Military Prepared to do What President Needs, Myers Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2002 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the U.S. military is prepared to do whatever mission President Bush orders it to do.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers said the U.S. military "will be ready. We may not have all the preferred munitions in terms of (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) that you'd want, but we have other munitions that we could substitute."
He also said that Osama bin Laden is "probably" still alive. Ultimately, the chairman said, he believes America would ultimately capture the terrorist leader.
Myers appeared on Fox News Sunday and ABC's This Week. He said the United States is not concentrating on bin Laden alone. American forces are also hunting for Al Qaeda lieutenants, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and his lieutenants.
Myers said U.S. personnel are also undertaking another important mission in helping Afghan officials build a national army. Currently, armed forces in Afghanistan hold allegiance to regional warlords. The national army would report to Hamid Karzai's interim government and its successor regime. A national army would be in charge of maintaining the borders of Afghanistan, Myers said, and would help bring security to the country.
"This quite likely would require American trainers in there for a period of time," he said. "But in small numbers. We've done this around the world and it doesn't take a lot of troops to do the training mission." In fact, once started, he said, contractors could do much of the training mission.
People around the world hope that Afghanistan can capitalize on this chance to establish a functioning government, he said. U.S. work with a national army would help this situation, he noted.
Although Afghan officials would like to see the International Security Assistance Force currently in the Afghan capital of Kabul expand to other cities in the country, Myers said, American troops would not be part of the force. The United States will, however, continue to provide intelligence support and logistics help to the force.
Myers also addressed the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. He said this is an example of a threat the United States has lived with for a long time. "People will not take on in most cases -- the U.S. armed forces directly," Myers said. "We saw that on Sept. 11."
He said the U.S. policy on hostage situations has just recently changed. "Instead of just being for Americans on official work overseas, it now is broadened to any American that is taken hostage," he said. "Then on a case-by-case basis we decide how to react."
Usually the United States would work through the government of the country the incident took place in. The United States would share information and intelligence with the country and work closely with their law enforcement apparatus. "There's always the possibility we may use unilateral action (in this situation) and we would do that in the appropriate cases," Myers said.
In the Pearl case, the Pakistani government cooperated fully with American officials. Myers said the two countries were working as a team.
Myers said there are two other American citizens being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines. The United States is working with the Philippine government and American forces are in the country "to help, advise and train the Philippine armed forces so they can go after the very group that has our two Americans," he said.
He said the U.S. forces in the Philippines are there at the invitation of the Philippine government. Thousands of Filipino troops are tracking the Abu Sayyaf group on the island of Basilon. "We are there to help train and advise on things like command and control, communications, intelligence analysis," Myers said. Ten American service members involved in this mission died Feb. 22 when their MH-47 helicopter crashed at sea.
Myers also addressed the charge that Iran is trying to influence tribesmen near its borders. News reports suggest that Iran has funneled weapons and money to warlords near the city of Herat.
"The interim government and whatever follows must be allowed to develop their own capability to rule their country and develop services for their country without undue influence from any outsiders," Myers said. "Countries that are trying to influence events (in Afghanistan) are not very helpful right now."