U.S., Coalition Troops 'Stand Against Evil'
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, April 26, 2002 U.S. and coalition forces stand against "an evil of mass murderers" that aims to kill large numbers of innocent people, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.
"It's an evil that can't be appeased. It can't be ignored and it certainly can't be allowed to prevail," the secretary told several hundred troops at Ganci Air Base. The world must be alert to the dangers that exist, he stressed.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld addresses a crowd of more than 500 coalition members in Kyrgyzstan, April 26, 2002, on the first stop of his trip to visit American and coalition forces in Afghanistan and neighboring nations. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Stuckey, USAF)
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"There are a handful of nations in the world with close connections to terrorist networks and those nations have weapons of mass destruction and they are developing weapons of mass destruction," Rumsfeld said. "They're trading among themselves with those technologies and they're testing them."
That being the case, he told the uniformed men and women, "What you're doing is of the utmost importance."
The secretary's visit here was the first stop on a five-day trip to visit American and coalition forces in Afghanistan and neighboring nations. About 950 American and an equal number of coalition troops are deployed here to support air operations into Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
U.S. officials said the coalition has a one-year renewable agreement with the local government to base troops at the airport and that with the concurrence of the Kyrgyz government, the coalition will stay until their work is done.
U.S. forces arrived here at Manas International Airport in mid-December. They set up work and living areas in extremely cold-weather conditions. Working with coalition counterparts, U.S. forces also built two munitions storage areas to sustain fighter operations, an aircraft fuel and diesel fuel storage area and a 420,000 square-foot compacted gravel aircraft maintenance area.
The Americans dubbed the site Ganci Air Base in honor of New York City Fire Chief Peter J. Ganci, Jr. The fire chief was killed after he managed to get 50 firemen to safety before the second tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. Ganci had died upholding the same creed the military follow: leave no man behind.
Eight countries, including the United States, are represented at the base: Australia, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea and Spain. Coalition aircraft at the base include: six U.S. F/A-18D Hornets, six French Mirage 2000D, two French C-135FR tankers, one Australian Boeing 707 tanker, two Spanish C-130 cargo planes, plus one Danish, one Norwegian and one Dutch C-130.
After a short tour of the air base, Rumsfeld spoke to U.S. service members and coalition forces. He noted that the terrorist attack that killed thousand of Americans was not just an attack on the United States. It was an attack on the world. People from 80 countries of every race, color and religion died at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Unlike previous enemies with conventional forces, he said, the terrorist networks have no armies, navies or air forces. "They operate in shadows, in caves," he said. "They operate secretly and they operate against civilians."
Operation Enduring Freedom, Rumsfeld said, has been very successful in combating terrorists in Afghanistan thanks to the help of many people from many countries. He commended the coalition troops for voluntarily putting their lives at risk for their country and their families.
"They do it willingly. They do it professionally. Each of you can be enormously proud of the contribution you're making."
In the days ahead, he said, the coalition must continue using all economic, diplomatic and military means possible to thwart their aims. "We have to keep putting pressure on the terrorists so that they don't reassemble in the mountains of Afghanistan or over the borders in neighboring countries," he said.
Yet, routing terrorists from Afghanistan is only one front in the global battle. Rumsfeld said U.S. forces are also helping to counter terrorism in the Philippines, Yemen and the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
"The task that you're doing so far from home is one that I'm afraid is going to last for a while," Rumsfeld told the U.S. troops. "You're doing a superb job for our country and for all the countries of the coalition."
Shortly after Sept. 11, he said, the president promised the American people that our nation would not waver, tire, falter or fail. "You are the ones that are delivering on that promise," he said. "Looking at each of you, and having a chance to shake some of your hands here today, I know I can report back to him that the promise he made is in good hands and that our victory is indeed assured."