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Rumsfeld Says Afghan Change of Power 'Not Chaotic'

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

FORT BRAGG, N.C., Nov. 21, 2001 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said recent events in Afghanistan might mean the most orderly change of power in that country in decades.

"It's not chaotic," Rumsfeld said aboard the plane en route to Fort Bragg, N.C. "In fact, it's really amazingly orderly."

He said historically changes of regime in Afghanistan have been messy affairs. "I suspect there's not been a change of power in that country in decades that has been as orderly and with (such) very limited loss of life," the secretary told reporters traveling with him.

He said there have been some serious battles between the Taliban and opposition groups. But much of the opposition progress has been through Taliban forces changing sides and Al Qaeda troops fleeing.

It helps that the Afghan people never wanted them there to begin with, the secretary explained. "The Al Qaeda are not very popular," he said. "Afghans have never wanted foreign troops on the ground."

Rumsfeld didn't rule out "differences among the various tribes and elements among the Northern Alliance" as the groups try to hammer out a functioning government. He said these differences would likely revolve around "who ought to be where and who ought to do what and who ought to be in charge of what among themselves."

Representatives of the Northern Alliance and several other Afghan factions and tribes are set to meet under United Nations auspices in Berlin next week to try to set up an interim administration for the country.

A critical aspect of the opposition forces' success has been the Afghan people's faith that the American forces don't intend to occupy the country, Rumsfeld said. "We have no interest in that piece of real estate at all," he said. "We want the Afghan people to have that country."

That confidence in American intentions paired with humanitarian relief the U.S. forces have been providing makes opposition forces a desirable alternative to the brutally repressive Taliban, Rumsfeld said.

He hopes that same good will eventually leads to someone turning in Osama Bin Laden or other members of the Al Qaeda or Taliban leadership.

"It seems to me that combination is what's creating the advances that have occurred thus far," he said.

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