|The White House
President George W. Bush
|Print this document|
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 27, 2006
Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room
11:46 A.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Good morning. Welcome. A couple of opening notes. The President, today, or this evening, will be making brief remarks on the way to dinner. I know a lot of you are interested in what's going to be happening. But on the way to dinner with Presidents Musharraf and Karzai, he'll make some comments on the way. We'll also give you a readout afterward. I'll try to figure out who is going to do that. But just for your planning purposes, I think the initial statement is about 7:20 p.m. or so.
As far as the National Intelligence Estimate, just a couple of --
Q What time?
MR. SNOW: What does it say on the schedule?
Q 7:50 p.m. on the schedule.
MR. SNOW: Thank you. Okay, 7:50 p.m. Thank you.
Q And the readout will be after this dinner?
MR. SNOW: We thought we'd read out the dinner afterward, yes.
Q Can't you do it in advance? (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Lewis Lapham is not doing the readout. (Laughter.)
Q Do you know how you're going to do the readout, the format? Conference call?
MR. SNOW: What?
Q How are you going to do the readout?
MR. SNOW: We'll get to you on that. We'll try to figure it out. But we'll get it done.
On the National Intelligence Estimate, I know there will be a lot of questions; just a couple of opening thoughts. What it does is it raises a very important and simple question, which is, do we intend to go on the offense in the war on terror? The NIE mirrors statements that the President has made about the nature of the threat that we face. It also, I think, vindicates many of the steps that have been taken and that were outlined on the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, which we made available to you about a month ago.
Also, there's controversy about releasing the entire National Intelligence Estimate. Let me tell you why we're not gong to do that. First, the full text includes detailed information, collected by human agents, technical means, and also in cooperation with foreign governments. And to reveal that information would place at risk the lives of our agents, and also humint agents -- as well as compromising our ability to work with foreign governments, or for that matter, to employ the means that we use. We don't want them to understand our sources and methods.
It also would compromise the independence of people doing intelligence analysis. What you want are intelligence analysts who are going to be able to give you free and full -- their free and full views of what the situation is. If they think that their work is constantly going to be released to the public, they're going to pull their punches. And that's the last thing you want to have happen.
As for what was released, Jane Harmon said that it accurately reflected what was in the National Intelligence Estimate. And as you know, Jane has been a critic in other areas. But at least, I think that ought to serve to note that we did not cherry-pick -- or actually, the Director of National Intelligence did not cherry-pick conclusions. But, instead, you've got an accurate reflection of what is within the text of the NIE itself.
In short, we're not going to release the documents because we don't want to place people's lives at risk. We don't want to place sources and methods at risk. We don't want to compromise our ability to work with foreign governments who have been essential in helping prosecute and continue to prosecute the war on terror. And we want to make sure that the President receives the best and most honest analysis he can from intelligence sources.
So with that as my prelude, let's go to questions. Brett.
Q Tony, can you address the comments of the House Minority Leader and Representative Harmon, saying that there is a second Iraq estimate out there that is in draft form that is being held until after the November elections?
MR. SNOW: They're just flat wrong. What happened is, about a month ago Director Negroponte informed the committees that he was, in fact, going to do an exhaustive review on Iraq. That's a month ago. These reviews take about a year to do, so the idea that it is in "draft" form -- they're just beginning to do their work on it. And Intelligence Committee members if they don't know it, should. But there is not a waiting Iraq document that reflects a national intelligence estimate that's sitting around gathering dust, waiting until after the election.
Q And the fact that they're talking about it being extremely grim, how do you characterize it? Has the President been briefed on this yet?
MR. SNOW: You don't brief somebody on a document that's just in the very early stages of composition. That's what it is.
Q Thanks. I want to revisit a little bit of what we went over yesterday. Now that we have actually seen the key judgments, maybe we can ask some more profound questions.
MR. SNOW: Please.
Q Why does the President continue to say that we're winning the war on terror and we are more safe, when the overall picture painted by these key judgments is actually quite bleak and points to several areas where that is not a conclusion you could reach by reading it?
MR. SNOW: I'm not sure I agree. I'm not sure I agree. For instance, I know it's been characterized as being bleak. What it is, is it's a snapshot, as of February 28th, of what was going on in the region.
Let me explain why the President thinks we're winning the war on terror, and also give a little bit of context to some of the statements that are made -- I've got the NIE text here, because I think I know the areas that -- well, good -- and I think I know the areas that you might want some responses to.
The first thing is, let's start with the obvious. Since September 11, 2001, we have not been attacked. And, furthermore, the United States, since September 11, 2001, has taken a much more aggressive approach toward terror than it had taken previously. Before September 11, 2001, the United States -- many people in the United States did not realize the nature of the enemy we were facing. In the previous administration, we had an attack on the World Trade Center, on Khobar Towers, we had attacks on both embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and an attack on the USS Cole.
Also, Osama bin Laden, in February of 1998, made it clear that he not only intended to wage war on the United States, but he wanted to use Iraq as a central battleground. From his fatwa, on February 23, 1998, he complained that "for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam and the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning bases in the peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples."
The reason I read that is that it reflects part of the strategy of building jihadism, which is to foment hatred and to try to get people worked up in such a way that they may feel inclined to "join the jihad."
There were other statements about America's continuing aggression. He said, "If the Americans' aims behind these wars are religious and economic, the aim is also to serve the Jew's petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and the murder of Muslims there." He continues, "All these crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on God, His messenger, and Muslims."
So he issued a fatwa. And here is part of what the fatwa said: "The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies, civilians and military, is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it." He later said, "We, with God's help, call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it."
