Six Months Into War: Rumsfeld, Myers Assess Progress, Future
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 8, 2002 Six months and a day after American military actions began Oct. 7 in Afghanistan, the two men leading those actions assessed the progress so far.
"The Taliban has been driven from power; we've disrupted al Qaeda's ability to use Afghanistan as a sanctuary and as a training ground for terrorists they send around the world; the Afghan people have been freed of a brutal regime; and a humanitarian crisis of significant proportions has been averted," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.
He noted the Afghan people are receiving significant amounts of international food aid that couldn't be delivered under the Taliban regime. Coalition partners and international organizations are also working to rebuild critical infrastructure and to install a functioning government in the country, he said.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described steps the U.S. military is taking outside Afghanistan. American troops are training Philippine forces, and DoD has announced intentions to work with the Yemeni military in the near future to bolster their anti-terrorism capabilities.
"This is a global war on terrorism," Myers said. "As we've said many times, we are assisting nations that want help in this effort."
The secretary and chairman were speaking to media during a Pentagon press briefing.
Rumsfeld noted that military forces have gathered large amounts of intelligence information. He said U.S. troops found some "valuable" information in Afghanistan "just over this past weekend," but didn't elaborate.
Coalition forces have killed or captured several high-level prisoners -- most notably Abu Zubaydah, who has been described as the No. 2 or No. 3 man in the global al Qaeda terrorist network.
Zubaydah was shot three times March 28 during his capture by Pakistani forces. U.S. officials have been concerned about his health. "He is not well," Rumsfeld said today.
Rumsfeld and Myers again refused to tie the capture of Osama bin Laden to declaring the mission in Afghanistan a success. "The goal there was never (to go) after specific individuals, it was to disrupt the terrorists, return Afghanistan to the people of Afghanistan, and to continue this fight," Myers said. "And I think that's what we did."
Rumsfeld pointed out that the Allies didn't capture some Nazi war criminals for years after World War II ended. "Does that mean we didn't win World War II?" he asked.
Myers praised the service members prosecuting the war on terrorism. "Our young men and women in uniform are performing superbly, risking their safety to protect ours," the general said. "The American people should be proud of the job their military is doing, but we should also remember that we have a long path ahead of us."
Both men continue to stress that American efforts against terrorism are far from over. "Our surveillance and reconnaissance operations are continuing throughout Afghanistan looking for pockets of al Qaeda and the Taliban," Myers said.
"We pledge to continue our efforts until (the terrorists') sanctuaries are gone, until networks with global reach are found and stopped and destroyed, and until our people can enjoy freedom without fear," Rumsfeld said.