Rumsfeld: Taliban, Al Qaeda Dangerous Like Wounded Animals
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2001 The Taliban and Al Qaeda are trapped in an ever-shrinking area, and desperation may make them more dangerous to U.S. forces, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.
"As the area under the Taliban and Al Qaeda grows smaller, there is no question but that the danger to coalition forces will be growing greater," Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters. "We all know that a wounded animal can be dangerous."
Rumsfeld was playing down media reports that suggest America is close to a victory in Afghanistan. There's still a long way to go, both the secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs said.
"Our military mission remains to destroy the Al Qaeda and the Taliban networks," Air Force Gen. Richard Myers said.
Myers called the Tora Bora region "the last effective Al Qaeda stronghold," and said all American air strikes Dec. 10 were in support of opposition forces fighting there. American service members are also helping resupply opposition fighters in the area.
Opposition forces continue to press Al Qaeda forces holed up in the mountainous, cave-riddled region in eastern Afghanistan, Rumsfeld said. He added that opposition troops had withstood Al Qaeda counterattacks.
"It is clearly a major fight," he said.
The secretary also indicated he believes American forces in Afghanistan would soon start taking prisoners. Till now, American commanders had preferred to allow opposition groups to handle all prisoners, saying America didn't have enough of a presence in the region to effectively handle prisoners.
Rumsfeld believes American forces can gather valuable intelligence information from "detainees." However, he wants the American people to have as much information as possible about how U.S. forces treat prisoners.
"We want to fashion a system that is as open as possible so that the American people can have a good comfort level about the process itself," he said.
Battlefield detainees could be held in several different locations, Rumsfeld said. Opposition camps, U.S. military camps in Afghanistan, U.S. ships at sea in the region, or even areas in the United States are all options commanders might choose based upon the situation and the individual being held.
Regardless of where they're held, Rumsfeld said, detainees will be treated in a manner consistent with this country's values. "But also in a manner that reflects the seriousness of their situation and of our situation," he added.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan continue to work on cutting off escape routes, Myers said. Marines of Task Force 58 in southern Afghanistan are trying to keep fleeing Taliban forces from escaping the Kandahar area.
Pakistani soldiers are attempting at the direction of their president to make the border between their country and Afghanistan less porous, Rumsfeld said. He said this is a very difficult job given the size of the border and the terrain, but that their work should make it harder for terrorists to flee.