DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD: Good afternoon.
This week we enter the second month of the war in Afghanistan. General Myers will make some comments on the latest activity on the ground and the air against the terrorists.
First, I'd like to caution everyone that this effort against terrorism and terrorists is far from over. The war is not about one man or one terrorist network or even one country, it's about a problem that infects this globe of ours with a number of terrorist networks and cells in dozens and dozens of countries. It's about a problem that needs to be stopped, because, as the president said, terrorism is a threat that cannot be ignored, nor can it be appeased.
Every nation in the world has a stake in this cause, and while not every nation can be a part of every single activity, every nation, and particularly our coalition partners, are a part of the solution. And it has been the collective pressure among all of those countries, applied in a variety of ways, that is beginning to have effects that can be seen. There clearly have been effects before this week that were not seen.
We are clearly in this for the long haul. We do need to find the leadership of Al Qaeda and the leadership of the Taliban and the senior people and to stop them. And then we need to address that network and other networks elsewhere in the world. But it will take time. At present, a number of American special forces teams are working with the opposition. Every day the targeting and effectiveness has improved, and that has clearly played a critical role in killing Taliban and Al Qaeda troops, disrupting their supply lines, damaging their communications and making their lives unpleasant. We also have special operation forces functioning in the south of the country, and that will help as well.
In the short term, we will be focused on finding the Al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan. That's our goal, let there be no doubt. We will also, of course, be focusing on the task of opening a land bridge to Uzbekistan and repairing some airports probably in the Mazar-e-Sharif area and undoubtedly north of Kabul as well so that humanitarian aid can be brought in.
The forces of Taliban and Al Qaeda have several choices. They can flee and reorganize in the south. They can flee and melt into the countryside, or they can defect. If they reorganize in the south, we're going to go get them. If they go to ground, we will, as the president said, root them out. And if they decide to flee, I doubt that they'll find peace wherever they select.
As you know, they have some neighbors and they could attempt to flee there in Iran or Pakistan. They have some locations where they have previously been located, such as Somalia or Sudan. There are terrorist states that in the past have housed terrorists and terrorist networks and they're all listed on the list — countries like Iraq and Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea and the like.
For those who may have forgotten just what kind of people we've been dealing with in Afghanistan and deal with today, what sort of people these terrorists are, what acts they are committing against their own people and what their ultimate objectives are, in Afghanistan women have been persecuted, denied education, confined to the home. Men are routinely jailed for the most trivial offenses — too short a beard, possession of a television. Religion can be practiced only as Taliban dictate. They have their Ministry of Vice and Virtue which enforces their rules. And while the Afghan people live in poverty, the terrorist oppressors spend millions of dollars training people and sending them all over the globe to kill people.
They traffic in opium, worsening the conditions of Muslims throughout the world. At a time when millions of Afghans are starving, in search of food and water, they have disrupted the distribution of international aid, seized warehouses of food intended for the poor and created catastrophic starvation.
Nongovernmental workers have been intimidated and afraid to tell the truth for fear of being beaten or shot.
While the United States of America goes out of its way with the coalition partners to avoid casualties and to limit collateral damage, the Taliban and Al Qaeda hide their leaders in mosques and use holy places for command and control and for the storage of ammunition. They place armor and artillery near schools and hospitals, and in other areas where there are large numbers of innocents, using children and the infirm as shields. They station anti-aircraft batteries on tops of buildings.
In a few minutes, I think General Myers will have something else to say about that. But it's little wonder that in many of the cities that are being liberated, we hear music being played and people being welcomed. They have been starved and repressed by the Taliban.
I would just say that it is my view that the Taliban ought not to be granted moral equivalence. In short, they've made Afghanistan a synonym for terror, and this is the model they seek to bring to all Muslim governments through instability and unrest.
MYERS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and good afternoon.
We are now into our 38th day of coalition combat operations, as the secretary said, against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
As you are certainly aware, we have made advances over the weekend by the Northern Alliance, and it is has clearly altered the situation, at least somewhat, in Afghanistan.
