course, is much broader. We're
a nation that cares about human beings. It's not an accident that we were the
largest food provider in that country prior to September 11th, and there's no
question but that the United States would have an interest in helping a post-
Taliban Afghanistan because we do care about the Afghan people.
How that might shake out, how it might evolve, whether or not the U.N. or some
other multinational organization might have a role, I have no idea. And those
are things that would have to be thought through, and thoughtful, caring people
will be involved in that.
QUESTION: Would it be safe to say that your mission, as you define it, is going
to continue to focus and continue to operate regardless of what the post-Taliban
world looks like? You're going after your targets whether there is a coalition
government, power sharing, or chaos. You're focused like a laser on what you
need to do.
RUMSFELD: I don't know that I understand the question, but there's no question
but the president has asked us, the government of the United States and our
friends and allies around the world to go after terrorist networks, and we intend
to do that. There's also no question but the situation in Afghanistan has been
a terribly difficult one for years and years and years. And there's also no
question but that the United States and other nations would want to try to make
that better and do what we could to assist them at that point where Taliban
and al Qaeda have been dealt with. And I don't know how I can answer it better
QUESTION: General, yesterday the admiral said that Northern Alliance troops
were very close to taking over the airfield there in Mazer-e- Sharif. Can you
give us an update on that? And can you tell us if U.S. forces have directly
attacked Northern Alliance -- or areas where they're facing Taliban troops?
RUMSFELD: I thought you said "General," didn't you?
QUESTION: I said "General."
RUMSFELD: Oh, good! Oh!
I'm the secretary, you're the general. Right. (Laughter.)
GEN. MYERS: Finally got that straight. I've been confused! (More laughter.)
I think we've indicated in previous briefings -- and some of the targets that
I read out talked about the Taliban forces that we're going after, and some
of those are arrayed against the Northern Alliance. So the answer to the second
part of your question is yes.
QUESTION: Okay, if I could follow up. Why is it taking so long, do you think,
for the Northern Alliance to maybe have success there in Mazar-e Sharif? And
are the U.S. forces helping at all?
GEN. MYERS: Why is it taking so long? I mean, they've been at it for years.
It seems like they've made a little bit more success -- at least we hear they
have. But information is imperfect, and that's one of the issues that we have
with this whole effort; the intelligence is imperfect. It is in most conflicts;
it is particularly in this conflict. So we get scraps and we get bits, and we
think they're making progress. And beyond that, I'd rather not comment.
RUMSFELD: I don't know that I would say 10 or 11 days is long.
QUESTION: General, there were some reports coming from Iran saying that ground
troops were -- have been moved to Afghanistan, into Afghanistan. Can you tell
us if you have some information about it?
And also, how important do you think has been in this war the artificial intelligence
and how it's going to help to modernize and transform the U.S. military in the
GEN. MYERS: Well, in terms of troops, I'll just go back to what I've continued
to say. We are prepared to use the full spectrum of our military capabilities.
Obviously, that's not just bombers, that's just not carrier-based aircraft,
that's other assets as well. We talked earlier about special forces. So that's
The other piece is that in terms of the ongoing operation, I'm not going to
comment specifically on what we're doing because if it has the potential to
bring harm to our forces that are engaged, I'm just not going to do that.
On the second part, I think, obviously, artificial intelligence, it will be
important as we transform. I mean, I think that's pretty obvious. I don't think
we want to go into much more on that.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I wonder if you can give us an update on the Pentagon's
anthrax vaccine program? The sole manufacture in Michigan hasn't produced vaccine
for quite some time, and it could be months before they can start producing
again. You have a minimal amount of vaccine, and you're only doing a certain
number of troops, small numbers of troops.
And finally, last week there was a petition sent to FDA by military officers,
and others, calling for them to pull the license and destroy the stockpiles
of the vaccine.
Can this program be saved, do you think, or are you going to look at alternatives
to the vaccine?
RUMSFELD: We're going to try and save it. There have been other efforts that
have failed over a period of years. And it may or may not be savable, but I
met this morning with Pete Aldridge and David Chu, and we discussed this at
some length. And they or their representatives are going to be meeting with
people from HHS and Secretary Thompson's office and try to fashion some sort
of an arrangement whereby we give one more crack at getting the job done with
that outfit. It's the only outfit that -- in this country that has anything
underway, and it's not very well underway, as you point out. We're trying to
fashion a way that the -- it's a combination of things, but they have not been
approved by the FDA, as I understand it. They do not have what looks to be --
well, I shouldn't be characterizing a private entity that way, but things have
not been going swimmingly for them. And what we're trying to do is figure out
a way where we might get some help so that they might improve their performance.