In short, there was a gathering threat. In those years, bin Laden noticed that the United States had, in fact, been cutting back dramatically on intelligence assets and on military assets. As a matter of fact, even with the buildup since September 11th, we are only now beginning to achieve the same sort of levels that we had, in terms of intelligence assets that we had at the beginning of the Clinton administration.
Bin Laden also had drawn some comfort from the retreat of Americans from Somalia, which he cited as "proof of the weakness of the American heart," and therefore as a reason to inspire some of his colleagues to continue to wage jihad and to try to kill Americans. The fact is, it was a dangerous world.
So what we have done since? And this is why the President says we're safer. Al Qaeda has been significantly degraded. It is one of the key conclusions -- or at least the key judgments; you don't have conclusions in a National Intelligence Estimate -- that, in fact, the operational structure had been weakened.
Furthermore, what the United States has done is not only go after al Qaeda, not only fight on the battlefield, but also to come up with an approach that tries to deny terrorists safe havens anywhere, including on the Internet where they try to share information, financially -- going after their finances, the SWIFT program, listening in on their conversations, where you have the terrorist surveillance program.
There have been cooperative and collaborative efforts with other governments. The United States, in and of itself, we're not fighting this battle alone, but we're fighting it in conjunction with allies -- so you have the Pakistanis and the Brits helping us when it came to interrupting a terror plot that was foreseen to happen this year with planes flying from Heathrow to New York.
In short, what has happened in the war on terror is that you at one point had Osama bin Laden with the ability to control a country. Before September 11th, what did you have? You had terrorists who had moved into Afghanistan, taken the country for their own. They had operational bases where they were able to train. They had the ability not only to have their people all together, but they had logistics, they could communicate with impunity around the globe, and they knew that nobody was going to be able to -- they didn't think anybody was going to intercept what they were doing. They had an operational capability then that they do not have now.
When you have a dispersed terror threat -- and this is also in the NIE --they tend to be less threatening, although, let's make no mistake about it, they would like to become more threatening. But when you have organizations that are led by strong and charismatic leaders, when you have attacks on those, or when you take care of a leader like Abu Musab al Zarqawi, what you do is you throw them into disarray. So the terrorists today cannot sleep safe because they know we're listening to them, they know we're watching them, they know we're tracking their finances; and they know that we are not only trying to use whatever means in our power to go after them, but also in places like Iraq and elsewhere, the locals are beginning to turn them in. So it's a different -- you've got a different set of circumstances than you did on September 11th.
Think of it this way, if we had done nothing after September 11th, would the threat have vanished? Based on what we know about bin Laden -- who moved from Somalia to Afghanistan, had the advantage of a failed state from which to mount operations, when the United States wasn't looking, he trained tens of thousands of people, dispatched them around the globe and set up the operational capability of pulling off a September 11th -- he no longer has that. And that is one of the ways in which it makes the world safer.
Now, does it mean that we put on rose-colored glasses and say there's no threat? Of course not. But it's a different kind of threat now. It is more numerous because you have more people who are responding to jihadi propaganda, but on the other hand, you do not have the concentrated capability to hit. And we are determined to continue to develop methods to strike them wherever they are so that they are not going to be able to regain those sorts of capabilities.
Q A couple things. You said, first of all, that al Qaeda has been degraded. Actually, the report said al Qaeda's leadership has been degraded, but that its ranks have increased. You also just --
MR. SNOW: But operational -- okay.
Q Let me just finish and go through here. You also said that -- you're talking about things the administration has done and, yet, the intelligence estimate is taking this into account and coming up with this conclusion that the factors fueling this growth of the movement, they report, outweigh the vulnerability of the movement and will do so for some time. That's not "we're safer."
MR. SNOW: No. It talks about jihadism.
Q It's also not "we're winning."
MR. SNOW: Well, it doesn't draw judgments like that. You've read the National Intelligence Estimate.
Q I'm practically quoting verbatim from the report. I could read it.
MR. SNOW: I know, but -- look for "we're not winning." Please show me --
Q The President has said, we're not winning -- we're winning.
MR. SNOW: The President says we're winning -- but she said it says --
Q But the President --
MR. SNOW: I understand that. I'm explaining -- and I've explained why --
Q So let's just read that sentence again. I mean, how can you translate that into "we're winning"? I just want to hear you make that argument.
MR. SNOW: Okay, let's go back to what you said. For instance, one of the things that you mentioned is that it's degraded the leadership. Here's what it says: "The loss of key leaders, particularly bin Laden, Zawahiri, and Zarqawi, in rapid succession probably would cause the group to fracture." We know that at least one if not two of those are still alive. But it says, "The loss of these leaders would exacerbate strains and disagreements. We assess that the resulting splinter groups, at least for a time, pose a less serious threat to U.S. interests than does al Qaeda."
When it comes to degradation -- when you talk about degrading the leadership of al Qaeda, you have degraded the operational capability. Once again, you don't have training camps. You do not have the ability to train and to carry off operations like you do before. You don't have the freedom of communication they had before. You do not have the freedom of motion they had before. So the degradation is a degradation of capability.
It says that al Qaeda remains the most dangerous or the most threatening, I think, of the terror groups. Absolutely. But what you're talking about here -- and this is an important distinction to make -- between jihadis and those who are capable, operationally capable of devastating strikes on the United States and other governments, you simply do not have the kind of concentrated operational capability that you had before. And that does come through here.
Now, what is going on? They're looking for excuses. As a matter of fact, Ayman al Zawahiri today is going to issue yet another tape that is -- at least we are told -- that is going to try to get people whomped up, in this case, I think about the Pope, about Darfur -- because, apparently, we're trying to save people in Darfur -- and the Danish cartoons.