Last Friday, the Northern Alliance controlled less than 15 percent of Afghanistan, and today they have forces in about half of the country. And while the situation is still dynamic, a few facts are clear. Starting with the attack on the key northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif on the 9th, Northern Alliance commanders have now taken all northern provinces. By Monday morning, they had fundamentally cut Afghanistan into two areas of control, but we must keep in mind that pockets of resistance do remain.
This morning, the Northern Alliance reached the outskirts of Kabul. Several important factors lay behind the advances by the opposition forces. First, I would say the coordination among the Northern Alliance commanders contributed to a tactical victory at Mazar-e-Sharif.
Second, coalition air attacks certainly assisted in neutralizing Taliban capabilities.
And I'd say in that regard, in both those former regards, we can pass kudos to our special forces liaison teams and with the opposition. Finally, the advances of the Northern Alliance could not have been achieved without the Afghan citizens rejecting Taliban control, and in some areas, Taliban forces deciding to ally themselves with opposition rather than face destruction.
At this point, we believe the Taliban appears to have abandoned Kabul, and some Northern Alliance forces we know are now in the city. As far as Al Qaeda is concerned, coalition and Northern Alliance efforts have degraded some of Al Qaeda's fighting units and destroyed areas where they might hide. That said, the Al Qaeda terrorist organization remains dangerous and our overall campaign objective remains to destroy Al Qaeda and break the Taliban's hold on Afghanistan. So while the efforts on the ground are encouraging, we will continue our fight against terrorism.
To add to the update you received over the weekend, airstrikes yesterday focused on supporting the opposition groups. We also struck terrorist and Taliban command and control locations in caves and tunnels. We have specific numbers from yesterday and a map slide that we'd like to hand out to you following this briefing.
I do have one image for you. It is not a before and after, but rather an example of how the Taliban have parked tanks and other vehicles very near religious sites and residences. Hopefully you can see from the picture there, the distance from the tanks that are indicated by the arrows to both the old tomb or mosque in the center and the houses nearby would make it difficult to strike without causing unintended damage to the nearby residence or the religious structure.
We do have five videos today. The first two videos show strikes on November 9 against Taliban military vehicles in the process of withdrawing from the city of Kunduz. The first depicts a direct hit on one of the trucks in a convoy that is departing the area. The second video gives us another look at a hit on a withdrawing armored column. The next video shows Taliban military vehicles in a convoy withdrawing from the recently captured Mazar-e-Sharif, again on November 9. On the left-side of the screen, you can also see other Taliban military vehicles that were destroyed or are burning. The fourth clip is a little different look at one of the convoy strikes from Friday, showing a Taliban military vehicle proceeding down a road near Bagram. At this particular moment anyway, it was a fortunate day for the driver. As you can, the bomb lands just behind the vehicle as it speeds down the road.
And the last video shows a coalition strike on Saturday the 10th, against part of a key Taliban trench system set up to defend the approach to Taloqan. It was important for these trenches and others like them to be cleared to open the way for the Northern Alliance to advance.
And with that, we're ready for your questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you said you're going to improve air bases near Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul to provide humanitarian and other aid. Does this mean you're going to quickly move U.S. troops, perhaps large numbers of your troops into Afghanistan to protect those bases, to improve those bases, so that not only could you provide humanitarian aid, but perhaps launch special forces and other strikes against the Taliban in the south?
RUMSFELD: Well, to the extent an air base is established — and it will have to be repaired, undoubtedly, because we've damaged most of the air bases; the runways, they'll have to be filled in, and that'll take people to do that, and it certainly would take some people to provide force protection — I would not think I'd want to characterize the numbers of people with an adjective, but there is no question you do have to fix things and you do have to provide force protection.
QUESTION: So you will move U.S. forces into that area to do that?
RUMSFELD: I didn't say that. It will take people. Whether they'll be U.S. or some other countries is one of the questions that's open.
