U.S. Department of Defense News Briefing
(Interview with Tony Snow, The Tony Snow Show.)
Question: And now America, I have the distinct privilege to welcome to the Tony Snow Show the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld. Secretary Rumsfeld, welcome.
Rumsfeld: Thank you, Tony. I'm delighted to be on with you.
Q: It's great to have you. You have just returned from a trip where you stopped among other places Afghanistan and Iraq. I want to get first-hand reports on both. First let's begin in Afghanistan because a lot of people may not have been paying attention, but there has been an extraordinary amount of activity there of late.
Rumsfeld: What's happening there is truly remarkable. They have had a Constitutional Loya Jurga that was democratic where there were debates, discussions, and they fashioned a new constitution that's filled with a series of adjustments and compromises among the various elements within the country. It's a fine document, they're proud of it. It is really an amazing accomplishment.
Interestingly, women participated to a great extent and indeed the rights of all parties in the country are protected. So I found it impressive. And our troops over there are just doing a wonderful job. They're so well trained and well equipped and so dedicated, and as a result they're helping to train up security forces, the Army and the police and they're participating in Provincial Reconstruction Teams and good progress is being made.
Q: Mr. Secretary, for a very long time it has been difficult to find some of the remaining members of the Taliban including the Mullah Omar in part because there were loyalists within the country and they also had places to hide.
My question to you is do you get the sense now with the change going on in Afghanistan that some of the folks who in the past may have been loyal to the likes of Mullah Omar, for that matter Osama bin Laden, are more inclined to be working with the Americans and the Pakistanis and others who are trying to change the equation in that part of the world?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I think clearly that's the case. The people of that country are so relieved to be free of the Taliban and the al Qaeda influence. There are still people who are undoubtedly supportive of Taliban, but President Karzai has been making a number of overtures to people saying look, if you were a senior Taliban official and you committed crimes against the people of Afghanistan stay away or come here and get punished; but the rest of the people who may have been down at the lower levels, why don't you rethink your role in the world and come and join the new democratic participatory process that's taking place.
Q: Is sort of peace and democracy spreading beyond the capital city? Kabul, the capital city, has been more or less peaceful, but at least the conventional wisdom has been that outside of there it's still the wild west.
Rumsfeld: Oh no, not really. If you take the north, there is stability in the north and relatively few incidents. The Northern Alliance areas and out towards Herat have been, the officials out there have been able to maintain a quite orderly situation.
I was down in Kandahar in the south and the new Governor there, Governor Pashtun is doing an excellent job.
We have these Provincial Reconstruction Teams which are helping to create the extension of the Afghan government out into the countryside.
The difficult area is along the Pakistan border and there's no question but that there are still Taliban, small numbers of them in that border area causing some problems but the Taliban is done.
Q: How about bin Laden?
Rumsfeld: We haven't found him. We will. We're looking hard and we've got wonderful people doing that and eventually we'll find him, but until we do we haven't got him.
Q: Let's switch to Iraq. The situation there, let me get you to address the complaint or the criticism that has been waged most often by Democratic presidential hopefuls which is that this Administration didn't plan properly for the transition to democracy. Had a war plan but not a peace plan.
Rumsfeld: Of course that is absolute nonsense. The reality is that we have a new currency in Iraq. You don't do that by accident. We have a Governing Council that's been functioning. Last night they completed an interim constitution, a basic law that will serve until a constitutional convention can be called which is an enormous step forward. We've gone from zero to 206,000 Iraqi security forces that we've trained and recruited and deployed. Army, Civil Defense Corps, site protection people, Border Patrol, police. The Iraqi security forces now are the largest participant in the coalition. The U.S. forces are only 115,000, and the Iraqi forces are 206,000. And they're out there on the front lines doing the job.
Oil production this week was up to 2.5 million barrels per day. They've got a series of City Councils and Provincial Councils that are functioning. It has all been done at a pace that vastly surpasses what took place in Japan or Germany after World War II. And the folks out there have done a wonderful job.
Q: What do you make of the fact that some of the allies or some of the traditional allies who opposed us on the war suddenly seem to be making nice. I'm thinking particularly of Gerhardt Schroeder, the German Chancellor, who is very eager to let bygones be bygones and move on.
Rumsfeld: Well sure, Iraq is a much better place today than under Saddam Hussein and anyone who knows anything about it knows that.
We've got 35 countries with forces on the ground in Iraq. That's a very large coalition.
The people that were being killed by the tens of thousands by the Iraqi regime and Saddam Hussein no longer have to fear him. The mass graves that are being uncovered are just a vivid example of the viciousness of that regime.
So it's not surprising that as things go forward more and more countries are participating.
Q: Hans Blix has been running around in recent days saying the Brits were spying on him. Were they?
Rumsfeld: I have no idea.
Q: Okay, but the United States was not spying on him.
Rumsfeld: Look, the issues that are being bandied about in the intelligence community are not something that we're involved with.
Q: Finally, I know that U.S. troops are heading now to Haiti. We've just talked about how Iraq is going to be a better place without Saddam Hussein. Do you believe that Haiti's going to be a better place without Jean Bertrand Aristide?
Rumsfeld: Well look, the political judgments like that were made by the Department of State and the President and we were asked to send in forces and they're in there on the ground now and others are en-route. We've gotten a number of countries who have looked at that country and recognized how disappointing it has been and how sad it is for the people of Haiti, and have been willing to offer up cooperation. The U.N. unanimously passed a resolution late last night and we have at least five or six countries that have already offered troops to participate in an international, multinational interim force.
Q: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, again, thank you so much for joining us.
Rumsfeld: You bet. Thank you, Tony.