QUESTION: Can you give us a sense of what the options are here to speed up the
approval process? What do we -- what's the sense?
RUMSFELD: Until they come back after meeting with the folks at HHS and meeting
with the folks at the company and thinking through some ways that the company
might have a better prospect of success, I'd be disinclined to --
QUESTION: Okay, what about alternatives? Are you looking at buying more antibiotics
RUMSFELD: I think you'd have to talk to Dr. Chu.
QUESTION: General Myers.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on the subject of anthrax --
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could I ask about the level of damage done so far to
al Qaeda itself in these military strikes? We hear a lot about the Taliban,
but what about what the military strikes have accomplished where al Qaeda's
concerned? And there are also some reports today of a senior lieutenant to bin
Laden who may have been been killed in the strikes. Is that accurate?
RUMSFELD: Well, is it accurate that a senior lieutenant of al Qaeda might have
been killed? Yes. It might have happened. (Laughter.) Do I know it of certain
knowledge? No, I've not been on the ground. But it would be a good thing for
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary --
QUESTION: And the level of damage to al Qaeda more broadly?
RUMSFELD: It's tough to say. Do you want to?
GEN. MYERS: No, I -- the only thing I would say is that the emphasis at first
here, as we've talked about, is to set the conditions for exactly, Tammy, what
you're asking about, and that is to take out the terrorist network. Where we
see emerging targets that we think are al Qaeda, we go after them. And of course,
we have done some of that with their training camps and so forth. We have undoubtedly
-- there have been some al Qaeda personnel no doubt caught up in some of those
In terms of the major personalities, 10, 15, 20? As the secretary says, we don't
know for sure. But what we're doing today is trying to set the conditions for
our efforts against al Qaeda. So it'll come.
QUESTION: General? Does the Pentagon have a clear idea of the size of the Taliban's
arsenal of Stinger and other shoulder-firing missiles?
And up to this point, do you know if any of those missiles have been fired during
the current operation?
GEN. MYERS: I would say that we don't have a perfectly clear idea of how many
they have. We have a pretty good estimate, and we've said in the past that it's
been in the low hundreds, 2(00) to 300. Whether or not they've been fired or
not, I do not know.
QUESTION: How successful, sir, have you been at targeting the 55th Brigade,
which is the part of al Qaeda devoted to strictly to Taliban support?
GEN. MYERS: Again, specific bomb damage assessment for units on the ground is
yet to be determined for those kind of units. So I'd just -- I hesitate to say
how successful we've been.
RUMSFELD: I will say this. We do see snippets of information, intelligence information,
that suggests that the level of effect has improved in recent days, and that
we're seeing some people as -- part of Taliban starting to decide that they'd
prefer not to be part of Taliban. And we have seen some movement of what we
believe to be the al Qaeda forces, and they have been specifically targeted
while they were moving.
QUESTION: Sir, you call this the most significant war since World War II. Can
you expand on why you reached that conclusion and why you chose now to convey
that message to the troops?
GEN. MYERS: Well, I've conveyed it before to the troops, and I've said things
like that before. But I thought this forum, since this gets pretty good distribution
-- that I would say it again, because I think it's important for our troops
to understand, if they're in uniform today, it's different than being in uniform
any other time, I think, except for that World War II period, because this is
clearly -- as September 11th has showed, it's a direct threat on the United
States and, for that matter, all peoples who love freedom and live in freedom.
They passed the weapons of mass destruction barrier on September 11th for sure,
at least in my mind. So -- and it's global in scale, and it's going to be a
So I think, at least in my 36 years of wearing this uniform, this is the most
significant task I've ever been asked to undertake, and I think for our country
it is as well.
QUESTION: Sir, as I understand it, the limitations of these briefings are that
you discuss not today's operations nor tomorrow's, but previous -- yesterday
and previous. Am I correct about that?
RUMSFELD: Uh-oh, I have a feeling something's going to happen next. (Laughter.)
GEN. MYERS: I think the hook -- well, I think we just got the -- the hook is
being set. (Laughter continues.)
