Rumsfeld, Franks Update Congress on Terror War Progress
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 31, 2002 Despite the successes to date in the war on terror, the al Qaeda terrorist network "has not lost its will to conceive, to plan and to execute terrorist operations worldwide," Army Gen. Tommy Franks told senators this afternoon.
"While U.S. and coalition forces have done a lot in the past 10 months, the potential for terrorist attacks and for setbacks inside Afghanistan remains very real," the Central Command chief said. "Afghanistan is rising from the oppression of the Taliban into an independent, democratic nation. I'm optimistic about that future, but I'm also pragmatic."
Franks and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Both said the war on terrorism is far from over. The effort will require patience from Americans at home and courage from the nation's military men and women abroad.
"Successes up to this point," Franks said, "are attributable to the will of this country and to each of the coalition members -- a will which I believe has been grossly underestimated by the terrorist organizations which threaten us still."
Over the past six months, he said, the coalition has grown from 50 nations to 70 nations: 37 are engaged in and around Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom; 24 have forces inside Afghanistan. Franks said he's inspired by the courage, tenacity and professionalism of the more than 71,000 U.S. and coalition troops under his command
"The Taliban is gone," Franks said. "The al Qaeda senior leadership is in disarray. Many of their planners, travel facilitators and logisticians are now dead or have been captured. Their training facilities have been destroyed. Command and control capabilities have been disrupted and their remaining leaders are on the run.
"However, al Qaeda has not lost its will to conceive, to plan, to execute terrorist operations worldwide. It is the relentless pressure provided by our military, the militaries of the coalition, financial and diplomatic efforts, which over the past 10 months have prevented al Qaeda from sustaining its pre 9-11 capacity."
The commander recited a detailed list of successes. U.S. and coalition forces have screened more than 7,500 people detained in Afghanistan, conducted more than 3,500 interrogations with 2,200 individuals, detained about 650 people from 44 different nations, screened 16,000 documents and added 12,000 to Central Command's database, and located more than 300 weapon caches throughout Afghanistan.
With the Taliban removed from power, coalition forces in Afghanistan continue to locate and engage remaining pockets of terrorists and their supporters, Franks said. The goal is eradicate terrorist networks within Afghanistan and to improve security and stability in the emerging Afghan nation.
"The Afghan battlefield remains a very complex and a very dangerous place," Franks said. "In some areas, small numbers of remaining enemy troops have blended in with sympathetic segments of the civilian population."
Tribal, ethnic and cultural conflicts continue to cause factional clashes, which threaten stability. "They also provide challenges to our coalition forces who are doing the hard work," the general said. "Distinguishing between friend and foe remains a very difficult task in such a complex environment."
"We have a lot of awfully hard work left to do to finish the enemy in Afghanistan," Franks concluded.
Rumsfeld said the coalition faces "very determined adversaries. They have demonstrated ingenuity and callous disregard for innocent human life and victory will not come easily or quickly." But, he added, "patience and courage are virtues our nation has in abundance, and I have no doubt that we will prevail."
Nine months into the war, Rumsfeld said, the 70-nation coalition has accomplished much in reversing the tide of terrorism. The Taliban have been driven from power, al Qaeda is on the run and Afghanistan is no longer a base for global terrorist operations.
The Afghan people have exercised their right of self- determination to select a new president, Rumsfeld said. A new cabinet has been sworn in and a transitional government has been set up to lead the nation for the next two years.
"We're working with the new Afghan government to lay the foundations for longer-term stability and to reverse the conditions that allowed terrorist regimes to take root in the first place," he said.
U.S. and coalition partners are helping to train a new Afghan national army. Last week, the first battalion of more than 300 soldiers graduated and another 600 are being trained. The national army, Rumsfeld said, will be "a force committed not to one group or one faction, but to the defense of the entire nation, which we hope will allow Afghans to take responsibility for their own security rather than relying on foreign forces."
Afghanistan recently held its first Little League baseball game with the help of a U.S. civil affairs team. Civil affairs teams have rebuilt 49 schools and some 30,000 boys and girls are back in school. U.S. and coalition partners have delivered more than 500,000 metric tons of food, enough to feed almost 7 million Afghans.
Since January, Rumsfeld said, hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons have returned to their homes. "That is a ringing vote of confidence in the progress that's being made in Afghanistan," he remarked. "These people are voting with their feet. They're concluding that life is better in Afghanistan than it was where they were."
Progress has also been made in detaining terrorists across the globe, Rumsfeld pointed out. Law enforcement officials in more than 90 countries have detained and interrogated some 2,400 people. More than 650 enemy combatants are currently under DoD control and are yielding information that is helping to prevent further violence.
"For every terrorist plot we discover and every terrorist cell that's disrupted, there are dozens of others in the works," the secretary said. Al Qaeda operates in more than 60 countries, including the United States, and it has trained thousands of terrorists who are at large across the globe, he added.
Al Qaeda is not the only global terrorist network, Rumsfeld warned. Terrorist groups have relationships with terrorist states that may one day share weapons of mass destruction with them.
"The global war on terrorism is a global campaign against global adversaries," he stressed. "We learned on Sept. 11 that in a world of international finance, communications and transportation, even relatively isolated individuals or organizations can have global reach -- and the ability to cause unprecedented destruction on innocent civilians."
The war on terrorism will not end, Rumsfeld concluded, until terrorist networks have been rooted out, state sponsor of terror are made to understand the deadly consequences of aiding and harboring terrorists, and those developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons end their threat to innocent people.
"It will not end until our people, and the people of the world's free nations, can once again live in peace and free from fear," he told the committee.