QUESTION: And force protection might be other countries or would it be U.S.?
RUMSFELD: It would vary. And we don't have any announcements to make. General Franks at CENTCOM has — gosh, you must have 15, 20 countries represented with liaison officers.
And what happens, needless to say, what's taking place here is very fast-moving. There have been a number of cities that have been evacuated and abandoned by the Taliban, and what they do there is they sit down and look at the capabilities of the various countries that are participating. They then discuss what kinds of things might be appropriate for the coalition forces to do. And then it goes back up the political chain for discussion, and then ultimately it is agreed and something gets announced by the countries involved.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned the options available to the Taliban and Al Qaeda as they depart from the north part of the country. Is there actually a sanctuary for them in Kandahar, and have they taken these eight aid workers with them out of Kabul? Do you know?
RUMSFELD: We needless to say are very interested in the detainees and I don't have anything I can report at the present time other than to say that we're interested and attentive. I unfortunately have been in meetings with President Putin and President Bush and at lunch with them, and I have not received any information in the last probably two hours about Kandahar, but there is no question that the Taliban and the Al Qaeda continue to have large numbers of forces, and most of them are no longer in the north. Some are, and some are moving. There are forces moving out of Kabul.
Where they're going to decide to go, whether it's going to go across a border or they're going to try and consolidate near Kandahar or some other location in the mountains — those are questions that they're going to have to answer for themselves. I doubt if they've made those decisions, because they are having some communication difficulties.
QUESTION: Are you and General Myers surprised at the rather sudden movement of the Taliban out of Kabul and moving apparently in the direction of Kandahar, but moving nevertheless? And if so, do you attribute that largely to the bombing campaign of the B-52s and those big 15,000-pound daisy-cutter weapons? Or is there some other reason why they moved so quickly?
RUMSFELD: Well, I'm not a psychiatrist and there is no way I can climb in their heads, individually or collectively, and know why they're doing what they're doing. We do know our plan from the very beginning involved putting pressure on the Taliban and the Al Qaeda. The first thing General Franks said was to set the conditions for a sustained effort, and he did that, and then the pressure has been applied. It has been applied through law enforcement, by arresting people and learning things. It has been applied by sharing intelligence. It has been applied by freezing bank accounts and we know their money has gotten skinny.
Pressure has been applied by modest numbers of U.S. forces in the country doing various things that complicate their lives. Clearly, pressure has been applied by the Northern Alliance as they have positioned themselves to take advantage of the improved circumstances. And as General Myers said, there is just no question but that once we got special forces on the ground and the targeting started improving and the skill on the part of the special forces, working with the Northern Appliance people, the forces in the north — that combination has done a good deal to kill Taliban and Al Qaeda troops and to damage their equipment and to make their life very difficult.
QUESTION: General Myers particularly, looking at the situation, does it seem like what the Taliban did as a strategic withdrawal as they are claiming, or is it a retreat in defeat? And are they being pursued by U.S. strike forces as they go down south?
MYERS: Well, I would just echo what the secretary said just a minute ago, is that we think we have degraded their command and control to the point where it is not as effective as they would certainly like it. I mean, to know definitively is an unknowable right now. So I would think it's a retreat — I mean, it's a combination of things. It is defections and it is withdrawal and it is just trying to blend into the landscape, I would think.
And so, it appears to be more disorganized than organized. I think they are very frustrated that they were not able to reinforce the militia as they thought they could, and that was what General Franks wanted to do in the first couple of nights of this particular conflict, if you remember, taking out their transport aircraft and as many helicopters as he could find. So that's part of it.
And yes, as they retreat, we are looking for Taliban on the move, either east or west out of Mazar-e-Sharif, or south out of Kabul, or for that matter east out of Kabul. The trick is trying to differentiate between Taliban and other forces and other peoples that may be leaving those locations, and that's very, very difficult. And General Franks is putting a premium on being able to do just that differentiation.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, how confident are you that Usama bin Laden is still in Afghanistan? And does the disarray there now make it easier or harder to get at him?
