November 7, 2001
Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld updates the world on the war against terrorism:
JIM LEHRER: A month ago today, the United States and Britain launched the military campaign in Afghanistan. With us now for an extended Newsmaker interview, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Mr. Secretary, welcome.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Thank you.
|U.S. efforts against the Taliban|
JIM LEHRER: A month ago, how long does it seem to you?
DONALD RUMSFELD: A lot longer
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. In general terms what has been accomplished in this month?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, if you go back to the September 11th, almost two months ago, the first phase was necessary was to position forces in the region so that you had the ability to begin the operation in Afghanistan. Of course that involves a great deal, moving a lot of people, a lot of equipment, getting over flight rights, basing rights from various countries, negotiations and fashioning a plan.
The second month, as you point out, is one month ago now, on October 7th, we began the bombing campaign with coalition forces. What has been accomplished since then has been basically this: We have the first phase of it was to eliminate the air defense capability to the extent you're able to. That means radars, it means jet aircraft that they have, MiGs, some of their helicopters and transports -- also to address the SAM -- surface to air -- missile threat.
You cannot really deal with the man portables surface to air missiles that are of a much shorter range. They still have a good many of those and they probably have larger surface to air missiles. But for the most part we're now able to operate over the country in the air at altitude.
JIM LEHRER: But helicopters still....
DONALD RUMSFELD: Exactly, still at risk. And from the manned portable surface to air missiles, so that was the first phase. The second phase was to attack the terrorist training camps, the large military targets -- when I say large, medium sized military targets because there's nothing. They don't have an army or a navy or an air force as such to tackle. So it's a totally new situation. There's no road map. This has been never been done before.
The next phase has been to work with the forces on the ground that oppose the Taliban and oppose the al-Qaida who are really people from the Middle East who aren't from that country.
JIM LEHRER: The al-Qaida people, Osama bin Laden's people.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Exactly. And to go after them, to assist the opposition forces that are opposing those people - and we're doing that by going after their tanks, their armored personnel carriers, their people, their soldiers. And that process has gotten a lot better because we have been able to put some forces on the ground who are assisting with communications, they're assisting with targeting.
As those people got into the various factions on the ground, the targeting has improved and we've been able to do a much better job of destroying Taliban soldiers and equipment.
JIM LEHRER: These are our people you're talking about?
DONALD RUMSFELD: U.S. forces.
JIM LEHRER: Let's go through the Taliban now. Is the Taliban still in charge of Afghanistan?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Not really. It never really was a government. It's more of a movement. But given the fact that we are putting so much pressure on them, we're drying up money in bank accounts, we're arresting people around the world for... That are al-Qaida connected. And we are bombing.
Forces on the ground are pressing forward somewhat. And we're creating a situation where life is not easy for the Taliban or for the al-Qaida. That means that they're really not functioning as a government, as such. There's still... They're still a force to be contended with. They've got thousands of troops.
JIM LEHRER: How many thousand?
DONALD RUMSFELD: They have tanks.
JIM LEHRER: How many thousand?
DONALD RUMSFELD: No way to know.
JIM LEHRER: 40, 50 thousand they claim.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Probably in that range.
JIM LEHRER: Armed, trained people?
DONALD RUMSFELD: These are fighters, you bet. Most of the people that are left are fighters. Think of the Soviets pounded that country. These countries... These factions have been fighting against each other for years. It's a situation where the people who don't want to fight have pretty much left.
JIM LEHRER: Now what about tanks and armaments?
DONALD RUMSFELD: They have tanks.
JIM LEHRER: And good ones that work.
DONALD RUMSFELD: You bet. They have tanks that move and shoot; they have armored personnel carriers. They have artillery.
|What we've learned|
JIM LEHRER: When you started a month ago, you had some information about the Taliban. What have you learned about the Taliban in the course of this month that you did not know going in? What's the most important thing?
DONALD RUMSFELD: I guess one thing, it was unclear to me-and I think to most people -- we knew that the Taliban had invited in the al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden and the foreigners from the Middle East and that they were harboring those terrorists.
We knew that the al-Qaida was giving money to the Taliban, and it was not clear to me the extent to which they were philosophically and ideologically or religiously connected to al-Qaida. It still isn't, but the fact that they're hanging on and linking themselves so directly with al-Qaida, refused every offer to turn them in, every suggestion that they throw them out of their country, suggests that they're pretty well together now. They are one. That's fine. They both have to go.
JIM LEHRER: You thought it might be possible to split them off, right?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, we made that proposal as you may recall.
JIM LEHRER: I do.
DONALD RUMSFELD: It was unclear how they would respond because there was pressure in Taliban against Omar to... that argued that we don't want those people that aren't from our country. We don't want those terrorists.
JIM LEHRER: What have you learned about them in terms their tenacity, in terms of their toughness, in terms of their willing to fight to the last man as they claim they're willing to do?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, not much. I haven't learned much. These people were that way against the Soviets.
JIM LEHRER: You already knew that.
DONALD RUMSFELD: You bet. They have been fighting each other. Those that are left are fighters. That's what they do. When they get up in the morning.
|How smart is the enemy?|
JIM LEHRER: Do you feel like you're against a smart enemy, a lucky enemy, a fanatic? How do you characterize them?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, certainly, a large fraction of the ones that are left have to be of the bin Laden type, attitudinally, philosophically. And if you watch some of the tapes he's made and read some of his comments, it's chilling. I mean this is a man who rules everyone out who doesn't agree with him. And he's willing to kill as many tens of thousands of people as he's able to find.
JIM LEHRER: Have you had an occasion where something happened on the ground as a result of something we did and you said, oh, my goodness, the Taliban did something smart that you hadn't expected them to do that gave you an insight into their ability to function as an enemy?
DONALD RUMSFELD: They've been... We began with the recognition that people that were left in that country were survivors. They are people who live in a rough country, a hostile environment, difficult winters, a lot of mountains up North. And they have fought against the Soviets and threw them out. They fought against each other.
They've been in many cases quite violent to each other in terms of cruelty. And they also know their country well. They've got lots of caves, lots of tunnels. They use horseback and mule and donkeys to move around. They've been able to find ways to resupply themselves. But they're not invincible.
There's a big difference between this situation and the Soviets. The Soviets, they had a... the United States and others against them. There's no one today who is supporting Taliban. I mean the rest of the world is with us and against al-Qaida.