Rumsfeld Assures NYC: War's Not Over Till It's Over
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
NEW YORK, Nov. 14, 2001 Defense Secretary Donald W. Rumsfeld got a firsthand look Nov. 14 at "Ground Zero," the terrorist attack site here where the World Trade Center towers once stood.
New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (center with red tie), Defense Secretary Donald W. Rumsfeld (center left) and a group of city officials and workers take a walking tour of "Ground Zero" at the World Trade Center terrorist attack site. Rumsfeld paid his first visit to the site on Nov. 14, 2001, and before the walking tour inspected the devastated area from a helicopter. Photo by Rudi Williams.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Greeted by New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and other city officials at La Guardia Airport, Rumsfeld was taken on a helicopter tour of Ground Zero. Once on the ground, Rumsfeld and Giuliani were met at the disaster scene by Emergency Management Director Richard Sherier, Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essan, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and other city officials and workers.
"The Pentagon is no longer smoking ... the World Trade Center is still burning -- still smoking," Rumsfeld said during a joint press briefing with Giuliani. The word that comes to his mind is "duty," the secretary said. "You've done yours, the people of New York have done theirs, and the men and women in uniform are still doing theirs."
He said even though fighting a war against terrorism is complicated, different from any other undertaking and there's no road map, "the president is determined to root out terrorists wherever they are, find them and bring them to justice or bring justice to them.
"We're making progress, but it's far from finished," Rumsfeld said. And, quoting President Bush, he added, "We're going to stick at it till it's done."
Responding to questions about reports of Taliban and Al Qaeda forces retreating into the hills, Rumsfeld said the two groups, mostly Al Qaeda, are still fighting around Kunduz and other places in the north and in the south. He pointed out that the Taliban are Afghans, while the Al Qaeda is composed mostly of Arabs.
"Some pieces of the Taliban (are) melting into the countryside, part of it because they may have decided to toss in the towel," he surmised.
However, Rumsfeld cautioned, some Taliban and Al Qaeda troops might be waiting to counterattack at a later time. "One ought not assume that anything is necessarily permanent at this point," he noted. "Until that country stabilizes, things could move back and forth, and we have to be aware of that."
He said he hopes and expects anti-Taliban tribes in the south will rise up and take over. People in major cities in the north are welcoming their liberators and are grateful that the Taliban and Al Qaeda are fleeing, he added.
The Northern Alliance is sweeping across Afghanistan and the pace of events has increased, but the pressure on terrorists has been on from the beginning, the secretary said.
"The pressure is going to stay on, not just in Afghanistan, but elsewhere, because the terrorist networks are spread across the globe," Rumsfeld said. "It's gratifying to see the Taliban fleeing and the people of Afghanistan getting their country back."
America's main task is to find the Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership, the secretary emphasized. "We have to be purposeful about that and recognize that that's going to continue to be a difficult task," he noted. "Finding handfuls of people is indeed like finding needles in a haystack, and it's a complicated process.
"But because of all the pressure that has been put on across the globe -- the drying up of bank accounts, the numbers of arrests, the interrogations, the intelligence that has been gathered -- every day we have a better chance of achieving our goals," Rumsfeld said.
After the joint press briefing, Rumsfeld went for interviews at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times before returning to the Pentagon.