RUMSFELD: You know, gradations of confidence as to the location of someone...
QUESTION: Are you confident?
RUMSFELD: ... that we don't know where he is, is not easy. I don't even know how to answer that. My guess is that the disarray in the country, to the extent that it exists in certain portions of the country, is an advantage in terms of ultimately locating the people we are looking for, the top leadership of both those organizations. I say that because to the extent that there are more opponents of the Al Qaeda and Taliban in more parts of the country, one would think more information will ultimately become available.
Furthermore, it should be pointed out that we have substantial rewards out for information and for the locations of those folks. And it may very well be that money will talk at some point.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned the special operations forces in the south. Could you talk about that a little more? Are they making inroads with the tribes down there? How successful have they been?
RUMSFELD: They are currently functioning independently of the tribes — the ones I was referring to are. And they are doing things that are helpful to our side and unhelpful to the other side.
QUESTION: Airstrikes and so forth?
RUMSFELD: They're doing a full range of things.
QUESTION: Could you describe their numbers, sir? You have in the past talked about a modest number. Is that what you are talking about in the south now, too?
RUMSFELD: Sure, for the sake of argument.
QUESTION: I guess I'm trying to compare it to what sounded like a few dozen...
RUMSFELD: That's good enough.
QUESTION: Is that what you...
RUMSFELD: This is not thousands.
QUESTION: Can I ask a follow-up question, please?
RUMSFELD: You bet.
QUESTION: And that has to do with what General Myers said about blending into the landscape. That raises the possibility that ultimately Taliban forces might take to the hills and the caves and operate (inaudible). Is that a worry of yours?
RUMSFELD: It's a possibility. Everything is a concern because it's a complicated country, it's a difficult country. There are lots of caves. There are lots of tunnels, lots of mountains. And it is not an easy task. We said that at the outset. We've been hard at it and progress is being made, but it is not something that is done until it's done, and it is going to take a lot of effort from here on in to find the leadership of those two organizations.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you explain the justification for attacking military troops in retreat?
RUMSFELD: They have been, obviously, offered an opportunity to surrender. And in the history of warfare when things are not going well for an organization, that is often an opportune time to make progress. And I think that it is an important time, because they are not attacking, they are retreating. And they are not surrendering. They are not throwing down their weapons. They are moving their vehicles, and it is a perfectly legitimate and attractive target, and we intend to take every opportunity to do that.
The general points out the problem, not so much in the north, but coming out of Kabul, is that they have taken any number of the NGOs' vehicles and they are not visibly in many instances functioning as military units, which makes it very difficult for the people to sort them out, because we have to sort them from the air. We're not physically on the ground south of Kabul to interdict the roads.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, and also for the general, there have been reports that Jalalabad may have — there may have been an uprising there, and the Taliban may have withdrawn from Jalalabad. And also there have been reports of fighting for an airfield near Kandahar. Do you know anything about the situation in either of those places?
MYERS: We've heard reports of both of those and they are unconfirmed. I think in both cases in the south, by Kandahar, it was perhaps one of the tribal groups that perhaps threatened the airfield, and that's all we know at this point, and the same thing in Jalalabad.
RUMSFELD: One of the encouraging things is of course that as movement occurs in the north, that some of the tribes in the south will decide to become more active.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what is your most urgent concern at this point besides targeting the Taliban? Would it be getting more humanitarian aid in as quickly as possible or to get some sort of troops or peacekeeping force in to prevent any possible reprisals or possible atrocity?
RUMSFELD: Well, I would say that the CINC's first priority is unquestionably tracking down the leadership in Al Qaeda and Taliban. I would say the second priority is destroying the Taliban and Al Qaeda's military capability, which is what props up that leadership, and tracking it down, finding it, and destroying it.
