Rumsfeld & Tommy Franks Pentagon Briefing

Wednesday  March 5, 2003  1700PST

Rumsfeld: Some months ago I promised that from time to time when General Franks was in town that I'd try to persuade him to come down. And I did so. And it's clear that others heard you might be here. Normally -- this is about twice the normal size of this group.

Franks: Sir, thanks a lot for the opportunity.

Q: We thought -- (off mike).

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) Yeah, I know.

First, I do want to say what a superb job General Tom Franks is doing in the global war on terror. The accomplishments of his team in the Central Command in Afghanistan are now well and favorably known throughout the world.

And needless to say, I salute the fine work being done by the brave men and women in uniform all around the globe. They and our coalition allies were successful in ousting the Taliban regime and putting the al Qaeda terrorist network on the run.

Coalition forces have been flowing into the Persian Gulf region for a number of weeks now. And the troops are there to support the diplomatic efforts to disarm Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction -- disarmament as required now by some 17 United Nations resolutions. Those U.N. resolutions will be enforced. The president has said that time is running out. Saddam Hussein can prevent the use of force. To do so, he will have to disarm or leave. The choice will be made in Baghdad.

There should be no doubt that if force is to be used -- and that decision has not been made -- that the coalition forces will prevail and that it will be a very large coalition. The Iraqi regime will be gone, and Saddam Hussein would be removed from power.

I can also say that if force becomes necessary, there is -- it is clear that coalition forces would take great care to avoid civilian casualties. Saddam Hussein, by contrast, has used civilians as human shields on the battlefield, exposing them to bullets and bombs, in the hope that they would be killed and he could then blame that on others, for propaganda purposes. As President Bush said last week, the lives and freedom of the Iraqi people matter little to Saddam Hussein, but they matter greatly to us.

Before this briefing, I understand that there was a briefing on U.S. targeting policy, which should have provided considerable detail on the lengths to which General Franks and his team go to target only legitimate military targets and to do everything humanly possible to save innocent lives.

Finally, let me say this about the arrest last weekend of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. The goal -- global war on terror is like an iceberg. Ninety percent of what's going on is below the water, and all that is visible is a much smaller 5 or 10 percent that's in view. Some accomplishments that are achieved are secret, even in success. Others are publicly announced. All are part of an intensive effort that's being prosecuted across the globe 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the help of a large 90-nation coalition. And we're grateful to the government of Pakistan for their excellent efforts in the capture of this senior al Qaeda leader.

It's worth noting that this weekend's arrest came at the same time that coalition forces were flowing into the Persian Gulf region in support of the diplomatic efforts and in preparation for possible military action in Iraq. The point is this: any who suggest that a determination to disarm Iraq would distract us from the global war on terror would be wrong. And the efforts to disarm Iraq and defeat the al Qaeda network are really different fronts of the same war.

General Franks.

Franks: Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for giving me an opportunity to visit Washington and to have a chance to provide updates to you, sir, as well as the national security team, on the global war on terrorism, at least that part of it related to our area of responsibility; provide a little update on where we stand in Afghanistan and where we see the road ahead; to talk a bit about the Horn of Africa and its role as part of our global war on terrorism; and certainly to discuss Iraq planning, which you mentioned.

It makes me think of where we were about a year and a half ago in Afghanistan -- where we started, where we've been, where we're going. I think about a time a year and a half ago, with 7 million Afghans being saved from famine. And we have from this podium, and also from my headquarters and a number of other places, talked over the last year and a half about the progress that's been made in Afghanistan, the training of the Afghan National Army, and so forth. And when I think about that, I think about our portion of the coalition which I see every day -- the 48 nations, and getting larger -- every day down in Tampa associated with my headquarters, and I recognize the commitment that all of us have to getting the job done in Afghanistan, irrespective of where we go vis-a-vis Iraq.

It seems to me that a lot has been accomplished. I think all of our young people are very proud of that, and I am certainly proud of all of them.