RUMSFELD: I don't know. I mean --
QUESTION: You give me too much credit, sir. (Laughter.) My question is, has
there been yesterday or previously U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan in this
RUMSFELD: We have decided that until we have an activity that is significant
and noticeable, that it's probably not useful to get into those kinds of questions,
because they can change from time to time.
QUESTION: What about forward air controllers?
RUMSFELD: The answer can change from time to time.
QUESTION: Forward air controllers, Mr. Secretary, on the ground.
RUMSFELD: I'll stick with my answer. I liked it.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on the subject of --
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I wanted to ask you to go back a minute. You had said
something about that you had seen the movement of al Qaeda troops. Can you expand
on that --
RUMSFELD: We believe.
QUESTION: Well, you're --
RUMSFELD: It's hard from the air, but we believe.
QUESTION: Well, what do you -- all right. What have you seen, or what do you
think possibly may be going on? Where are they moving? And I guess the ultimate
question, then, is, if you do believe that's happening, if you do believe there
are Taliban defections, what would you advise Taliban or al Qaeda forces who
don't want to be killed and who don't want to defect to the Northern Alliance,
what should they do?
RUMSFELD: Well, we're giving them some suggestions in leaflets, and radio, and
other ways, that it would be highly desirable for them to not be involved with
al Qaeda and not be involved with the foreign invaders and not be involved with
terrorists and not be involved with the Taliban leadership that has made the
country so hospitable for those folks. And what happens is, you get bits of
information as to where people might be -- al Qaeda forces -- and you then try
to find them. And to the extent you, in that process, see people moving, that
then you attempt to attend to that.
QUESTION: But are you offering them any option for surrendering to custody of
any forces, or do they just stop their activities, or what is it --
RUMSFELD: These folks are pros. They're clever. They've been around a long time.
They're survivors. They've changed sides three or four times probably before
and may again. They don't need me to give them a road map.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, is there any evidence that the anthrax that's come
in letters to the United States is from Iraq? Do you have any evidence -- and
in retrospect, might it have been a mistake in 1998, during Operation Desert
Fox, not to have targeted facilities that would produce anthrax?
RUMSFELD: That's pretty much an issue for intelligence and for law enforcement,
and I'm going to leave it to those folks.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you've expressed, and others in this building have
expressed some frustration that these daily briefings tend to put the focus
on what you can talk about -- the bombing raids and what not, and you've repeatedly
stressed that covert operations are going to be significant. I wonder if you
can give us some perspective as to what fraction of the ongoing military operations
are the sort of things that you can talk about, what fraction are things that
you simply cannot.
RUMSFELD: Boy that's a tough question. I think the way to think of it is, everyone
here in the Pentagon press corps is knowledgeable about the capabilities of
the aircraft and weapons that are currently being used, and you know they're
powerful and they know they can do certain things within reasonable degrees
of accuracy. And we also know they can't do other things. They can't crawl around
on the ground and find people.
That being the case, what one has to do is to start out by trying to create
an environment in the air that our forces can function in reasonable safety,
and second, then to develop interaction with the ground so that one can develop
targets and get good information that is better than one can get from the air,
and coordinate an air-ground effort. And there are clearly forces on the ground
that are anxious to rid the country of al Qaeda and to rid the country of Taliban,
and they've been trying to do that before September 11th, and they're still
trying to do it.
And what's different today is they have some help. They're going to have some
help in food, they're going to have some help in ammunition, they're going to
have some help in air support and assistance. And one would think that if it's
done reasonably well and over a period of time, that they may have more success
than they were able to have prior to getting that kind of assistance.
And it is impossible for me to reach in and grab a fraction, a percentage, and
say this is more important than something else. I think it's going to be a combined
effort that is going to create an environment that's inhospitable for the people
we want to have out of there.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, does that mean that your optimal scenario is one in
which you don't really need to put U.S. ground forces into Afghanistan because,
as you point out, there are forces on the ground who have been fighting the
Taliban for a long time?
RUMSFELD: No. The optimal scenario would be that they would all decide to leave
the country and turn themselves in. And that would be --
QUESTION: Well, the next --
RUMSFELD: Just below that?
QUESTION: Just below that. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary?
QUESTION: Yesterday President Bush was saying that they were -- you were paving
the way to the entrance of friendly troops. What troops he meant?
RUMSFELD: I beg your pardon?
