Donald Rumsfeld Interview with Bryant Gumbel on CBS

Monday, October 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Gumbel: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is at the Pentagon. Secretary Rumsfeld, good morning.

Rumsfeld: Good morning.

Gumbel: Can you yet give us a preliminary assessment of just how successful yesterday's air strikes were?

Rumsfeld: Well, it's too early to really comment, make an assessment. We need to get all the information in before we can do that. We can say this, that all the aircraft have returned safely, which is important. And we know that the targets were all military targets and that the humanitarian aspect of it has been completed and the planes are returning to base now.

Gumbel: Let me try to touch on all elements of that, if I could. You said all the planes returned safely. What was the extent of the Taliban's military reaction?

Rumsfeld: Well, the Taliban was obviously prepared. There had been so much preparation in the movement of forces and troops. The aircraft did not leave their runway, however, although there was fire from the ground by various types of surface-to-air missiles.

Gumbel: You talked about the high-profile targets. There weren't a lot of them there. You talked that there are military targets there. Do you have any idea at this point the extent of collateral damage that was inflicted?

Rumsfeld: Well, every single target was characterized as a low collateral damage, if any, target. And the statements by the Taliban are typically lies, as they have been doing since the beginning. They've claimed that they've shot down some aircraft, which is false. And they have claimed there was some collateral damage, which is also false.

Gumbel: How do we know that there was none --

Rumsfeld: Because we know --

Gumbel: -- if we don't have the full assessments just yet?

Rumsfeld: Because we know what the targets were, and they were carefully examined. And I am reasonably sure that what I just said is exactly correct.

Gumbel: The humanitarian drops were part of Sunday's operation. You said C-17s were used for that. But I saw in your briefing yesterday [ transcript ] that you said parachutes were not. How exactly were those humanitarian drops made?

Rumsfeld: Since the last time they were attempted -- I believe it was in Kosovo -- what they have done is a lot of testing, and they've developed the ability to move these cartons out of the back of an aircraft, and when it gets into the slip stream of the aircraft, the boxes come apart and the individual rations go down to earth without being damaged in a sealed container. And it has been tested and tested. There is no danger to people on the ground. The packages are not damaged on impact, and it does not require any parachutes to do it.

Gumbel: That said, is there any way, then, of knowing whether or not those supplies got to the people for whom they were intended?

Rumsfeld: Well, we know exactly where we put them and we know where the people intended were on the ground. And one can only surmise that when we get the assessment afterwards that we'll find that, in fact, that occurred.

Gumbel: In the wake of Sunday's attacks, do you know if any of the anti-Taliban military forces made any significant headway on the ground as a result of what happened yesterday?

Rumsfeld: Again, it's too soon to make an assessment on that.

Gumbel: Can you tell us how much advance knowledge they had of yesterday's strikes?

Rumsfeld: Would you repeat that, please?

Gumbel: Can you tell us how much advance knowledge they had of yesterday's strikes?

Rumsfeld: Well, there are any number of elements that are opposing the Taliban and the al Qaeda. There are tribes in the south. There's the Northern Alliance. Indeed, there are even elements of Taliban that oppose the al Qaeda. And the degree of knowledge that they would have had would have varied substantially.

Gumbel: As you look to the timetable ahead, do you feel a need to accomplish your aims before the winter snows hit and make it difficult for those forces on the ground to make any headway?

Rumsfeld: No, I really don't. I think that we have to understand that this is a broad-based effort. It's going to be sustained over a period of years, not days. And it is involving many more countries and many more terrorists than simply those that happen to be in Afghanistan, being harbored by the Taliban at the present time.

Gumbel: Can you tell us what the next step is?

Rumsfeld: Of course not.

Gumbel: One final note, Mr. Secretary. A little bit later this morning, I'm going to be speaking with the stepfather of one of the young American missionaries being detained by the Taliban. What do you say to him? Is his daughter likely at this point to suffer reprisals for U.S. air strikes? Or is she at this point a priority in the U.S. administration?

Rumsfeld: Well, there's no question but that she and other hostages in that country are of great interest to the administration. And the Taliban have to be careful lest they be held accountable for errors in judgment in that regard as well. We certainly hope for and look for the safe keeping of those individuals.

Gumbel: Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much, sir; appreciate it.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.