Brings me to Iraq. I'll second the comments by Secretary Rumsfeld that in fact our troops in the field are trained, they're ready, they are capable. And if the president of the United States decides to undertake military operations with the coalition mentioned by the secretary, there is no doubt we will prevail.


Rumsfeld: Charlie?

Q: Mr. Secretary, briefly, before we get into Iraq, I wonder if I might ask you about North Korea? The president said repeatedly he wants to settle the situation in North Korea peacefully, and yet tensions are rising on the peninsula. You've sent, in fact, deterrent forces there -- heavy bombers to Guam, to the region.

Given the very aggressive interception of an unarmed U.S. reconnaissance plane in international waters on Sunday, are you concerned that North Korea might miscalculate and do something that could trigger a war on the peninsula? Are you very concerned about that?

Rumsfeld: I guess it's my responsibility to be interested in things that are taking place in various places of the world that could represent difficulties for the United States and for our friends and allies, and we do do that.

On the other hand, the president has made a very clear decision with respect to North Korea that he intends to follow the diplomatic route. And the matter involving their nuclear -- the announcement of their nuclear capabilities and activities has been put into the United Nations, as Secretary Powell indicated. And we feel that's the track we're on.

Q: Why -- why have you sent deterrent forces out there, including heavy bombers?

Rumsfeld: The decision was made some time ago to see that we're properly arranged around the world, not so much -- the decision was made well before the interception that you're referring to. And the reason for it was, that as the situation with respect to Iraq becomes somewhat tense, it seems to me that it's appropriate for the United States to look around the globe and say where might someone think of taking advantage of that situation with respect to Iraq, and see that we're properly arranged so that the appropriate deterrents and defense capabilities are there. There's certainly nothing in any way that's aggressive or threatening or hostile to anything the United States has done.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Q: Mr. Secretary, may I ask you a question -- I mean, devote a question, if I may, to General Franks.

General, we can make this very simple if you just give us the same briefing you gave to the president. We'll take notes. But specifically, the question keeps arising about Turkey. And it's a two-part question. One, are you still optimistic Turkey will allow U.S. forces to use its soil to open a northern frontier or a northern offensive? And second, part of the same question, if Turkey does not, the ships that are waiting to unload and the 4th Infantry Division, are they necessary to you conducting war if we should be so ordered ahead of time, or would you have to wait till all of those assets come around and get in place in the Persian Gulf?

Franks: If I could, I'll take the second part of the question. And I think that it may be the secretary who would want to comment on optimism or with respect to what the government of Turkey might decide to do.

It is -- it's been recognized that we have a number of ships in the eastern Mediterranean that we have the capability with ground forces in order to introduce those ground forces into Turkey. And one would not want to make a decision about where those ground forces might be introduced publicly, actually. And, you know, one of the things that we always do is we protect our planning effort, because as the combatant commander and as the operator for this, I actually am interested in security, and I am interested in secrecy. And in some cases what that does is it puts me in a position to permit others to speculate. We're going to protect our forces. We're going to protect our plan. And when the timing is right to make decisions like the destination of the 4th Infantry Division, then we'll be prepared to do that.

Rumsfeld: With respect to Turkey, Turkey's an ally, it's a friend, it's also a democracy. And they're working their way through a democratic process with a new government that's not ever governed before and through their parliamentary process. What they may ultimately decide remains to be seen. In any event, as the general indicates, we have workarounds.

Q: Does the general need the 4th Infantry Division? Do you need it to wage war now or could they be a reserve force?

Franks: As I think the secretary and others have indicated -- I think Dick Myers indicated yesterday -- if the president of the United States decides to undertake action, we are in a position to provide a military option.

Q: Mr. Secretary, I'd like -- you mentioned the briefing on targeting that was done here today. I'd like to ask General Franks, that briefer and other military officers have said recently that you would expect fewer civilian casualties this time around than in the '91 Gulf War because of a greater use and reliance on precision-guided weapons. I'm wondering first whether you agree with that. And secondly, how would you explain to those who would doubt that, given the fact that we believe that Baghdad is where the regime is and that that would be the focus of the attention?