Third, there's no question but that the U.S. presence is modest on the ground. It has been working with the forces that have been opposing the Taliban and the Al Qaeda. And they have been urging them to create a presence that is professional and will be stabilizing in those cities.
And fourth, as you suggested, we have to find ways, preferably by land, but if necessary by air, to see that we begin the kinds of humanitarian assistance that these people are clearly going to need.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you cautioned us in the beginning not to read too much into these opposition gains.
QUESTION: But I was wondering, could you elaborate on what impact these opposition gains have had on your reaching the military objectives in this campaign? And is it going to make it harder?
RUMSFELD: The gains that have been made on the ground that have been to the detriment of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda forces are clearly helpful in assisting the coalition in improving its prospects to track down both the leadership of Taliban and Al Qaeda, but also to find their forces and destroy them. As they are moving away from places they have previously been located, they are visible. And when they're buried and hunkered down in tunnels and caves and in the sides of hills, they're not visible and they're much more difficult to get at. Right now, they are in many instances visible and it is possible to go after them.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there have been reports from the ground that the Northern Alliance has committed atrocities in Mazir-i-Sharif. And President Putin today seemed to discredit that, saying that the Northern Alliance made up of Tajiks and Uzbeks would not shoot on its own people — Tajiks and Uzbeks — at least in the northern part of the country. First of all, do you give those reports credibility? And secondly, who is on the ground to monitor that situation and perhaps step in if in fact there is a potential blood bath?
RUMSFELD: Whose making these reports?
QUESTION: From the ground, witnesses from the ground.
RUMSFELD: Who? Who?
QUESTION: To the reporters.
QUESTION: And U.N. officials.
RUMSFELD: U.N. officials.
QUESTION: Are reporting that they are...
RUMSFELD: I don't think there are any U.N. officials in there. I think there may be some people who have worked for U.N. organizations, contract people, but I don't know of any U.N. people that are in there.
QUESTION: Right, the U.N. is just representing these as reports out of the region. That's where we're getting them from.
RUMSFELD: Well, the reports that we've heard out of the regions have been absolutely lying through their teeth week after week after week throughout the entire thing. I don't know that it is really useful to repeat unsubstantiated and sensational charges that I can't validate, that you can't validate, and that have not been checked. The implication, a thread I find from time to time, the implication is that America is what is wrong with the world. And in fact, it's not. The Taliban have been vicious repressors in that country. They have done enormous humanitarian harm and damage to men, women and children in that country.
Now, I'm not there and you're not there, therefore I can't prove anything, except to say this, that piece of real estate has changed hands dozens and dozens of times throughout history. And the carnage has just been unbelievable. Century after century, people have in some cases eliminated entire cities. The last time these places changed hands, the Taliban came in and killed hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people.
When there is a war and people are shooting, things happen and there is no question that there are people getting killed. I don't doubt that for a minute.
Who knows when it's over what the best assessment will be, and I'll certainly defer my judgment. But I will guess, that when this is over that this probably will prove to have been the change of hands with the least loss of life of any time in modern memory in that country, but there will be loss of life.
QUESTION: If I could just follow-up, if there were atrocities that were being committed by the Northern Alliance, are there personnel or troops on the ground who are monitoring the situation?
RUMSFELD: OK. Let me comment. I'll try to explain what is happening. First of all, the Northern Alliance is not an alliance. There are elements within it. It's a loose grouping of different leaders and commanders.
Second, they were concerned about this, and on their own, I presume, but certainly also because the few U.S. forces on the ground urged them to be concerned about it. My understanding is, and I could be wrong on this, but originally they had intended to threaten the city and not go in. And they changed their mind when they saw that the Taliban were fleeing and that looting was taking place.
Now, whether that's true or not, I don't know. But relatively small numbers, I'm told, that is to say, not the entire force, relatively small numbers have gone into the city of Kabul, at the last report I heard two hours ago, and they went in to try to create order.
