Wolfowitz: Bin Laden Is 'A Man On The Run'
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2001 With Al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban militia bottled up in the Afghan cities of Kunduz and Kandahar, and 75 percent of the country in opposition hands, senior DoD leaders suggested today that some Al Qaeda and Taliban chiefs might attempt to flee.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, joined by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters that recent military reverses in Afghanistan have caused Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden to become "a man on the run."
Wolfowitz was responding to a journalist's question about reports that bin Laden recently asked his followers to kill him to prevent his capture. The U.S. State Department has offered millions of dollars to those who can provide information for the capture of bin Laden and other known terrorists.
"This is a man who is being deserted by the same people who've sheltered him not so long ago," Wolfowitz said of bin Laden.
Bin Laden "is a man with a price on his head," Wolfowitz emphasized. He noted that many people in Afghanistan would "like to collect that reward," including "any number of people who were associated with him in the past who are (now) trying to say they've had nothing to do with him."
Wolfowitz cautioned: "There is a whole (terrorist) network outside of Afghanistan that we have to get rid of that is more than just bin Laden."
"Substantial concentrations" of Taliban and Al Qaeda troops are still penned up by opposition forces in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, east of Mazar-e Sharif, and at Kandahar in the south, Wolfowitz said.
So far, he added, there has been no great exodus of terrorists and their Taliban supporters from those cities. "They may be planning to head to the hills," but so far that hasn't occurred, Wolfowitz said.
"That is one of the reasons why we'd like to kill as many as we can or capture them while they're in places where they can be located," he remarked.
The capture of Kunduz and Kandahar and of the Taliban and Al Qaeda troops there -- by opposition forces would help to produce "a very different situation where we can continue the hunt for the (terrorist) remnants that remain" in the country, Wolfowitz said.
Wolfowitz noted that the Afghan people's hatred of the Taliban "is something that has worked in our favor, and has worked against the Taliban." Defense officials had noted that Al Qaeda and Taliban troops had seized warehouses filled with food that had been earmarked for hungry Afghans.
Wolfowitz said the United States with other nations, non- governmental agencies and the United Nations are working together to coordinate additional humanitarian relief for needy Afghans in the form of food, clothing and shelter. Mazar-e Sharif, which was abandoned Nov. 9 by Taliban and Al Qaeda forces, will be the hub of the effort. In fact, he added, some 50,000 metric tons of food had been delivered to hungry Afghans between mid-October and the middle of this month.
Pace noted that American ships continue to track shipping in the Arabian Sea to interdict vessels attempting to circumvent the trade embargo established against Iraq after the Persian Gulf War. Both ship and aircraft traffic, he added, are also watched to prevent Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders from fleeing Afghanistan.
Opposition forces are closing in on the terrorists in Afghanistan, Pace said, as Al Qaeda and Taliban troops lose more and more real estate. Pace had a ready solution in the event fleeing Taliban and Al Qaeda troops join those already seeking shelter in Afghanistan's mountainous regions. "Our specialized approach to caves and tunnels is to put 500-pound bombs in the entrance," he said.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan are also searching for terrorist facilities that make biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons of mass destruction, Pace said. "We have a series of facilities (in Afghanistan) that are on our list of places to go visit and to check; we have taken samples at some of those facilities and those samples are in the process of being analyzed," he said.
Between 90-100 coalition and U.S. military aircraft flew missions Nov. 20 in bad weather against Taliban and Al Qaeda targets near the cities of Kandahar and Kunduz, cave and tunnel complexes, and emerging targets of troops and equipment, Pace noted. About 35,000 humanitarian daily rations were delivered to needy Afghans. Commando Solo broadcasts continued, and some 200,000 leaflets were airdropped, he added.
Video images shown reporters depicted the destruction of Taliban tanks, fuel trucks, armored personnel carriers, and other vehicles.