Franks: As you know, neither the secretary nor I heard the briefing, and so I don't know exactly what that briefing included. But I do know this: Anytime a nation undertakes a war, there are some fixed quantities and there are variables. I believe that it is true that the variables for this particular effort, if a decision is made to undertake it, will be different than the variables that we have seen in warfare in the past. And I can give you a couple of reasons for that, one of which is simply precision, the types of weapons that are used. And so one would expect to see a reduction in variables. That does not necessarily mean that one would expect to see a reduction in civilian casualties, and I think it's a key point, and I'll tell you why.

We have seen in the past the regime in Baghdad position intentionally military equipment close to hospitals, close to schools, close to mosques, close to other civilian infrastructure, and we certainly are not in a position to prevent the regime from doing that again. And so, my personal view is that one should not ever put a stake in the ground and say there will be more or less casualties, either friendly or enemy, because while we can reduce the variables, we also recognize that a very ruthless regime that sits in Baghdad will make his own decisions about where to position the lives of his own people.

Q: This is for General Franks. Can you describe the thinking behind the provisional (sic) reconstruction teams in Afghanistan; how they differ from the traditional civil affairs teams; and how that contributes to the war on terrorism overall?

Franks: Sure. Thank you.

Provincial reconstruction. There are eight areas inside Afghanistan where we believe that there is enough population that we should put international and interagency teams to work with local leadership which works with Afghan national leadership, in order to facilitate things that run from humanitarian assistance all the way up through reconstruction of roads, the building of schools, the reintroduction of power where there is none today as it may have been years ago. And so what a provincial team does is it has the American component, a very small cadre of Americans, in many cases they're joined by troops from other nations, and they're also joined by civilians from our own government, as well as United Nations representatives present inside Afghanistan. And their purpose is to coordinate with local authorities in order to pursue reconstruction in that country -- a subject, by the way, much discussed yesterday when the secretary met with Minister Fahim Khan.

Rumsfeld: And also with President Karzai when he was here. They are both very enthusiastic about this approach.

As a matter of fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is also looking at the possibility of putting representatives into these provincial teams. And we are in the process also of having other countries ask for an opportunity to both lead a team or participate in a team. So the coalition will be joining it.

Q: Any idea how long these teams might be in place?

Rumsfeld: I think it's hard to know, really. We're just getting started with it. There are three, I think, that are currently under way and several more that are in the process of being developed. So I think it's a bit early to know how long. And I would also guess it would vary from province to province.

Franks: If I could add just one thing also on that same point. When Secretary Rumsfeld issued the guidance to move forward with these provincial teams, we all decided that we had better get one on the ground, and we did that in Gardez. And I'm not going to actually call it a pilot, but we do recognize that we need to be life-long learners. And so we wanted to get this team on the ground and see what additional asset may be needed. And so each of these teams we put in place may, in fact, change its configuration just a little bit.

Q: General Franks, can you walk us through or characterize how advanced the targeting process already is for sites inside Iraq, and what the approval process may be as far as sites where you considered collateral damage?

Franks: No.


Q: How about just in generic terms --

Rumsfeld: He said "could you." You could.

Franks: Sure. Oh yes, I could. (Laughter.)

Q: You could --

Franks: Yes. (Laughter.) Actually -- actually -- you may have more, but let me talk to that for just a second.

When one -- when one undertakes military planning, you will always look at the structure, the composition, the locations of enemy forces in which we may have an interest. Anytime you do that, you will begin to think about what the target/weapon pairing might want to be. When you begin to do that weapon/target pairing, then you'll begin to look at all of the places where we know we do not want to strike because we're Americans, because we're part of a coalition that treats citizenry like that in Iraq as victims, not as enemies, as the president has said.

And so, of course, we are studying the intelligence, we are working what you described as the targeting processing, to think our way through all of the possibilities, as well as to determine what the restricted lists might be associated to this so that we stay within the guidelines that our country operates within.