What kinds of incidents might have occurred? I don't know. But there are a very small number of U.S. forces in the city of Kabul. They are not sufficient forces to monitor or police the entire city. They are a sufficient number that they can give advice and counsel to the people who are in the city, the leadership, and that they can report back that which they see, and we have not received reports back to that effect.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the aircraft carrier Enterprise returned to base on Saturday, and apparently one of the sailors on board was killed on board that American Airlines crash yesterday. I don't want to mention the name because I'm not sure the Navy has formally notified his family, but I just wonder if you have any thoughts about that.
RUMSFELD: I did not know that. You mean one of the sailors who got off the Enterprise was on this aircraft that crashed? Oh, my goodness, that's just a shame. I had not heard that.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, is your military campaign plan in Afghanistan the same as the Northern Alliance's campaign plan? Is the United States depending on the Northern Alliance to fight its war for it on the ground?
RUMSFELD: No. They have their interests and we have ours, and it's been a cooperative effort thus far. I think they are well aware that we have no interest in any piece of real estate in Afghanistan. We are there for a specific purpose. We care about the Afghan people. We wish them well. We want to be helpful to see that they're fed and they receive the kind of medical assistance. And we're delighted to be participating in freeing them of a viciously repressive element that took over their country and brought in these terrorists.
Now, the people who live there have a quite different interest. Our interest is in rooting out those terrorists and stopping them from killing Americans and killing other people.
The Northern Alliance has an interest, because that's their country. They want to live there. They know they are not going to control the whole country because they are a minority in the country. And they have been quite open in accepting the reality that not only Kabul, but the country will have a broadly based government of some type. I would say our interests are quite different.
QUESTION: To go back to the question of bin Laden and the Al Qaeda leadership, as the pressure mounts on them here, do you have concerns that they may get so desperate — some people suggest they may launch some sort of last gasp terrorist attack. And the reason I ask is I was curious, you mentioned Somalia, Sudan, these other countries. Are you essentially issuing also a new warning to these countries not to give any shelter to either bin Laden or the Al Qaeda leadership?
RUMSFELD: Well, first, let me say that — are we worried that they will make a last gasp terrorist attack on the United States? Needless to say, we do worry that they would make a terrorist attack on the United States. They already did. They've threatened to do more. They will do more whether we do what we are doing or whether we don't do what we're doing.
And the idea that we could appease them by stopping doing what we're doing, or some implication that by doing what we're doing we're inciting them to attack us, is just utter nonsense. It's kind of like feeding an alligator hoping it eats you last.
RUMSFELD: This is what we need to do. You cannot defend against terrorists. You must take the battle to them. It is self-defense.
QUESTION: Sir, the question is whether or not you have heightened concerns, given what is clearly their situation at the moment. And if you do have those heightened concerns, what you think the appropriate course of action is. And again, are you also warning these other countries not to provide shelter to them?
RUMSFELD: We think the appropriate course of action is to do exactly what the president said, and that is to recognize that you have trained terrorists all across this globe, and you have 50 or 60 Al Qaeda cells, and you have other totally different terrorist networks; that they are increasingly likely to get their hands of weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological weapons; that they pose a real threat to the United States and that the way to deal with that is to go find them and kill them or bring them to justice.
Now second, with respect to the other countries, the president has said from the outset that the task is to get the terrorists and to stop countries from harboring terrorists. It is not a threat. It is not a warning. It is a fact. The president in repeated speeches has said that the only way to deal with this problem is to find those terrorists and to drain the swamp. To the extent countries are financing or facilitating or tolerating terrorist networks, those countries have to be stopped from doing that. That is what he has said repeatedly.
QUESTION: You've mentioned repeatedly today that one of the military goals is destroying Al Qaeda. At this point 38 days into the campaign, do you have a clearer set of criteria in terms of what constitutes destroying Al Qaeda — a military endgame, in other words, as opposed to diplomatic or political endgame?
