Rumsfeld: No Evidence of Al Qaeda in Kashmir
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain, June 13, 2002 "Scraps of intelligence" that Al Qaeda operatives may be in Kashmir are generally speculative and not verifiable or actionable, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in Pakistan today.
"I do not have evidence and the United States does not have evidence of al Qaeda in Kashmir," he said. "We do have a good deal of scraps of intelligence that come in from people saying that they believe al Qaeda are in Kashmir." However, the United States and Pakistan are working so closely to destroy al Qaeda in that country, there is no need to send U.S. troops into Kashmir.
"The cooperation between the United States and Pakistan on the subject of al Qaeda is so close and so intimate and so cooperative," Rumsfeld said, "that if there were any actionable intelligence as to al Qaeda anywhere in this country, there isn't a doubt in my mind but that the Pakistan government would go find them and deal with them."
The secretary was in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad to meet with President Pervez Musharraf and other national and defense leaders. He had been in India during similar visits the day before. Rumsfeld stopped in Bahrain briefly to refuel on his way back to Washington.
He also praised the Pakistani government for their assistance in the war on terror. Even as tensions heated up on their eastern border with India, Musharraf chose to leave forces along the western border with Afghanistan to help prevent fleeing Taliban and al Qaeda from escaping to Pakistan. This allowed the United States "to do work on the Afghan side of the border and that has been very, very helpful," Rumsfeld said.
Indian and Pakistani forces on either side of the Line of Control in disputed Kashmir haven't lowered their alert status, but both governments have taken promising steps to avert armed conflict there, Rumsfeld said.
Musharraf has pledged to halt Muslim extremists crossing the Line of Control. India has moved their fleet further south, away from Pakistan, announced they intend to return a high commissioner to Pakistan, and returned Pakistan's over-flight rights. But, Rumsfeld said, both sides need to communicate with each other more.
"There is no question but that countries need to talk to each other," he said. "They need diplomatic relations in my view."
En route to New Delhi June 11, Rumsfeld said open lines of communication would help ease tensions in case al Qaeda or other militants try to stir up trouble inside Kashmir. Pakistani Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdus Sattar noted "de-escalation (in Kashmir) is obviously the priority" and thanked the U.S. government for its assistance.
Rumsfeld is scheduled to return to Washington early June 14. He has been traveling overseas since June 4 on a trip that has taken him to London, Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, India and Pakistan.