of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Interview with Charles Gibson on ABC Good Morning America
October 2, 2001
7:02 A.M. EDT
Mr. Secretary, how would you describe military action against the Taliban? Is
imminent too strong?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't get into the timing of operations at all. I think that
the important thing about it is that we have a situation in Afghanistan where
they have been harboring and facilitating worldwide terrorist activity by al
Qaeda organization, among others, and it's clear, as President Bush has said,
that the only way to deal with that kind of a problem is to -- is to liquidate
or root out those terrorist networks.
GIBSON: Because the British prime minister today is saying that an attack is
imminent. That it would be proportionate, that it would be targeted, but that
it is imminent. Is he going too far?
RUMSFELD: Well, you know, prime ministers say what they say. What I have to
do is to recognize that lives are at stake and the important thing is that we
go about our business without discussing either details of operations or timing
I think the important thing to recognize, however, is that the United States
and those that are involved in and concerned about the problem with international
terrorism are certainly not against the Afghan people. We're the biggest food
aid deliverer in Afghanistan, $170 million already this year, and I have great
feeling for the Afghan people.
The problem is not the Afghan people. The problem is the al Qaeda organization
and the Taliban that have been closely linked and supporting, and they are creating
enormous damage in the world, and they have to be stopped.
GIBSON: Is he wrong when he uses the word imminent?
RUMSFELD: Look, the -- you know, time will tell.
GIBSON: You're not saying he's wrong.
RUMSFELD: Time will tell. I -- I think that what we do need to keep in mind
is that the United States and a coalition including the United Kingdom went
in and spent a lot of treasure in moving the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. We
have worked with Muslims in Kosovo and Bosnia. We've provided humanitarian assistance
in Somalia, and we will -- are and will be providing humanitarian assistance
in Afghanistan, and to the extent that the United States and other nations are
involved in actively rooting out these terrorists, it's for the sole purpose
of self-defense and seeing that the terrorist networks are disintegrated across
GIBSON: Understanding, then, that you don't want to talk about operational details,
let me ask a little bit about scope, because you've just been very careful,
twice, to say that we have no beef with the Afghani people. So when we talk
about scope, are we talking about something very limited, aimed against the
Taliban, or is there a possibility that it could be larger in scope and that
we might have to occupy conceivably some portion of Afghani territory?
RUMSFELD: Well, anyone who looks at the photographs of the Afghan people, who
-- and the way they've been treated by not just the Taliban, which has been
a vicious regime, in my view, but also by weather and drought for three years
-- has to feel a great deal of compassion for them. And, needless to say, the
United States and others who are involved with this want to do everything humanly
possible to see that whatever we do with respect to al Qaeda and the Taliban
is respectful of the difficulties that the Afghan people have gone through as
a result of the Taliban.
GIBSON: Is it inevitable that we would have to take action against the Taliban?
There are some who are saying that the government there in Afghanistan may simply
collapse under its own weight, that they are having to take desperate measures
now simply to maintain control.
RUMSFELD: Well, there's no question but that there are Afghans who oppose Taliban,
and they're in the north as well as some of the tribes in the south. The Northern
Alliance does in the north and the tribes in the south. There are also factions
within the Taliban that disagree with Omar and the Taliban leadership with respect
to its coddling and assisting of the al Qaeda terrorist group.
So there are factions within factions, and certainly it's our interest to see
that the factions that are in favor of the Afghan people and who are against
international terrorism are the ones that prevail.
GIBSON: But I'm asking, do you think there's a situation inside Afghanistan
that might obviate the need for action against the Taliban?
RUMSFELD: I think it would be unwise to cross your fingers and hope that something
that pleasant would occur.
GIBSON: The Saudi Arabian ambassador said yesterday that we should limit any
military action to action against Afghanistan and bin Laden in particular, and
yet everyone in the administration has pointed out that al Qaeda is an organization
that is in many countries. Military action elsewhere likely? Highly possible?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I think when you're dealing with multiple terrorist networks beyond,
even beyond al Qaeda, that one has to anticipate that it's a worldwide, broadly
based effort that will involve the full range of U.S. capabilities -- financial,
economic, political, diplomatic, as well as military.
GIBSON: A couple of other questions to ask -- reports that the administration
was preparing to support a Palestinian state prior to September 11. Can you
RUMSFELD: I think I'll leave that to the president and my friend Colin Powell.
GIBSON: Also, intelligence reports that a call was intercepted between bin Laden
and his stepmother a couple of days before the attack, indicating that something
big would happen in a couple of days. Can you confirm that?
RUMSFELD: I don't discuss intelligence matters.
GIBSON: Mr. Secretary, good to talk to you as always.