Must See Afghans' Lives Are Better Than With Taliban, Rumsfeld Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2001 Many Afghans are being starved and are fleeing the Taliban, and the United States must do all it can to help them, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.
"We have to do everything possible we can from a humanitarian standpoint to see that their lives are made better than they currently are by the Taliban government and by the circumstance they're living in," he said during a Pentagon press conference. "They don't support the Taliban. They don't support the Al Qaeda network."
Rumsfeld echoed the sentiments of President Bush, who said America's issues and anger are directed at Afghanistan's Taliban rulers, not toward the citizenry. Bush called the Taliban "an incredibly repressive" regime that made a decision to harbor terrorists.
Bush said one way to get rid of Al Qaeda is "to ask for the cooperation of citizens within Afghanistan who may be tired of having the Taliban in place, or tired of having Osama bin Laden, people from foreign soils, in their own land, willing to finance this repressive government.
Rumsfeld's comments at the Pentagon came while he described the situation in Afghanistan for reporters. In the north of the country is an anti-Taliban alliance, he said, then there's the Taliban, and in the south are a number of tribes not affiliated with Taliban.
"It is not a perfectly clear picture where everyone fits into a nice box," Rumsfeld said. Even factions within the Taliban don't agree with the rulers' support of the Al Qaeda terror network of Osama bin Laden.
He likened America's and its allies' options in Afghanistan to playing billiards. Sometimes you watch the balls careen around and don't know exactly what'll happen.
"But the end result, we would hope, would be a situation where the Al Qaeda is heaved out," he said. "And the people in Taliban who think that it's good for them and good for the world to harbor terrorists and to foment and encourage and facilitate that kind of activity, lose -- and lose seriously."
"The mission is to rout terrorists, to find them and bring them to justice," the president said. "Or, in Western terms, to smoke them out of their caves, to get them running so we can get them. I understand the reality of what's taking place inside Afghanistan. We're angry, but we've got a clear vision."