QUESTION: President Bush have mentioned yesterday that the U.S. forces were
paving the way for the entrance of ground troops, friendly ground troops. What
forces he was referring to?
RUMSFELD: I don't know the reference, but I assume what he was saying is what
I've been saying, that there are forces on the ground that are opposed to the
Taliban and opposed to the al Qaeda: the Northern Alliance factions, the tribes
in the south. And our effort would be to try to make them successful, to do
things that are helpful to them so that they have the opportunity to move forward,
as they are, towards Mazar-e Sharif; to move forward, as they are, towards the
northeast, where there is an al Qaeda unit that they've been working on; to
move south towards Kabul, where the Taliban forces are defending between --
to the north of Kabul; to move in the south -- I'll stop. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you. We're all getting anecdotal tales from the frontlines,
and much that is coming across suggests that the United States is not to a large
extent going after some of the dug-in forces, particularly on the plain north
of Kabul. I understand why the United States is restrained in its military operations
when it's regard to -- with regard to civilian casualties and concerns about
that. But in other areas, what would be the reason for any kind of restraint,
military restraint, in this campaign? The longer it goes on --
RUMSFELD: Deconfliction. Deconfliction. You want --
GEN. MYERS: Good intelligence.
RUMSFELD: You need good intelligence so you don't end up doing things to people
on the ground who are opposed to the Taliban, and that means you need good communications,
as the general said.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what information do you have about civilian casualties
at this point, during the entire operation? And collateral damage broadly, but
civilian casualties specifically.
RUMSFELD: We've got practically no hard information from the ground because
we've been using the weapons in areas that are not controlled by friends. Therefore,
the information from the ground tends to be self-serving, and to the extent
Taliban wants to show anyone anything, they take them out to something that
they contend is a wrong-doing of some kind.
There was what sounded to me to be a reasonably balanced report from somebody
that there might have been four people killed in a house, that we talked about
on a earlier day here, that was the result of an errant weapon going to the
-- not to the helicopter it was aimed at, but to a house that was about a mile
away. There's also a report that sounds reasonable that several people were
wounded when an errant -- it wasn't errant -- it hit a building that we had
been told was a Taliban warehouse. It turns out it may have had some Red Cross
activity in it, and there may have been several people wounded there.
The numbers that Taliban has been floating out in the media are -- we are certain
-- false in terms of larger numbers than that. And we also have anecdotal information
from the ground that people on the ground are impressed by the fact that they
can basically go about their business, in many respects, and not fear from the
bombing that's taking place because the bombing that's taking place is, as I
say, focused on military targets; it's focused, for the most part, outside of
these towns. And when television says we're bombing Kabul, we're not bombing
Kabul. We may take out a single location in Kabul, but most of the effort is
on the outskirts of Kabul in unpopulated areas and military targets.
GEN. MYERS: Let me just talk about the alleged bus incident. They have looked
at that very hard in the area that they said the bus was in. They've looked
at the targets we struck in that area, and we can find no evidence that the
bombs went anywhere other than they were supposed to go, and no evidence of
that at this point. So --
RUMSFELD: There's three things you should remember -- there's three places it
can come from. One is from the air, which would be coalition forces. Another
is from the ground, the ground fire, AAA and ground missiles that are going
up and have to come down, and may or may not be well directed. And the third
is there are people fighting on the ground. There are opposition forces that
are competing against al Qaeda and Taliban. So an assumption that a particular
event was the result of one of those three, without very good information, it
seems to me, is somewhat speculative.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary --
QUESTION: When you say --
RUMSFELD: Torie has been standing, suggesting that it's --
QUESTION: -- that forces on the ground may get some help from the United States,
and you mention ammunition, are you suggesting that --
QUESTION: And air support.
QUESTION: Excuse me. Are you suggesting that you may be supplying the Northern
Alliance or other opposition groups with ammunition and supplies? And how would
you go about doing that?
QUESTION: And with air support?
QUESTION: (Off mike) -- are supplying them?
RUMSFELD: I am verifying the statement I made the first day, and that was that
those that are against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, we would like
to be successful. And we have been and will do things that we're capable of
doing that are helpful to them in their efforts to try to root out the terrorist
and the terrorist network that exists there, and the Taliban government that
has brought such terrible, terrible damage and carnage to the Afghan people.
QUESTION: But you mentioned weapons -- you mentioned weapons. Are you supplying
(No response from the secretary has he leaves the podium)