Department of Defense News Briefing (excerpt)

General Tommy Franks, commander, U.S. Central Command
Tuesday, October 29, 2002 - 12:32 p.m. EST

Q: General, there's been some discussion of sending additional forces to the Horn of Africa. Have you seen -- is there some indication of more al Qaeda fleeing to the region? What would be the rationale for sending more forces?

Franks: In fact, we do have more forces in that region, down around Djibouti. If you look at the global war on terrorism, then what you see, that we said a long time ago, we said a long time ago, first off we're going to rout the terrorists out of Afghanistan and get rid of the Taliban. We also said that there are going to be some friendly nations and we're going to want to work with them in order to help them help themselves get over the terrorist problem. And we also said it may be necessary from time to time to coerce others to get rid of the terrorist problem.

Well, as we have better refined and defined our relationships and what we're looking at, it seems to make sense to us to put this capability -- Marine capability -- in the vicinity of Djibouti to work with countries in the Horn of Africa. But you can see a lot of things in that. You can see, well, it's tied to the global war on terrorism -- and for sure it is. But you also know that we have security relationships or engagement opportunities -- however you choose to think about them -- in a great many countries in the Horn of Africa: Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Yemen. And so having that force there gives us the ability to increase our exercise work with all those nations. And so the answer is, it's all of the above.

Last question.

Q: How big a force?

Q: General, before she gives you the hook, there has been some speculation that if we do go to war with Iraq and we're going to stay for a while, there will be a military commander. And your name has been mentioned. Would you take the job if the president asked you to?

Franks: (Chuckles.) I think anyone who serves this country in this uniform always has to be, one, very respectful to the Constitution of the country and, two, very respectful to the commander in chief of the country. And so the -- no one has suggested to me that that eventuality might come to pass. I saw the speculation. I simply grinned about it, and we moved on.

The president has not made a decision about what to do in Iraq. And so since he hasn't made a decision, I sure don't know about it, and I wouldn't want to speculate about what might happen next.

Franks: And sir, back to you, the question is 7(00) to 800.

Q: Seven to eight hundred Marines.

Q: General, just one more brief one --

Q: In Djibouti or based in Eritrea?

Franks: No, they're based in Djibouti. They're not based in Eritrea. Some are ashore and some are afloat. We have an afloat command and control capability that we move around, and so one may well see that afloat capability.

The duration has not been -- (inaudible) --