(Remarks by Secretary Rumsfeld welcoming military representatives of countries in the worldwide coalition against terrorism)
Rumsfeld: First let me welcome the distinguished group that's gathered here. We just are very pleased to have you. I was talking to Tom Franks this morning and was disappointed he didn't make it to be with us as well. But we appreciate your being here and welcome you to the Pentagon.
Six months ago today, one could walk out these steps and see a peaceful blue sky like this, but if one turned to the northwest, you'd see black smoke, thick smoke and flame rising from this building. The Pentagon had been attacked, as were the World Trade Center towers. Thousands of innocents died, husbands and wives, and sons and daughters, and mothers and fathers.
The military and diplomatic leaders that are arranged here today represent some of the scores of nations that have joined the campaign against terror, for September 11th was truly an attack against the world. Citizens from more than 80 countries died that day, men and women of every race and every religion. So the United States was not alone. Indeed, our NATO allies promptly invoked Article 5 for the first time in the 53-year history of the alliance. At the Organization of American States, the Rio Treaty was invoked. And nations all across the globe very quickly joined in the global war against terror.
With us today are representatives from 29 nations that are contributing military support and other assistance to the war on terrorism. Twenty-seven of the nations have representatives that work at the CentCom headquarters on a regular basis assisting General Franks in his important work. Coalition countries have contributed in many ways: military, diplomatic, economic, financial, intelligence sharing, as well as humanitarian assistance.
Some have helped openly. Others have helped quietly. Many leaders have courageously spoken out against terror. Dozens of nations have provided troops, materiel, humanitarian aid, overflight and basing privileges. Military personnel from several nations have now lost their lives. We offer our deepest sympathy to their families, to their friends. They courageously served their countries and the cause of freedom.
This morning we visited the White House to meet with President Bush, and this afternoon the gentlemen here will meet at the Pentagon to discuss the progress on the war on terrorism, and I want each of you gentlemen to know that I thank you and your nations for your valued help in a time of crisis. Six months after the war began, it is certainly far from over, but if we stand together, as President Bush said this morning, the final outcome is assured.
The attacks of September 11th were clearly a terrible tragedy, and our nation grieves for those who were lost, and our hearts go out to their families -- those in New York, in Pennsylvania, and yes, those of our friends and colleagues here at the Pentagon.
But from the ashes hope springs. With the coming of spring, the Pentagon building is rising, and thanks to the truly outstanding effort of the workers, repairs are ahead of schedule. Indeed, from the outside the building looks like it's almost new. I just visited the site a few minutes ago to mark the progress that's been made in these past six months.
If one thinks back, our world has changed a great deal. It has awakened to the threat of terrorism, and as all can see here, the civilized nations of the world have reached truly new levels of cooperation, unity, and strength. We have the opportunity to tear terrorism out by the roots. By our campaign against terrorism, we are preventing acts of terror that may well have been planned before September 11th and would -- we would have never known until it was too late. The memory of September 11th reminds us all of the need to remain vigilant.
I thank each of you for being here. I look forward to seeing you at lunch. And I am told that I should respond to a few questions from the gathered assembly.
Q: Mr. Secretary, with the weather clearing somewhat around Gardez now, will the United States press the attack this week? And do you hope perhaps to have the al Qaeda and Taliban cleared from the pockets perhaps this week?
Rumsfeld: Yes, one would hope so.
Q: This week?
Rumsfeld: One would hope so.
Q: I see. Do you plan --
Rumsfeld: You can't know that now, Charlie. I want you to understand that. I talked to General Franks this morning, and there is no question but that there are some numbers of them still on the so-called whale, the area to the left of the area that's been contained. There are also some folks that need to be -- either surrender or dealt with, and that work's going forward. The Afghan troops as well as the coalition forces are dealing with that as we speak.
Q: You've removed more than 400 troops from the fray, leaving about 800. Do you plan to return those to the fight, or do you plan to let the Afghans control the operation as time goes on?
Rumsfeld: There have been -- oh, no, no, the U.S. will stay very much in charge. At the present time, there's a larger number than you've suggested and an equal -- roughly equal number of coalition forces and Afghan forces. And that work will continue. Some people may leave, and others will go in. But it will continue till it's completed.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I have a bit of a follow-up on that. There has been some speculation because of the bad weather, the snow and cold and what have you, that some of the al Qaeda and Taliban have managed to get across that porous border into Pakistan. Any comments on that please?
Rumsfeld: No. I have no information that people have either successfully gotten in or gotten out.
Q: Mr. Secretary, can you tell us if General Franks was able to give you any information on what type of al Qaeda leadership might have been killed in the latest battles?
Rumsfeld: We do know there are a great many al Qaeda that have been killed. We do not have names and ranks and serial numbers. We do have several al Qaeda prisoners that have been captured and will be interrogated.
And of course, as the mopping-up process continues, additional information will be gained.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: We'll make this the last question.
Q: On this six-month anniversary, how would you sum up the situation of where you are in the war in Afghanistan? And what sort of message does this send to other terrorists and nations such as Iraq -- the victory so far in Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: Well, I would just say that I think the President of the United States earlier this morning summed up the situation with respect to the war on terrorism perfectly. The -- a great deal has been accomplished. The Taliban government is no longer running the country of Afghanistan. The people have been liberated. The al Qaeda in that country are no longer using the country as a haven or a sanctuary for terrorists -- to conduct terrorist attacks against the rest of the world. We have the al Qaeda in Afghanistan on the run, and we are assisting several other countries around the world with training so that they, too, are able to deal more effectively with the terrorists in their own countries.
The important thing to remember is, from day one, the task was to deal with the terrorists, but also to deal with the nations that harbor terrorists. We would have accomplished very little if we were successful in Afghanistan as a coalition and then allowed the terrorists to reassemble in other countries across the globe and continue the attacks against the United States and other countries. So we have to be continuing to put on pressure, to see that all the elements of national power are brought to bear: political, diplomatic, economic, financial, as well as military -- both overt and covert. That's what's taking place. And countries that are part of this effort from every continent are involved and interested and doing their part, and we're all very grateful for the coalition support.
Thank you very much.
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