So the fact is, there are a number of ways of recruiting and incitement. And incitement is something that typically would happen. Every time there's an American victory, they will go and say, ah-ha, they have killed Zarqawi, join the movement. Just because somebody says they joined the movement does not necessarily mean that they are prepared to strap on a vest and blow somebody up. So that's the distinction to make.
Q Well, again, the report says, "factors fueling the movement outweigh the vulnerabilities." It says they're not --
MR. SNOW: Yes, but --
Q -- that the movement has grown, and that it's harder to find and harder to prevent attacks.
MR. SNOW: I believe what it says. You've gotten it about right.
Q And they're training new leaders who are being battle-tested in Iraq.
MR. SNOW: No, it says -- let's run through it, because these are all good questions. First, it says -- let's see -- what you're talking about -- I'm sorry. Where are we here? Rephrase the one that you're going after here.
Q Let's see --
Q The vulnerabilities question.
Q Right. Well, we can go back over -- I can read you verbatim --
MR. SNOW: All right, here we go. Yes, the -- okay, that's -- thank you.
Q -- but we're also talking about harder -- you know, the "confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups."
MR. SNOW: Right. Which is precisely why the President has said -- if you look back at what the President has been saying, he says it's numerous and more dispersed. We're not disagreeing with that. I'm not trying to pick a fight with it.
What I'm trying to tell you is, there's a difference between an al Qaeda that has training camps, that has the operational ability. What this is talking about is the ability to get people to say, I'm a jihadist, and be angry, to identify themselves as part of a movement. It's not the same --
Q Tony, he says we're winning the war on terrorism. That's what he says.
MR. SNOW: I know.
Q And there are more of them. They're more dispersed. They're harder to find. And, yet, the President is saying, we're winning the war on terrorism.
MR. SNOW: That's right. But we're also fighting the war on terrorism. See, I think what -- it is typical in a time like this for people to try to go ahead and gain adherence. The question is, are they going to win? And the more important factor is -- and this is the key -- that the Iraq conflict has become the center of it all for these guys. If we --
Q But if they're doing --
MR. SNOW: You can follow up; I'm going to finish the answer and then you can hit back. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves and be perceived to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight. The fact is, they see Iraq, it's described here, as a cause célèbre.
And so what is going on right now is that there is a propaganda effort to get people whomped up. And if there is a perception that we're losing in Iraq, that's going to get more people to identify themselves as jihadists. The question, again, the operational question -- and it's not answered in here because I'm not sure it's answerable -- is, are there more cells that are operationally capable of killing us? Or do you have more people who say, we hate the United States?
Q Look at Iraq.
MR. SNOW: Yes, we are looking at Iraq, and that's --
Q They're fully capable of killing in great numbers there.
MR. SNOW: That's right.
Q I mean, you've got --
MR. SNOW: And who are they killing?
Q That's a prime example. They're killing Iraqis, they're killing Americans, they're killing civilians, they're killing military.
MR. SNOW: Yes, but you're mixing apples and oranges here, so let me go through it. When you're talking about Iraq --
Q But you're the ones who say that's the central front on terrorism.
MR. SNOW: Yes, and that's why, in fact, we're trying to fight it, and we are fighting it, and we're going to win it.
Q Zarqawi didn't make it go away -- when Zarqawi was killed, which is the example you used, as well.
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think you just fell off the turnip truck. You understand that, as a matter of fact, what happens is that there are a number of jihadists, united by an ideology that they do want to kill us. I mean, that's not a surprise.
As a matter of fact, it is typical for an embattled organization to do this. Look, let me ask you a simple question: Do you think bin Laden is better off today than he was six years ago?
Q No -- but I don't know that; I have no idea.
MR. SNOW: Okay. All right. Do you think Zawahiri is better off than he was six years ago?
Q Let's ask you the question. Let me go to something else, the strategy overall. You talk about aggressive stances, you talk about going after these guys. What's happened with doing that is they've dispersed and they're harder to find. So what, if any, is a new approach to that? How do you adapt to that kind of approach?
MR. SNOW: Did you read this?
Q Yes, I did read that approach.
MR. SNOW: Okay, well, then we'll walk through it.
Q But what have we done, and have we done enough to go to the root of the problem? The President talks about that all the time and, yet, they're dispersing, spreading, growing.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, dispersing, spreading and growing, you still have to ask yourself, do you have the operational capability, or are these people -- who, in fact, are going to be -- there are a couple of other conclusions in here -- I know I'm jumping around, let me back up -- conclusions in here that also bear upon your question. For instance, let's look at the underlying grievances -- "entrenched grievances such as corruption and justice and fear of Western domination, slow pace of real sustained economic, social, and political reforms, and also pervasive anti-U.S. sentiment among Muslims."
What it also concludes is that the possibility of democracy is going to have a significant discouraging effect. That is one thing. Secondly, when you take a look at what we've been doing in terms of discouraging, you not only have battlefield operations, you have military operations, you have intelligence operations. But, also, there are a number of ongoing efforts to try to create conditions where you do address underlying causes, where you do address the kind of discontent that has been simmering in the region for a very long time.
Let me remind you, it did not begin with the Iraq war. It, in fact, had grown in enormous strength before the Iraq war. It would not have gone away with or without the Iraq war. The fact is, we have a problem that we are trying to deal with on many fronts. And we could walk through all the steps. You know, I can go back through the conclusions here.
Q Can I do one, lessons learned, maybe, from Iraq? You're fighting an insurgency in Iraq, correct? I mean, what is your strategy for fighting an insurgency, and what lessons did you learn from that? Maybe every time you strike one insurgent, you get 10 more. Whatever those lessons are that you've learned there, how are you applying those to -- if you call it a global insurgency --
MR. SNOW: Well, again -- again, if you take a look at the insurgency, challenges -- this is from the counterterrorism document -- "Terrorist networks are more dispersed, they're more centralized, more reliant on smaller cells inspired by common ideology." What have we done? We interrupted their communications, we interrupted their finances, we interrupted their operational capabilities, and you continue to do things like that. You make it more difficult for them to operate morning, noon and night.