RUMSFELD: Well, it is not easy. It is a network that we have characterized as having cells all across the world, dozens and dozens of countries; as having much more than a single leader. It is wrong to personify that in the form of one person, because there are a number of key lieutenants, and I suspect that that operation would continue apace no matter if one, two, or three of them disappeared, which would be a wonderful thing if they did.
Therefore, I suppose the only way to respond as to say that we have to make them so they are not capable of functioning. The way you do that is this broad, sustained effort of drying up their money, arresting people around the globe, and interrogating them, gathering scraps of information, and finding the ones you can and stopping the ones you can, and keep looking for the ones you can't find.
QUESTION: What about in Afghanistan though? You're painting a picture of very vague goals that can go on for years in terms of bombing, bombing and using special forces.
MYERS: Well, we talked at the outset, and the secretary has just mentioned one of them, is that the regime that that supports them now looks severely weakened. OK, that's one thing you might want to do. In terms of ability to train in Afghanistan, they are not training right now, they are hiding. So that is another thing you might want to do. The last big one, to me, you'd want to do of course, is go after the leadership as the secretary said, and that's more problematic. But we know who is there. We know the lieutenants and we know the leadership. And we're going to continue in this process until we take them on.
QUESTION: Twenty leaders, and you've killed 10 so far. Do you have a running total of what's been accomplished?
MYERS: Ground truth is very difficult to come by. We have some indications of some leadership, but we're going to wait until we — we're not done yet.
RUMSFELD: We'll take two more questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as you know, about this time last week you were getting skeptical questions and skeptical critiques about the conduct of the war.
RUMSFELD: There is the understatement of the afternoon.
QUESTION: Well, here we are a week later, approximately, and we've seen the events that have unfolded. Do you want to re-answer that question?
RUMSFELD: You know, it's hard to know. It was hard to answer it then and it's hard to answer it now. We are still such a good distance from where we have to go. And yet, and I'm a conservative person, I tend to understate things to a certain extent rather than overstate. I think that the original concept is probably going to prove to have been correct. That is to say that from the first week when the president announced that this would be a broadly based effort and it would take a good deal of time, he was right.
But the task is to put pressure on, and pressure is in a lot of different ways. And it's awfully hard. You can't see three-quarters of the kinds of pressure that are being applied. The only pressure people saw were the bombs and the AC-130s firing weapons. And that was not an irrelevant part of it, to be sure, it was an important part. But it wasn't the whole thing. And it's when a person gets up in the morning and says it's not worth of it. I'm either dead or I'm wounded or there is no place to go or I don't have food, and I can't get anyone on the telephone, and I don't know what to do next.
And the people who have been supporting them saying, gee, it's going to get bad for me if I keep sending him money, or if I keep harboring him, or if I keep serving as a linkage for them, or supplying them with weapons, or supplying them with something.
The world has got to make it inhospitable for people who run around like mass murderers killing thousands and thousands of human beings. And that pressure, when you can't see it, it's frustrating for people. And that's where all those questions came from. And I understand that. And when you see some event, then someone says, well, maybe that pressure is working a little bit. And I think that pressure is working. Are there going to be some more dry patches when you won't see anything? I suspect so. And maybe we will just all have to think maybe below the surface the pressure is working, because I believe it is.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you talked about repeatedly — not repeatedly, last weekend — some of the apparent stress between Mullah Omar and Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Can you elaborate on that? What are you talking about? Has the stress increased since you began discussing this?
RUMSFELD: I think it's part of the pressure. You know, when things are good, everything's easy; and when things are bad, everything's tough. And things are tough right now for some of those folks. And that, I think, has led to some friction, and we pick up bits and scraps of that from people, and things that aren't going quite well, and debates as to where reinforcements should go, debates as to who should...
RUMSFELD: Debates as to who should get what supplies. And people get confused signals — some get signals from Al Qaeda; others get them from the Taliban. And I could be wrong, but I have a feeling that at various levels of those two organizations, which had previously been working together intimately, that the intimacy is strained. Thank you very much.