Q: General, also along these lines about targeting, do you plan on employing non-lethal weaponry, should you go to war in Iraq? I'm thinking about pulse weapons, for example?

Franks: I think under -- I think the definition of non-lethal weaponry can be very large. And the best way I can answer your question is to say there certainly exists the possibility for the use of non-lethal weaponry under certain circumstances, and the specifics of those circumstances wouldn't be something that we would want to talk about in public.

Q: How about the types of weapons?

Franks: Wouldn't want to do it. Just -- I'll let you describe within the definition anything you may choose as non-lethal weapons. I could give you one example. One example would be offensive electronics. That is a non-lethal sort of weapon. It may be that under certain circumstances, one would see that. And you mentioned the E-bomb, and I can't talk to you about that because I don't know anything about it.

Q: By "non-lethal electronics" do you mean cutting off power?

Q: Without hurting civilians.

Franks: Charlie, I wouldn't describe exactly what I mean. I just would like people to recognize that there will be a lot of definitions of non-lethal sorts of weapons. And I am simply pointing out that what some may have in mind -- the example given was the E bomb -- should also be joined by a range of other things, to include weapons like electronic sorts of measures.

Q: Mr. Secretary, is it time for U.N. inspectors, humanitarian workers, human shields who may be having second thoughts, and even journalists to leave Baghdad?

Rumsfeld: I think that that's really a decision for the president. And if and when we arrive at that point -- there still, of course, is the hope that the -- there will be an opportunity to achieve the goal of disarmament without the use of force. And that could happen because Saddam Hussein would decide to leave the country. It could happen because some of his close associates would decide that he ought to leave the country. It could happen because his forces might decide that it doesn't make sense for them to fight for a regime that won't be there. So that's -- that's the hope.

Q: If it does come -- if it does come to war, is it your desire that U.S. news organizations withdraw their journalists from Baghdad?

Rumsfeld: If we arrive at that point, we'll have announcements that will make clear what our thoughts are. Obviously, there's no way that any government in the world can keep press people from doing whatever it is they wish to do. If we know anything, we know that. (Laughter.)


Q: General Franks, could you give us your assessment of the situation or the possibility of conflict between the Turks and the Kurds in northern Iraq? I'm particularly interested if you have extracted any promises from either side not to fight or not to try to seize the oil fields, what you feel the U.S. responsibility is in keeping those two sides apart and not fighting, and whether this is complicated by the possibility that you won't be able to base a lot of ground troops in Turkey.

Franks: A wise man said once upon a time, once upon a time that prediction is extremely difficult, especially if it has to do with the future.

Q: Your assessment, then, not your prediction, but your assessment of the level of conflict.

Franks: But what I -- what I can say is historically, and all recognize that there have been frictions between the Kurds and the Turks up in northern Iraq, we certain believe that that is a factor. We, in fact, work representatives with both the Kurds and with the Turks and will continue to do that. And actually I would not -- I wouldn't be willing to predict what might happen up there. We're aware of history, and so we'll be working in order to mute whatever problem may arise.

Rumsfeld: Yes?

Q: To go back, you said at the start that if there's a war, there's no doubt that we'll prevail. And I think that most Americans probably want to know how -- what is the cost going to be in American lives and how long might it take. Now I know you can't answer those questions precisely, but I wonder if you could share your thoughts about it. You know, are we looking at a conflict of weeks, months? In the Gulf War, there were 148 Americans killed. Would you hope to be able to keep U.S. casualties to that sort of level?

Franks: It's a fair question, but it's unknowable, actually. You'll recall what I said a minute ago about noncombatant -- we talked civilian -- but noncombatant casualties. And I think one doesn't know.

I think one doesn't know the duration that we may face. I may have an opinion, the secretary may have an opinion, but it is in fact unknowable. And since we can't know what the duration will be, we can't predict, using some formulation, some mathematical model, what casualties might look like -- you'll all remember that there was an effort to do that some 11 or 12 years ago, and you'll recall the results of that effort, how the facts wound up matching against the predictions.

