Afghanistan is Only the First Round
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2001 Afghanistan is only the first round in the war against terrorism, said Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
"As the President has said, the campaign begins in Afghanistan, but it does not end in Afghanistan," he told reporters at a Pentagon news briefing.
"The war on terrorism is about more than one man," Wolfowitz stressed. "It is about more than one terrorist network. It is about the whole complex of global terrorist networks that interact and support one another."
The United States will use every tool available to expose them and go after those cells, he vowed.
Noting that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's surprise visit to Afghanistan this weekend highlighted the role of U.S. service members, Wolfowitz said the brave men and women in America's armed forces are doing "a magnificent job."
U.S. troops on the frontlines well understand that Afghanistan is only the first round, but the bell ending that first round has yet to ring, he said.
"There are still plenty of Al Qaeda loose in Afghanistan, and of course the hunt for Bin Laden and other senior members of Al Qaeda continues," Wolfowitz said. "We can expect half-defeated enemies to continue to pose considerable dangers and risks to our troops. So it's going to be a difficult job and we're going to have to work to root them out."
Afghanistan is roughly the size of the state of Texas, he noted. "The terrain is much more hospitable to those who want to run and hide than those who have the job of getting them out," Wolfowitz said.
U.S. officials, however, believe the Afghan people will help bring the terrorists to justice. "There are substantial rewards out for people to help us find them and that's a motivation," he said, "It's also clear from reports that there's a good deal of Afghan anger at the terrorists and what they've done to their country over the last five years."
While U.S. officials do not know the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and other top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, they will continue the search. Asked about the possibility that Bin Laden might escape to another country, Wolfowitz replied, "Any country that would harbor Bin Laden would be out of their minds. They'd have to be crazy."
Much work lies ahead in Afghanistan, Wolfowitz concluded, yet much progress has been made in the three months since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He cited Rumsfeld's recent meeting in Afghanistan with Hamid Karzai as a measure of that progress. Karzai is the designated leader of the six-month interim government due to be inaugurated Dec. 22.
Quoting Rumsfeld, the deputy secretary said, "It's important to the United States that there be a government, that it not be a Taliban government, and that it be a government that is representative of the people of Afghanistan."
Wolfowitz said America's goal is to "end the fear of terrorism." The true measure of success, he said, will be when people can go to sleep at night without worrying that terrorists might strike.