Rumsfeld Says No Evidence Bin Laden Is Dead
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2002 U.S. officials have no evidence that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is dead from a kidney ailment, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on the NBC-TV program "Meet the Press."
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf advanced the opinion Jan. 18 that bin Laden was dead.
"He could be dead, he could be alive, he could be in Afghanistan, he could be somewhere else," Rumsfeld said. "We're looking for him, and I think we'll find him."
Rumsfeld said some of the places most named as possible bin Laden refuges are Sudan, Somalia, Kashmir, Chechnya, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. "There are a number of places, but I don't think there are many places that would like to have him right now," the secretary said.
While the United States will capture bin Laden, the goal of the U.S. policy, he said, is to prevent terror attacks on the homeland, U.S. deployed forces, U.S. allies and friends.
"Right now, bin Laden and (Taliban leader Mohammad) Omar are not currently functioning effectively leading their terrorist networks, they are being driven," he said. "They are running, they are hiding and we are after them."
Rumsfeld confirmed a report that local people in some places in Afghanistan did not help U.S. forces. He said support for the Taliban and Al Qaeda is particularly strong in some areas, and the local population did not help U.S. forces search cave complexes or other Taliban and Al Qaeda facilities.
He said U.S. forces relied on Afghans from other areas of the country or accomplished the missions themselves. He said there is no need for more U.S. forces in the country, and there was no need for more Americans in Afghanistan in November and December.
Rumsfeld said he is getting ready to release the rules that govern military commissions shortly. "We've been fashioning exactly what the rules and procedure might be (for the commissions)," Rumsfeld said. To date, U.S. officials have assigned no Taliban or Al Qaeda terrorist to be judged by the military commissions.
The secretary said U.S. forces are going to the Philippines to train the Philippine military and to participate in an exercise. Rumsfeld told Meet the Press host Tim Russert that the Philippine constitution forbids foreign troops from conducting military operations on its soil. U.S. troops will not participate in operations directed against the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, but will train those who will conduct such operations. Rumsfeld also said the number of Americans in the Philippines will be around 600, not the 650 that has been reported.
Rumsfeld also discussed reports that Saudi Arabia has asked the United States to remove its troops from the kingdom. He said the Saudis have not said anything to him about that, "and I would think I would know." He said the longstanding U.S.-Saudi Arabian relationship is strong.