At the same time, you understand that there is a violent ideology which you not only have to fight with arms and intelligence and cooperation with others, but you also have to work on ways to make what they do less attractive to people around them. And that has also worked, as you know, Martha.
A number of the strikes that have been going on in Iraq for the last couple of years are the result of people who in the past may have been afraid of standing up to terrorists, providing actionable intelligence. And that has gone from a small trickle to thousands of intelligence leads each and every month. It, in fact, led to significant operations within there. There is no question that these people are trying to fight in Iraq. There is no question that they're going to try to use the images of gore as a way of planting fear in people's hearts.
But there's also no question -- and this gets back to the fundamental issue -- are you going to go on the offensive against them or not? What this is, is a snapshot of the people the President has been describing for the last month. They're committed, they're violent, they're dispersed, and we can beat them.
Now if the question is, we can't beat them and we shouldn't fight, that's a debate we can have in the United States; that's a debate that we can have in Congress. The answer the President has is, you don't back off, you put them on the run, you win in Iraq, you establish democracy, and then they are going to know that there's just no way they can win.
Q Tony, let me refocus for a second here, because when this story broke, it seemed to me that the question here was whether or not the NIE, at least according to the part that was leaked, suggested that the war in Iraq, as a part of the general war on terror, was creating more terrorists, not fewer. And it seemed as though the administration's first response had to do with how the information came out, or that it was a small part. Is there -- do you have an issue with that statement?
MR. SNOW: Yes, as a matter of fact, I called you and took issue with it because there's a difference between causation and something that's simply -- two phenomena that happen to go side-by-side.
Q So it's a misreading of the report?
MR. SNOW: The report does not say that Iraq is -- it says that Iraq jihad is a contributing factor to trying to recruit people to jihad. It doesn't say that Iraq has made terrorism worse. And that is the shorthand that was employed in a number of cases.
Q I'm sorry -- spell out the difference for me?
MR. SNOW: Real simple, number one --
Q -- read it.
MR. SNOW: Yes, here it is. No, I'd be happy to read the sentence, I'll do it for everybody, because there are two parts to it -- and only the first half was leaked.
"The Iraq conflict has become a cause célèbre for jihadists breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement," correct? "Supporters." That's right. People say they -- this is what we're talking about, we're talking about supporters of a global jihadist movement. What it doesn't say is we now have tens of thousands more people armed and ready to hit the United States. It doesn't say that. It says that they're "creating an atmosphere where people are identifying themselves as jihadists."
Now, here's the second part: "Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves and be perceived to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight."
The critical judgment here is Iraq has become for them the battleground. If they lose, they lose their bragging rights. They lose their ability to recruit, and that is why at this point -- the President has made the point over and over. He has not tried to say there are fewer. He has not tried to say that they haven't been winning propaganda victories. What he has said is we've got a different kind of enemy, and we have kept America safe, and we will continue to do it.
Q But it seems to me that what is being suggested here --and maybe we're -- the question is, how do we define "jihad," and is it the same thing? Is their "jihad" our "war in Iraq"? And maybe we're just having a problem with terms. But it seems to me that what is being suggested here is that what is going on in Iraq, that conflict is creating more jihadists, terrorists -- I'm not sure what term you want to use here.
MR. SNOW: You know what's being used? It's -- what it's doing is, it's trying -- and let me go see if I can find the bin Laden quote here. What bin Laden tries to do is to use events as a way of stirring up hatred so that he can get people who will identify -- who will support him. That does not mean -- and I want to make -- because I don't know -- you try to make the distinction. People who say, yes, I support bin Laden is a lot different than people who say, I'm strapping on the vest and going to kill Americans. That's a difference.
And so you've got a jihadist movement where there has been propaganda --
Q But it does say that --
Q That's exactly what this is suggesting --
Q Jihadists aren't on the sidelines. They're not just --
MR. SNOW: No, it's -- no, I --
Q They're not spectators.
MR. SNOW: They're also not people -- they are not people -- well, a lot of them are. But the other --
Q By definition, they're not spectators.
MR. SNOW: No, there's no definition in here.
Q The word, "jihadist."
MR. SNOW: A jihadist is somebody who says --
Q That implies action.
MR. SNOW: Well, but what's interesting is --
Q Finish that sentence, "jihadist is somebody who says," what?
MR. SNOW: A jihadist is somebody who says that they believe -- that they believe that these kind of actions, that terror, in fact, will provide a road to glory. So they believe it. They buy the ideology.
Q So you're suggesting we've created more people who dislike us, but not more people who want to harm us.
MR. SNOW: Well, they may even want to harm us. The question is operationally, do they have the capability, and are they going to move forward to do so?
Q But Tony, let me follow here, because I guess my question is, is there anything in the NIE that is causing the President to rethink strategy about how to fight the war on terror, or the war in Iraq? And if this was done, stop -- the intelligence was gathered no later than February, it was written in April, we don't know about it until now -- is there anything in the last half a year where he's looked at this information that he had in February and said, you know what, we should do business a little differently?
MR. SNOW: This was written, in part, with the recommendations -- or the conclusions of the NIE in mind. And we've talked about the ways in which you've got to be nimble in responding to these things. A lot of the stuff that's in here -- what's interesting is, a lot of the stuff that's in here, you could have read a month ago. And it does, in fact, talk about a more dispersed terror network, it does talk about people are communicating over the Internet, it does talk about the necessity of approaching this from a number of different angles.
