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Wolfowitz: Al Qaeda Is an Infectious Disease With No One-Shot Cure

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2002 – Success in Afghanistan does not mean victory in the war against terrorism, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz said today.

"Al Qaeda is not a snake that can be killed by lopping off its head," Wolfowitz told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "It is more analogous to a disease that has infected many parts of a healthy body.

"There is no one single solution," he stressed. "You can't simply cut out one infected area and declare victory. But success in one area can lead to success in others."

Overall, Wolfowitz said, the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan to kill, capture and disrupt terrorists is helping to protect the American people. At the same time, the United States is helping the Afghan people ensure their country does not once again become a terrorist sanctuary.

Noting the highlights of the nation's "extraordinary military success," he said somewhat less than half of al Qaeda's top 30 leaders have been killed or captured. The United States has custody of more than 500 detainees. Law enforcement agencies in more than 90 countries have arrested some 2,400 terrorism suspects.

"Our military success in Afghanistan has contributed to that larger success, both indirectly by encouraging others to cooperate, and also more directly," Wolfowitz said. "Abu Zubaydah, one of bin Laden's key lieutenants, was driven out of his sanctuary in Afghanistan and as a result was captured last March."

Zubaydah's cooperation contributed to the detention of Jose Padilla (aka Abdullah al Muhajir), who allegedly was planning and coordinating terrorist attacks. A Moroccan detainee led law enforcement officials to two Saudi Arabians planning terrorist attacks in Morocco. A videotape discovered in Afghanistan led to the arrest of an al Qaeda cell in Singapore that was planning to attack a U.S. aircraft carrier.

"These developments are encouraging, but it is important to remember that al Qaeda is still dangerous and active," Wolfowitz said. "This network still poses threats that should not be underestimated."

Afghanistan is only one node in the global terrorist network. "A network, by its very nature is based on the idea that should one node be eliminated, the network can still continue to function," he said.

In Arabic, "al Qaeda" means "base," indicating that the entire organization is the base of terrorist operations. "It is spread throughout the world and it needs to be eliminated, root and branch," Wolfowitz said.

Al Qaeda has infected some 60 countries, including the United States, Germany, France, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines. It had critical nodes in Hamburg, Germany, and Jacksonville, Fla., as well as in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, the deputy said, U.S. and coalition forces rooted out both the terrorists and the tyrannical Taliban regime that protected them. He said the goal was to deprive the terrorists of a sanctuary where they could safely plan, train and organize. "Not only to capture and kill terrorists, but to drain the swamp in which they breed," he remarked.

Over the past eight months, he said, U.S. and coalition partners have defeated the Taliban regime, killing or capturing many of its ringleaders. Others are on the run. America's men and women in uniform have conducted operations with great bravery and skill.

Military plans were put together with remarkable speed, he said, and operations were swiftly and successfully executed. The campaign was "measured in weeks rather than months, and with relatively few troops on the ground. On Sept. 11, "there simply were no war plans on the shelf for Afghanistan."

Army Gen. Tommy Franks started "from scratch" on Sept. 20, Wolfowitz said, and less than three weeks later began military operations on Oct. 7. Two weeks after that, U.S. troops were operating in Afghanistan with Northern Alliance forces. "In many ways, it was a remarkable feat of logistical and operational utility," he said.

He also pointed out that the United States did not become bogged down in a quagmire in Afghanistan, unlike the British in the 19th century or the Soviets in the 20th century. "Nations that arrive in Afghanistan with massive armies tend to be treated as invaders and they regret it," he said. "Mindful of that history, Gen. Franks has deliberately and carefully kept our footprint small to avoid just such a situation."

"We have always viewed our mission in Afghanistan as one of liberation, not occupation," Wolfowitz said. "Afghans are an independent, proud people. We have worked from the beginning to minimize the number of our troops there and to focus instead on helping the Afghan people to help themselves in their journey to representative self- government."

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Related Sites:
Prepared Statement by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: the Situation in Afghanistan, June 26, 2002
Testimony as Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: the Situation in Afghanistan, June 26, 2002


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