Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Interview with Tony Snow on Fox News
The Pentagon
Arlington, Virginia
October 8, 2001
7:30 A.M. EDT

SNOW: -- thank you. As you just mentioned, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joins us from the Pentagon.

Mr. Rumsfeld, thanks for joining us.

RUMSFELD: Good morning, Tony.

SNOW: Let's do a quick damage assessment. The Taliban is saying that it knocked down as many as three allied aircraft overnight. I trust you believe that's false.

RUMSFELD: Well, I know they lie. The fact is that every single coalition aircraft has returned safely. And I believe that the last two are just now arriving. They were the C-17s that were involved in the humanitarian drops of food and medicine, which we carefully programmed to accompany and be a part of this effort.

SNOW: As a matter of fact, will the drops continue today, the humanitarian drops?

RUMSFELD: Well, the humanitarian effort will certainly continue over a sustained period of time. It will be, in part, in the air where that's appropriate. And it eventually will be on the ground through the AID [U.S. Agency for International Development] program. As you know, the United States has been the single largest food donor in Afghanistan even before the September 11th attack, $170 million worth. And President Bush has announced the new effort of $320 million.

SNOW: The United Nations has pulled its aid workers out for the next few days. What's your reaction to that?

RUMSFELD: Well, I think everyone has to make their own decisions with respect to that. But the important thing to remember is every single target which the coalition forces hit was a military target. I've been seeing on television that there were attacks on Kabul, the capital. That is not true. There was an attack on the military airport near Kabul, but certainly not on anything relating to other targets within the city.

SNOW: Do you suspect the Taliban's using human shields?

RUMSFELD: There's not a lot that I would not expect from Taliban. If you think about what they've done, how they've repressed the Afghan people, how they have starved millions of them, how they have repressed every aspect of their life, how they've harbored the al Qaeda terrorist network, I do not know if they are doing what you've suggested. I don't have any direct information for that. But it has happened in other parts of the world.

SNOW: You've talked repeatedly of the necessity of the Afghan people taking matters into their own hands and stating that sooner or later they're the ones who are going to bring down the Taliban. Has the United States been coordinating with military groups and tribal groups throughout Afghanistan and not simply the Northern Alliance?

RUMSFELD: There's no question but that there are any number of groups within Afghanistan that are against the Taliban and against al Qaeda and that we have, both directly and indirectly, been in contact with some, if not most of those groups. Indeed, there are even people in Taliban that are against Omar and the leadership of Taliban for allowing these foreigners in the al Qaeda organization to come into their country and to bring the kind of damage and harm that's been brought to the Afghan people.

SNOW: I've talked to a number of military planners in recent days, and they believe the Taliban is in an extremely fragile state right now and that we might be able to dislodge them in as few as five or six days, within a week or so. Do you think we can remove the Taliban that quickly?

RUMSFELD: I think it would be unrealistic to expect it, but one can never know. As I've indicated, I don't believe that this is going to be dealt with by a cruise missile or a bomber. I don't think there's any silver bullet that will magically end this problem. I do believe that ultimately it will come apart from the inside. It will disintegrate like a house of cards, like we saw in the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union where ultimately it just decays because it's starved of support. And there are so many people in Afghanistan that are opposed to what the al Qaeda has done and what the Taliban leadership is doing to damage that country that one would hope that would be the case. But I think it would be unrealistic to expect it that fast.

SNOW: Well, one of the things that helped bring down the Warsaw Pact was the infusion of Western culture. Part of our operations is so-called psychological operations. Are we going to spend a lot of time trying to get people on the ground, not merely bombard with leaflets and radio broadcasts, to get on the ground and persuade the Afghan people that we're their friends and not their enemies and then prove it with humanitarian aid and, if necessary, military support?

RUMSFELD: Well, there's no question but that we're engaged in a massive humanitarian aid effort, as well as medicines. And it is also true that the many forces opposing al Qaeda and opposing the Taliban leadership know that we have no interest in their country other than to end the terrorism, that we do not intend to occupy that country. We wish them well. We hope that the Afghan people can sort this out themselves. And I think that ultimately that will be the case. And that clearly requires that it become very clear that this is an effort against terrorism. It's not against Afghanistan. It's not against the Afghan people. It certainly is not against any race or religion.

SNOW: But what I'm really talking about is what we used to call the propaganda war; that is, trying not merely to win on the battlefield, but to win the hearts and minds. Isn't that an increasingly important portion of our military operation?

RUMSFELD: Well, it has to be. You know, ultimately, it's not propaganda; it's the truth. The truth is that the United States and the dozens and dozens of countries across the globe that are participating in one way or another with this effort are anxious to stop terrorism. That is our sole purpose. And in addition, we want to make sure that we can do everything we can to help the misery of the Afghan people which has been imposed on them by al Qaeda and by the Taliban leadership.

SNOW: Mr. Rumsfeld, a final question. There have been condemnations of our actions from some of the usual suspects, from Iraq, from Hezbollah, from some of the organizations we have called terrorist organizations. As a military matter, how do you interpret that? Is that their declaration that they are our enemies?

RUMSFELD: Well, there's no question but that terrorist organizations and the countries like Iraq that harbor and facilitate terrorist actions around the world are our enemies. The president has said that. That is what this is about. It is not about any particular country or any people or any class or people, or any race, or any religion. It is solely about terrorists.

Tony, the power of weapons today is so great that we have no choice but to take this battle to the terrorists wherever they are.

SNOW: So sooner or later, unless they change their ways, the battle will end up in those places with those groups?

RUMSFELD: I think that we need to make sure that terrorists and the people who harbor them understand that life will be difficult.

SNOW: All right. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, thanks for taking the time to join us this morning.

RUMSFELD: Thank you.