So the answer is, yes, there has been a much more nuanced approach to doing this. And this is what happens as the war against terror continues. As they adjust, we adjust. That's not a steady state.
Q This a political Rorschach test. If you're looking at the NIE and you're predisposed to be critical of the war in Iraq, you see -- you read it that more terrorists are being created.
MR. SNOW: No, if you're predisposed to be critical of the war in Iraq, you just ask yourself the question, where do you proceed? What is your strategy for victory? That's a question. If you're predisposed to be against the war, do you want to fight it? Do you want to win it? That's a separate political judgment.
The fact is, the President has been saying over and over, you have committed terrorists that hate us and want to kill us. We're not going to let them. It's pretty simple trying to lay these things out. And we will use every means at our disposal to fight them.
These are people who, again, before September 11th -- let's take fuller look at the picture here. Again, when we did nothing, what did they do? They gained strength, they gained boldness, they drew the conclusion -- here's bin Laden: "We experienced the Americans through our brothers who went to combat against them in Somalia." They understood our previous responses as weakness.
One of the things that they suddenly realized afterward was that the American response was one that they had not anticipated. But Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in a communication with bin Laden, said he hadn't anticipated it and, therefore, they had to waive off attacks.
Q But do you think there are a bunch of people out there -- the critics of the administration -- who aren't committed to winning the war on terror? Can you draw a distinction between wanting to re-tool your strategy to win the war on terror, look at something like the NIE and think maybe we need to change the way we do business in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: No, look, I'm perfectly happy to hear -- and I think the President is -- anybody who has got ideas about it. Again, I really would encourage you -- I know I keep waving this around. But this does, in fact -- go back and look at it again, because it really does talk about a lot of the key things that appear in the NIE, and the ways in which we have go about trying to be nimble and fighting a terror network that is dispersed, continues to be dispersed, and it's dispersed in part because we have succeeded in smashing the old centralized organizations.
And the more you use the --
Q So the NIE is a success story, the NIE.
MR. SNOW: No, the NIE -- the NIE is not designed to draw judgments about success or failure. It's an intelligence document.
Q But as you read it, it's a success story?
MR. SNOW: No, I think it's a snapshot. Look, a success story is when you have democracy successful in Iraq. A success story is when we complete the job. That's the success story. That's the end state that we all ought to reach. And I think we're perfectly open to hearing what others may have to say. But also part of the -- but let me say a few things that have occurred, which is, as a result of American engagement in the war on terror we do have more allies in this war than we used to have, operationally within the region.
You've got the Pakistanis. Obviously, you've got Afghanistan and Iraq, the Saudis cooperating in ways -- the UAE, which had been one of the two nations to recognize the Taliban. The engagement in the war on terror I think has made it clear as other people look at these terrorists that they mean business. And, therefore, others are standing up and saying, okay, yes, this is real; this going to affect us, as well. And they're fighting.
Q Change of subject, but not venue. The Washington Post is carrying a series of polls saying that the Iraqi people most affected by our so-called war want us out, want us out of Iraq. What is the President's reaction?
MR. SNOW: Not really surprised. I mean, nobody wants to have an occupying army. It's understanding that when you have an army on your soil, that you want them out. But on the other hand, the Iraqi government has made it clear, and you've heard statements by Prime Minister Maliki, and now President Talabani, as recently as last week, saying, don't leave until the job is done.
We understand the sentiments of the Iraqi people and we'd love to be out of there as soon as possible, but you have to have the end state --
Q Well, do they count?
MR. SNOW: Of course, they count -- and one of the reasons why their elected officials want us to stay is that they don't want them subjected to tyranny. They want the ability to win the battle of terror on Iraqi soil. So the President does understand it. It's also interesting, Helen --
Q -- on Iraqi soil. We want it on Iraqi soil.
MR. SNOW: Let me just finish the -- I'm sorry, what?
Q I said, the question of winning, we declared Iraq a central front and so forth -- we want it there, instead -- and they want out.
MR. SNOW: Well, no, we didn't declare Iraq the central front, bin Laden did.
Q Yes, we did.
MR. SNOW: Bin Laden declared it the central front in the war on terror. But we're quibbling here. They want us out. Yes, of course. The Europeans wanted us out after World War II. We ended --
Q Why do we stay there?
MR. SNOW: The reason we're staying is that we have made a commitment to providing a government -- a democracy --
Q A commitment to whom?
MR. SNOW: To the people of Iraq and to their government, a government than can sustain itself, defend itself, and govern itself. And we are continuing --
Q We invaded that country.
MR. SNOW: Please, please, we're getting into the heckle zone here. The point is that the government has asked us and you have now had a Shia prime minister and a Kurdish President saying, stay, finish the job.
The other interesting thing is if you look in the region, there are only two countries that want us to leave immediately. And you know what they are? They're Syria and Iran. They're the key supporters of terror. They understand that our departure is good for them, and success for us in the region is bad for them. And we're simply not going to back off our commitment.
Q Tony, let's turn to tonight's dinner. Afghanistan is in danger, analysts say, of reverting to its pre-9/11 state. Does the President believe that General Musharraf is doing everything in his power to prevent that from happening? And to what extent will this be the topic of tonight's dinner? What is the President trying to achieve by the dinner?
MR. SNOW: Well, a couple of things -- first you said, Afghanistan is in danger --
Q Yes, I mean --
MR. SNOW: The President, and also President Karzai, have a different take on it. What has been happening in Afghanistan is that the government of Afghanistan has slowly and continuously -- and I've said this before -- been expanding its sphere of influence. For a long time, it basically had control of the area directly around Kabul. And what has happened now -- for instance, they're in the southern provinces and in areas within those provinces, over which they've never had effective control before. And what has happened is that the Taliban is fighting back and suffering devastating defeats at the hand of NATO forces.
