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U.S. Won't Let Terrorists Destabilize Afghanistan

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 8, 2002 – Given the nature of Afghanistan's porous borders and the fact some al Qaeda and Taliban forces are on the loose, U.S. and coalition forces still have work to do, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Wednesday at the Pentagon.

"There are still al Qaeda and Taliban in the country and in neighboring countries," the secretary said at an afternoon press briefing. "They still intend to do what they can to destabilize the Karzai Interim Authority. We intend to see that that doesn't happen."

U.S. defense officials have no intention of announcing an end date for the mission, Rumsfeld said. "We are some distance from effectively finishing the task of seeing that the interim government is able to survive (and) is able to provide the kinds of civil services that are going to be important for the enormous number of refugees that are coming back into that country at the present time," he said.

The U.S. role, Rumsfeld stressed, is to go after al Qaeda and Taliban forces, help train the Afghan army and be supportive of the International Security Assistance Force. It also includes encouraging other coalition countries to provide humanitarian assistance and to participate in helping to train the army.

"The Germans are helping to train the police force," he said. "The French are helping with the army. We are contributing to a more stable country by our participation and presence in Bagram, to the north of Kabul, and Kandahar to the south."

Conflicts between various Afghan factions are not a major problem, Rumsfeld told reporters. The principal place where some threats of dust-ups have occurred is in the Gardez area, southeast of Kabul, he said.

The interim authority does not yet have a national army, but it does have military forces, the secretary said. Other organizations, militias, connected to the interim authority have military forces.

"The calibrations that leaders have to make, in this case Mr. (Hamid) Karzai," he said, "is the blend, the balance that they have to undertake as to whether they use political persuasion, diplomacy, the kinds of things governments can offer -- positions, cooperation, humanitarian assistance. All of these things are part of what a central government might or might not do for a region or a force.

"It's really their call," Rumsfeld said. "It's not our call as to what they do. We're not part of the Afghan administration. We're really there to do the job that I've defined very precisely."

Turning to the Middle East, Rumsfeld expressed his feelings about the latest bombings in Tel Aviv and in Karachi, Pakistan.

"I don't think anybody, any human being, can look at a suicide bombing and the death of dozens of innocent people, who are not combatants at all, and not just feel terrible about it, and heartbroken for those people.

"If one thinks about it," he said, "Israel is a small country. I believe if you took the number of people that have been killed in the last year or two in that country, and put it into the proportion for the United States of America, it would mean we would have lost in excess of 10,000 to 20,000 people -- dead, and very likely, multiples of that wounded in the long series of suicide attacks that have taken place on a population that is really very small."

On the home front, Rumsfeld announced that President Bush is nominating Air Force Gen. Ralph E. "Ed" Eberhart to be the first commander of the new U.S. Northern Command. scheduled to go into operation Oct. 1.

Eberhart currently commands U.S. Space Command and North American Air Defense Command. NORAD, Rumsfeld said, will be reassigned to Northern Command.

"In his current capacity," Rumsfeld noted, "Eberhart has been very involved in discussions involving the activities the new Northern Command will have as its responsibilities. He has been very important with respect to airborne warning and combat air patrols over the United States during the period since Sept. 11. His nomination is subject to Senate confirmation."

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DoD News Transcript: DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld, May 8, 2002

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