And so what -- so since we don't know the answer to that, what we do on the operational side, where our youngsters are out there on the ground, is we work very, very hard to balance the mission against the potential gain and the risk.

And so I won't predict numbers of casualties, but I will say that we'll continue to work to do the job at the least cost in terms of lives, both our own and Iraqi, and the least cost in terms of treasure.

Rumsfeld: When you think about anyone who tried to predict the cost of World War I or World War II or Korea or Vietnam or Afghanistan, it -- their guesses would be embarrassing to be compared with the facts. Same thing with casualties -- to guess the casualties of any of those. To guess the length of any of those. War is an uncertain business, and as the general says, there's so many variables that it's really more of a misservice to speculate on those things.

I will say this: I'll make one speculation, and that is that the -- we don't know precisely what the total cost of September 11th was in dollars -- we know lives: some 3,000 people -- but in dollars. It had such a violent impact on our economy, on business and the economics, not just of New York City or Washington, D.C., but of the entire country, that it -- very likely anything that one ends up with, an unknowable number today, in the event that force has to be used with respect to Iraq, would be a fraction of what September 11th cost.

Q: Well, Mr. Secretary, to use one of your favorite words, can you promise it won't be a quagmire?

Rumsfeld: I can almost promise you that someone in this room will SAY it's a quagmire. (Laughter.) Quite apart from the facts.

Q: Mr. Secretary and General Franks, a few days ago we heard the president say once again that regime change in Iraq is one of the U.S. objectives. Is it your understanding that the military objective, then, in any possible action against Iraq would be to kill or capture Saddam Hussein? And could there be a victory without either one of those things occurring?

Franks: It depends on one's personal view of the definition of regime. If one looks at regime as the control of diplomacy, the control of borders, the control of economic infrastructure, the control and security of population, then one would find that certainly to be within my mission statement. And so I won't go with you to the point of the personalities; I will simply say that the mission statement that the president has asked us to look at, has asked us to plan for is precisely clear, exactly determined, and there is no doubt in my mind about what the expectation of my bosses or the United States of America may be if this is required.

Q: Does the name "Saddam Hussein" appear in the mission statement?

Franks: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: The answer to the question is that in the event force has to be used -- and that decision has not been made -- it will be made because of a failure on the part of Saddam Hussein and his regime to cooperate with the 17 U.N. resolutions. Therefore, clearly the goal of the use of force would be unambiguously to have the people who did not cooperate not there.

Q: Including Saddam Hussein, I presume.

Rumsfeld: No longer in charge of that country.

Q: Mr. Secretary, if your goal is primarily to disarm Iraq, what concretely could Saddam Hussein do to prevent a war? Like giving evidence on the missing CW/BW; would that be enough?

Rumsfeld: Those are not issues for me to respond to. Those are questions that the president and the United Nations and Secretary Powell and others are wrestling with as they try to make a judgment as to what the prospects are.

Q: General Franks, a couple of armored division got deployment orders just this week. And if you look at how long it would take for them to get there and get hooked up with their equipment, you know, you're looking at a few weeks. You've already said you have what you need for the military option. Are we now getting some clues into your thinking about what kind of follow-on course requirements might be needed? You probably know there's some dispute in town about that issue.

Franks: Actually, what I would say is let me correct just the first part of the question. I didn't say that I'd given the secretary or that the secretary had passed to the president the option. What I said was that we are in a position at this point in time where the secretary and the president of the United States have options. In order for me to talk about the units which have been alerted, you referred to, would be about the same thing as me answering a question that says, "What's your plan?" And none of us actually expect that we're going to talk about that, so I really won't.

Q: Well, can you talk about your thoughts about what kind of force would be needed to secure Iraq in the post-war period?

Franks: I could, but I believe right now is not the time to do that, especially to reinforce the point the secretary made a minute ago: The president of the United States has not made a decision to do this. But I think it's fair to say that one would expect a great deal of planning and thought to be going into that.

Rumsfeld: Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, you keep talking about a growing coalition, and it's difficult for us to perceive that.