Two related things have been taking place: the expansion of effective control; and the transfer, in some areas, from U.S. to NATO control. The Taliban has been testing it; it has been losing. President Karzai has made it clear that he and his people are still committed -- "still" -- are committed to victory. And, furthermore, we are continuing to work on training Afghan troops and provide them with the equipment they need so that they can go ahead and continue to wage the war successfully.
The ultimate aim, in both places, is not that we win the wars, but that we allow the countries to have the capability to go ahead and build peace and stability on their own. President Musharraf also made it clear, for instance, in a much discussed agreement with tribal leaders in Waziristan and some of the other areas. That was interpreted at first as being a pact with the Taliban. It is anything but. It was a pact against the Taliban, to go after the Taliban. And it was working with tribal leaders to get their help and assurance in trying to make sure, A, that the Taliban was not going to be able to recruit; that, B -- in fact, to de-Talibanize the areas.
Furthermore, there was also an agreement that they would prevent cross-border incursions, which has been a sore spot with the Afghans. And I think you're going to have conversations between the two heads of state and the President, all acknowledging one thing, which is, both states need to be able to be secure. And President Musharraf has certainly given his assent to that and, obviously, President Karzai is interested in making sure, especially in those border areas, that they get secured.
Q But even those --
Q So, wait, so does the President believe that General Musharraf is doing everything in his power to make certain that Afghanistan is secure?
MR. SNOW: I don't know how you define "everything in his power." How would I define it?
Q Is he doing everything he possibly can?
MR. SNOW: He is making serious efforts. The President is satisfied with the efforts he's made, and supports them.
Q But even though Musharraf and Karzai met earlier this month in Kabul and pledged unity, they have continued throwing barbs at each other for weeks now. What can the President -- what can President Bush do to bridge these differences in a very brief dinner gathering?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think one of the things that the President has done -- keep in mind, we've also had unilateral meetings with both now in the last week or week and a half. And the President has made it clear that they've got a shared interest, and the shared interest is combating terrorism -- Taliban, al Qaeda and other forms of terror -- and also making sure that the two states are successful. And he will remind them of the fact, and I think both men understand that.
So certainly we understand that there are tensions between the countries, and we're going to do whatever we can -- that they want us to do -- to help resolve them. But the two leaders also understand that they've got a shared interest in making sure that the other guy succeeds.
Q Whose idea was the dinner?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't know, I'll find out. Rather than faking it, I'll just find out.
Q Is the President ready to talk tough to these two and say, cut it out, get your act together?
MR. SNOW: The President is always candid when he speaks to other heads of state.
Q And find out, Tony, who else will be at the dinner, please.
MR. SNOW: Fred, do we know who is --
MR. JONES: The Vice President, the Secretary of State. Each head of state will have a representative with them, as well.
MR. SNOW: Okay, so we'll have the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State. Will the National Security Advisor be --
MR. JONES: I don't know.
MR. SNOW: Okay, and security advisors for both. We'll get you a full list.
Q Follow-up on Musharraf?
MR. SNOW: Is this on Musharraf?
Q Yes, it's on Musharraf, too. You said the agreement that Musharraf signed concerning the Taliban was anything but, allowing the Taliban safety, a haven there. Did the administration believe that from the beginning?
MR. SNOW: Let me -- I don't --
Q Or has he clarified? I mean, because one of the things the President said the other day is, he looked me in the eye and told me that it wasn't.
MR. SNOW: And furthermore -- actually, thank you, because he expanded upon it. It is not merely -- it's not merely a military operation, but also, and maybe even more importantly, an economic development operation, as well. So what they're trying to do is to build infrastructure and prosperity in the region, as well. This is not simply strictly saying to tribal leaders, okay, you guys go after the Taliban. It's, look, we've got to work together, we know that you've got problems, we're going to try to work on building prosperity, and at the same time, you've got to work with us to build security.
There has been a lot of confusion about it, and the President wanted to find out exactly what President Musharraf had offered. And he laid it out. I'll have to go back to my notes, but it was a three-part plan. And it --
Q And he's absolutely convinced Musharraf is telling the truth on this -- but wasn't from the beginning?
MR. SNOW: I don't know that that's the case. I really don't. I mean, I just --
Q He's convinced now, absolutely convinced?
MR. SNOW: I don't know, "absolutely." The President -- what President Musharraf said is, this is a construct that we think is going to work. And we are going to try to use that to have success in the war on terror and also helping out with problems of poverty within the region. And if it works, it becomes a great template, and if it doesn't, then you've got to go back and figure out how to make it work.
So I think what the President is convinced is that President Musharraf is making a creative and very good-faith effort to try to address the problem of terrorism and the spread of terrorism in a way that, like our own strategy, addresses it on a number of fronts and not simply on a single front.
Q President Musharraf, since he's been in the United States -- particularly at the United Nations, and then subsequently here at the White House -- has made some statements that seem strange to many individuals, in the case of talking about his publisher and book and Comedy Central. He had some remarks to the NATO troops in Afghanistan, saying that their criticisms of Pakistan not doing enough should be equated by the fact that more Pakistanis have died than their soldiers and they should get over it, that kind of thing.
The point I'm trying to get at here is, you're an expert in the area of public relations and statements and things of that kind, do you sometimes wince at the way Musharraf deals in public, in terms of making these kind of statements, given that he is probably now one of the strongest potential allies of the United States war on terrorism?
MR. SNOW: I hope in addition to being a now acknowledged expert on public relations that I'll develop a reputation for diplomacy. And in that case, I'm not going to comment on President Musharraf's statements.
