Rumsfeld: U.S. Won't Cease Until Terrorists Gone
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2001 President Bush intends to see the campaign in Afghanistan through "until Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership have been captured or killed," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here shortly after returning from a six-day trip to Central Asia and Europe.
Arriving at the Pentagon directly from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., after a trans-Atlantic flight from NATO Headquarters in Belgium, the secretary began the briefing with his trademark humor. "I do not see a single soul who was on the plane with me," Rumsfeld said as he glanced around the room.
"They're waiting for their bags," a reporter quipped in reply.
The secretary said the "most special" part of the trip, was the chance to spend time with U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan and in the region.
"They are brave and talented and well trained and dedicated," he said. "They're really doing a terrific job. It was clearly the highlight of our trip for everyone that was there."
Rumsfeld said he emphasized to foreign leaders and NATO allies that the effort in Afghanistan is far from over and that pockets of resistance still exist. He also stressed that the United States fully intends to pursue all terrorists that have global reach.
During a surprise visit to Afghanistan, Rumsfeld said, he assured Afghanistan's interim prime minister, Hamid Karzai, that the United States is committed to hunting down the Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership "so that they can no longer destabilize Afghanistan and repress the people of Afghanistan."
He reinforced America's commitment to helping Afghanistan's new government, "as it seeks to bring peace and stability to that country so that it does not once again become a haven for terrorists and terrorist training," Rumsfeld said.
Contrary to some reports, it would be a mistake to say Al Qaeda is finished in Afghanistan, the secretary said.
"They certainly aren't functioning well," he said. "They're running, they're hiding, and they're having difficulty communicating with each other. A large number of them seem to behave in a fanatical way, and I suspect we'll hear more (from) them."
U.S. officials are doing everything possible to prevent Al Qaeda and Taliban from moving into neighboring countries. "Our goal is to stop them, not to simply move the problem from one country to another," Rumsfeld said.
He stressed that the United States intends to find all the Al Qaeda forces it can. America has provided various incentives to anti-Taliban forces to ensure their support, Rumsfeld added. These include ammunition, weapons, winter clothing, blankets, food, medicine, and money.
Rumsfeld said the members of the interim government and the people of Afghanistan are appreciative of the United States' efforts on their behalf. "There's this enormous relief in that country that those people are no longer governing -- if that's what one wants to call it," he said. "Repressing might be a better word."
The anti-Taliban leaders and the Afghan people are "fully aware that the United States of America is not seeking their real estate," he concluded. "We don't intend to occupy their country. We don't covet anything they have."
The only interest the United States has in this effort, he concluded, "is stopping people from killing Americans and blowing up buildings and driving airplanes into the Pentagon."