Rumsfeld: Well, that's very clear. The reason for that -- that it's difficult to perceive -- is because no decision has been made to use force. And clearly, until that decision is made, countries have to look at the circumstance when it's made and then make their judgment. What we do know is that there is a large and growing number of countries that have said to us on a variety of differing basis that they would like to participate. There are already a number of countries that are doing military planning with General Franks; there's a number of countries who have already said that you're going to have overflight rights and basing and various other things; there are a number of countries who have said they want to participate in a post-Saddam Hussein stabilization activity. But until a decision is made, it shouldn't be surprising that that's not public.

Q: I see two other countries, Australia and Britain, that have committed ground forces and one other country that has said they will send sniffer equipment to detect chemical and biological weapons.

Rumsfeld: If you were a neighbor of Saddam Hussein and you did not know of certain knowledge whether he would be there in six months, I think you'd be cautious about discussing the subject publicly, as well.

Q: So we should not be misled by the fact that the coalition appears to have two other countries and the United States that are willing to commit ground forces at this point?

Rumsfeld: I think that your visibility into it is, understandably, not great because the countries involved do not care at this stage to prejudge whether or not force is going to be used.

Q: Can either of you describe what happened at The White House this morning, what the meeting was like? What, General Franks, your presentation was like in general?

Rumsfeld: I can characterize it, it was excellent. (Laughter.) It was well received.


Q: General Franks --

Rumsfeld: That's an accurate answer.

Q: Is the war close?

Q: -- can we go back to the question of civilian casualties and the targeting process? Smart bombs, no matter how smart, need good intelligence or good information which tell them where to go. There's been a modest history of smart bombs going awry. Can you give us a snapshot on any improvements made in the last two or three years using intelligence from the CIA and spy satellites to make sure that these bombs will go relatively close to where they're supposed to?

Franks: I guess the only thing I can tell you is that we have, in support of previous Security Council resolutions, been working the intelligence and surveillance business in Iraq for -- gosh, what? -- eight, 10, 12 years. And so one would expect that a great deal of focus has been placed on the sorts of locational data that you're making reference to.

And the other point that I'd make is there is a virtue not only in quality, but also in quantity of quality. And we have considerably more capability today, in terms of precision -- and it's well known; it's not a secret -- than we had one year, two years, or three years ago.

Rumsfeld: Last question.

Q: General Franks, let me ask you to reflect on something, if I might. You're amongst a generation of the last senior military officials in the military today who fought in the heaviest years of combat in Vietnam, who saw a type of combat that many of your troops today have never seen in their lives. And by any measure, certainly Vietnam still hangs as a shadow.

What to you, as you begin to think about taking this force into combat, this young force, what's worth remembering about the Vietnam experience for the U.S. military? What comes back to you so many years later that you would like troops to know -- good or bad -- about the Vietnam experience?

Franks: Barbara, what pops to my mind is a term called decisive engagement. And when I think about Vietnam, I think about decisive engagement with enemy forces. And when I was a lieutenant, I was at a place on a battlefield with a small number of friendly forces in a decisive engagement on several occasions with enemy forces. As you know, we have had in Afghanistan, we have had in Haiti, we have had in Panama, we have had in Desert Storm, precisely the same circumstance, when one desegregates the theoretical question you ask down to the level where young people are involved decisively with an enemy force, I have no concerns about it. I have incredible confidence in weapon systems, the state of training, the state of motivation, the intellectual acuity, and the wisdom of our young people who will do this work, if asked to do so.

Q: How, when you have such a young force, do you make them understand how difficult ground combat can be?

Franks: Unanswerable sort of question. I think we go day by day, in learning from past experience, in thinking about the next experience, in applying our lessons by way of instruction, by way of example to the young people who will be called on to do the work, if necessary. And it's the same as it's always been, Barbara.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.

Q: Is this your last briefing with us before the war starts, General?

Franks: (Chuckles.) Up to my boss!

Rumsfeld: (Chuckles.)


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