Here are the participants, Cheryl, for tonight: the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor. On the Afghan side, there will be President Karzai and Said Tayab Jawad, who is the Ambassador to the United States, President Musharraf will also be accompanied by his Ambassador, Mahmud Ali Durrani. Those will be the participants in tonight's dinner.
Q And you'll, of course, tell us what room it's going to be in and what was served?
MR. SNOW: We'll put together a to-do list. We'll even try to find out the flowers.
Q That's --
Q On the schedule, Old Family Dining Room.
MR. SNOW: That's what I thought. Thank you. Thank God for Knoller.
Q Tony, do you think the enemy, from their point of view, was encouraged or discouraged by what they saw in the NIE? And do you think the release of the NIE damaged the U.S. war effort in any way?
MR. SNOW: No, the President would not have released the NIE if the findings damaged the war effort. There is the concern that when you are taking on national intelligence estimates and taking key judgments and making them public, the key concern is that you're going to cause analysts to pull their punches. And you worry about whether foreign governments are going to look at you and say, can we trust you? That is why there was special care given to making sure that no sources or methods or foreign cooperation was compromised. The President would not have authorized the release of the document if he thought it would compromise the efforts.
Q And what do you think the enemy thinks of what they saw in that?
MR. SNOW: You know, I think the enemy is going to make more of what they see in terms of successes in impeding their activities than anything else. Far be it for me to climb into the head of a jihadian and draw a conclusion.
What they -- you know what they may be seeing? They maybe see democracy in action and people disagreeing without slitting each other's throats.
Q Can I just go back to your argument? Just so I'm clear. There is another way to say it, that the Americans should take comfort because while there may be more seeds of terrorist ideology across the globe, they're not in full bloom, full operational bloom --
MR. SNOW: That's probably -- but the other thing is, I don't want -- that's a good way of putting it. Now, you know, the PR crown now passes to you. But let me --
Q But why should that be a comforting thought, it's --
MR. SNOW: But let me -- I was about to answer that part. You don't sit back and take comfort. What you do is you say, we've got an enemy, we've got to beat them. And that gets back to what I said. You've got to decide whether you're going to go on the offense or not. Now would the world be a better place if Saddam Hussein were still in power? Would the world be a safer place if Saddam were still in power? Those are the kinds of questions you need to ask.
And, furthermore, in the present world, which has been laid out now, once again, and you can take a look at the President's speeches, going back to the 31st of August, you can take a look at the counterterrorism document, you can take a look at this. And what you now have is a picture of a dispersed yet determined global terror network that means business. But on the other hand, it also gives you a picture -- not a full picture, because we don't want them to know everything we're doing -- but the many and various ways we're going after them, and that you have an administration where all hands are on deck.
Now, again, in the interest of democracy, if somebody has got a better way to do this, if they've got suggestions, that's great, let's hear them. But this is the debate that is worth having and get into tough questions about whether we're safe or not. And we're going to continue discussing these, I have absolutely no doubt. And you know what? We should, because Americans need, to the best of their ability, to get a sense of whether they ought to be scared or not. And the other thing they ought to know is whether they ought to have confidence that a government is going on the offensive at being as aggressive and as resourceful as possible in going after it.
Keep in mind, again, before September 11th, we went through a long period where we put our feet up and said, wow, the Cold War is over. And we didn't realize what was looming. And the threat grew and become far more capable, and now it has taken us more than five years -- roughly five years to rebuild a lot of our intelligence. It has taken us -- we are continuing to try to develop our own means and methods of dealing not only with a new kind of threat, but a constantly changing threat, and to make sure that we've got our eyes open.
And one more point to make -- and I want to reiterate again -- which is that what you have here is also a challenge to the international community. And we've been working very closely with a lot of people, with a lot of allies to try to fight this because you find out that in the region and in Europe and elsewhere, they understand the nature of the threat. And they're even fighting it, too.
Q Tony, trying to understand your response to Jim's question, you're saying -- to paraphrase, you at the risk of becoming the new PR --
MR. SNOW: That's okay.
Q -- that the report says that Iraq is creating more jihadists, but that this doesn't necessarily mean it's creating more terror.
MR. SNOW: No, what it says is there are contributing factors to the jihadi movement. It does not try to render a judgment about what's -- if there is a single factor creating more. As you go back and take a look at the four parts, you have a number of things that are fueling the growth in the jihadi movement. You know what? It's perfectly possible that the war in Iraq is creating more people who say that they want to be jihadis.
Q Right, so --
MR. SNOW: Perfectly possible.
Q But that doesn't mean that these people are terrorists, is that what you're saying?
MR. SNOW: It does not mean that they have the operational capability, because we have been, in fact, on a very aggressive and continued campaign that has succeeded. And the President laid that out. A number of terror plots have been intercepted and interceded.
Q But you're making a distinction that the report doesn't make. I mean, the report says, using the word "jihadist," it says, "We judge that most jihadist groups -- both well known and newly formed -- will use improvised explosive devices and suicide attack." It says, "CBRN capabilities will continue to be sought by jihadist groups."
They're saying jihadists, not terrorists. If Iraq is creating more jihadists, doesn't that according to the logic of the report mean that it's creating more terrorists?
MR. SNOW: Okay, it's creating more people who want to commit acts of terror. And it gets back to the practical judgment, which is neither addressed nor answered in here, and I will try to get "greater granularity" for you, about whether or not the operational capability is the same.
I guarantee you, though -- and this is the important issue -- that if, in fact, this had been allowed to continue untouched and unabated, it would be worse. And, number two, the key challenge before the United States is to make sure we continue to give ourselves the tools to fight them.
Q I'm not arguing --
MR. SNOW: And, furthermore, if we had not engaged in this battle, it's not as if they all would have become computer programmers in Silicon Valley.
