JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Some of those thousands of patients come from being injured to actual patients to then possibly medical refugees, how important are facilities like the immigrant holding facilities, Guantanamo Bay, in the transitioning off of Haiti to other locations?
ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN: We are aware of the medical support that’s available at a place like Guantanamo. We haven’t seen any large requirement for that right now. What’s been the struggle initially with this, is because those who have been injured so badly, many of them are crush injuries and we’ve seen infections set in and many amputations have had to occur. You just can’t show up to a medical facility if you will. It’s not any kind of non-serious injury – we’re really trying to focus on those major ones. But there are also significant additional medical requirements that we’re trying to meet. It takes supplies, it takes distribution and we’re just not there yet and an awful amount of people are working trying to get this right. And I see this, along with food and water, as the most significant challenge.
JH: Is the Gitmo facility available to you, however, for people to move off island?
ADM. MULLEN: It’s an option, certainly, an option that General Fraser and General Keen and USAID has as a part of this. But there are actually distribution issues; literally, there are hospitals on Haiti that have rooms. They’re not located necessarily right downtown so we think we need to work to distribute some of the patients that are in hospitals once they’ve received the care to move them out to some of these other areas.
JH: The President said, referring to the Christmas Day bombing attempt of the Northwest Airlines jet, that "we are at war with Al Qaeda... let’s be clear." Is that your understanding, Admiral?
ADM. MULLEN: Yes, it is very clear. This is a group, and I’ve said this over a long period of time that, and it has been diminished somewhat in the last couple of years, but this is a group that is still trying to kill Americans, they’re still trying to kill Westerners. The December 25th incident in Detroit is an example of that, the Headley arrest, the Zazi arrest, the five Americans who were recently picked up in Pakistan – all of that is very much associated with an overall strategic direction to still try to generate catastrophic attacks killing innocent people, killing innocent Americans, as many as they can. In that regard, you bet we’re at war with them.
JH: Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke uses the term “AfPak” a lot, it’s proliferated in a lot of discussions here in Washington and around the world. Since the surge was announced in Afghanistan. Do you think the rules of engagement regarding the sanctity of the Pakistan-Afghan border are evolving in some way that perhaps might give U.S. forces more of a reason to cross the border and operate inside Pakistan, either with drones or actual infantry?
ADM. MULLEN: I don’t see any circumstances at this point where we’re going to have any ground troops that would cross that border. I mean, that’s just not part it, it hasn’t changed as a result of this strategy. The question about Afghanistan and Pakistan: what I have learned over the past two plus years, having been heavily engaged in this, is it’s not one country or another. They are two sovereign countries, obviously they border each other, and they’re inextricably linked in many, many ways and in particular, at that border. And that’s where we believe Al Qaeda leadership resides, that’s where the Afghan Taliban have a safe haven and they use that safe haven to come into Afghanistan to kill Afghan citizens, Afghan security forces and to kill Americans. So we’re very focused on that and that border. That border is one I believe is the epicenter of terrorism.
JH: In terms of the rules of engagement with our relationship with Pakistan, is it possible for Pakistani military officers to initiate either drone surveillance or drone attacks? Help me to understand how a Pakistan military officer might be involved in drone surveillance of Pakistani territory? Would they initiate? Would they provide intelligence? Would they provide suggestions for targets or is it completely a U.S.-initiated operation?
ADM. MULLEN: Actually, I don’t talk about these operations in any kind of detail at all. Where we are in terms of what we’re doing with the Pakistani military, and we’ve been doing it for some time, is we have provided training and support for their operations. I was there in December and I went up and spent the entire day in Swat, and a year ago there were many that had predicted Swat would never return to what it was because the insurgents had basically taken it over. The dire consequences there were facing the Pakistani military, the Pakistani government and what would they do about it?
Well, the Pak-mil went in there and basically turned it around, got rid of the insurgents. They achieved something that many people predicted they couldn’t achieve. We have worked to support them in terms of training. I’ve been to the training center where we’ve done that, and it’s really been exquisite training. They’ve worked hard, they’ve learned well, and they’ve had a big impact.
JH: Finally, in the White House situation room, I happened to pass through yesterday, I noticed there were a number of digital clocks that sort of monitor places around the world that obviously are of interest. Of course there was Washington, Kabul, Port-au-Prince, but I noticed that there was Sana'a, capital of Yemen. Is that an indication that surveillance, on the part of the White House security operations and perhaps the Pentagon surveillance, in Yemen is as important as the relief operation in Port-au-Prince right now or the operation in Kabul?
ADM. MULLEN: Right now, we are very focused on Haiti. And it really is at the top of the list. But we don’t do that and ignore the other challenges. And I have been concerned for a significant period of time about the growing potential, and now what I see in execution, of a new safe haven for Al Qaeda leadership in Yemen. And it’s clearly there, and it goes to Ft. Hood and al-Awlaki, who is the Imam, who is actually an American citizen, spent a lot of time here, who is at the center of fostering not just Hassan, but a lot of other activities, as an example. And he resides in Yemen. And there are others. So we’ve got an increased level of focus on Yemen. We’ve increased our support to the Yemen security forces. I don’t just mean recently, we’ve actually done that over the last couple of years, we expect it to grow significantly over the next year. And for the same reason, to enable them to get at this very serious threat not just to us, but also to the people of Yemen and the government of Yemen. It is in certainly our list of top priorities we are spending a lot of time on.