Q I'm not arguing with your other point, which is simply that there's more terrorists but they're less effective. What I'm saying is that this report seems to be very clearly stating that Iraq is creating more jihadists, which it equates in this report with terrorists. And, furthermore, there's another phrase that specifically mentions terrorists that says, "We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives." Those are more terrorists.
MR. SNOW: Yes, no -- more terrorist leaders and operatives. Absolutely right. And once again, in part because you have a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives, in part because the old generation has suffered significant casualties -- Zarqawi and others -- but, yes, you've got a new generation. And the question we have to keep asking ourselves is, operationally, what can they do and how can they do it. And I don't disagree.
Q Thank you.
MR. SNOW: Thank you.
Q Before you leave, we wanted to ask your thinking in agreeing to do fundraising.
MR. SNOW: My thinking is that I wanted to be able to help the President. And at the same time, as I was telling Nedra the other day, these are not going to be speeches where I go out and start railing against Democrats. What I'm going to do is talk about the President's record and what he's done.
Q Will your appearances be open to the press?
MR. SNOW: I think there may be a couple closed, but most of them are open, yes.
Q You're only going to rail against Democrats to us? (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Only when so prompted.
Q Are you going to be paid by the government?
MR. SNOW: No. The RNC will be responsible for every jot and tittle.
Q When is the first one?
MR. SNOW: Actually, that's a good question. Well, there was a -- I did a talk last week in Pennsylvania, so that probably would have been the first one, in Harrisburg. I'll go back and get the date for you.
Q When's the second one?
Q Why were you picked?
MR. SNOW: The second one -- because they said there were a lot of people that had asked me to come. I'll be doing an event tonight, and I think it is closed tonight. There are open events -- there's an open event in Ohio, I think next Monday. The political office -- to tell you the truth, I don't have all this in my head. Sara Taylor in the political office.
Q Where is the one tonight?
MR. SNOW: It's in town and it's for Minnesota '06.
Q Do you see any conflict in doing a closed event when your primary role is to be a spokesperson of the President? To be open?
MR. SNOW: That's a good question. Well, I'm trying to be open with you right now. The fact is that this is how it was set up, and if you want a readout, I'll be happy to tell you what I said.
Q How did this all come about?
MR. SNOW: It came about when I was approached by the political office saying that we've got a lot of inquiries and a lot of people would like you to do this -- would you do it? What followed were a long series of conversations, because I think this is pretty unplowed ground -- Mark and I have been through this -- I think it's unplowed ground. And you want to make sure that you do it in such a way that you're still able to function effectively as the Press Secretary, which means that from a red meat standpoint, they're likely to be pretty dull.
What you have to do is to present a factual account of what the President is doing and not draw yourself into ongoing political disputes between Democrats and the President because that, to me, I think, would be crossing a line that I don't want to cross.
Q -- a fundraiser?
MR. SNOW: Yes, sort of.
Q Did you take some pause to think about the ethical considerations?
MR. SNOW: Oh, yes, and had a number of conversations with Harriet Miers and others. Absolutely, this was not like, oh, yes, no-brainer. You had to think it through and had to think it through in the way that would be appropriate to do it. And it's --
Q When were you approached by the political people? Last week?
MR. SNOW: No, no, no, it has been several months. It has been quite a while.
Q To your knowledge, have Press Secretaries in the past done fundraising?
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. I have not found any case in which -- there may be some cases, but I'm not aware of them.
Q Then why are doing one now? Why are you the one breaking this precedent?
MR. SNOW: I was asked.
Q Being "asked" is not sufficient -- you could have said, no.
MR. SNOW: I could have said no.
Q You've been a journalist most of your life. You tell us that all the time --
MR. SNOW: And I'm -- you know what, and I'm the President's Press Secretary, and one of the things I want to try to do is to help the President, but do it in a way that's consistent with my role as Press Secretary. And if we find that there is an unalterable conflict, then the Press Secretary role dominates. But keep your eyes out on --
Q Did people like Harriet Miers tell you what you could say and couldn't say, or you set the ground rules?
MR. SNOW: No, I've got to be able to be trusted to set the ground rules. And if I overstep, you can whack me. You don't have to blame Harriet or anybody else.
Q How will we know what you said?
Q But they're closed.
MR. SNOW: Well, most of these things are going to be open, so you'll have plenty of opportunities.
Q What are the ground rules?
MR. SNOW: The ground rules?
MR. SNOW: What do you mean?
Q In terms of what you can and cannot say.
MR. SNOW: My ground rules are you stick to factual defenses and advocacy for the President.
Q Will the President call Prime Minister Abe to congratulate him?
MR. SNOW: Yes, as a matter of fact, I believe you've already got a readout of that. If not, Fred has it for you, but there was, what, a 12-minute conversation.
MR. JONES: A 12-minute conversation.
MR. SNOW: A 12-minute conversation this morning, I think from 7:52 a.m. to 8:04 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Q Will you be doing fundraisers for Prime Minister Abe? (Laughter.)
Q You said the discussion came a couple of months ago. Was the idea of fundraising discussed prior to your hiring or in the hiring process?
MR. SNOW: No, no, no, no, no. No part of the conversation beforehand.
Q Does the White House have any rules about White House staffers throwing political fundraisers in their homes? Has that been vetted by -- as the President went to one last night?
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, White House staffers throwing fundraisers?
Q White House -- employees of the White House, holding political fundraisers in their home.
MR. SNOW: I'll find out. My guess is something like that would be vetted. But, Ann, I don't know. I'll find out.
Q The President went to one last night.
MR. SNOW: Yes, so I'll find out.
Q Tony, did the President ask you to do this?
MR. SNOW: No, the President did not ask me directly, no.
MR. SNOW: The President did not ask me directly, no. The political office did.
END 12:40 P.M. EDT