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U.S. Prefers Al Qaeda Surrender, Rumsfeld Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2001 – The United States would be most happy if Al Qaeda terrorists surrendered in the Tora Bora region, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Dec. 13.

"The goal is to stop terrorism, terrorists and the states that harbor terrorists," he said during a Pentagon press conference today. "The first choice is surrender. It ends it faster, it's less expensive and we can encourage people to surrender."

Rumsfeld was responding to reports that U.S. officials had turned thumbs down on surrender negotiations between opposition forces and Al Qaeda in the Tora Bora region near Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan.

"The United States did not nix or stop or put the kibosh on anything," Rumsfeld said. "I do not know if anything was really offered. We're there to stop those people. If they want to surrender they can do it in one second, and they know it."

He said the number of U.S. special operations forces in the Tora Bora area is up moderately. The total number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is up modestly. He said the service members "could be doing something other than what you characterize as liaison."

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said coalition forces continue to provide air support to the opposition forces attacking in the Tora Bora area.

"There has been no surrender by the Al Qaeda offered or accepted nor has there been any cease-fire in this effort," Myers said. "Our mission to eliminate the Al Qaeda, its network and the Taliban in Afghanistan remains the same as it has from the beginning."

Myers said that pockets of Taliban soldiers remain in and around the southern city of Kandahar. U.S. Marines at Camp Rhino are patrolling to ensure the Taliban do not escape, he said.

On Dec. 12, one C-17 transport dropped more than 17,000 Humanitarian Daily Ration packs while another dropped bundles of wheat, blankets and rations around the northern cities of Mazar-e Sharif and Kunduz. Myers said the sorties were the last mission using the "flutter drop" method.

"The greatly expanded flow of humanitarian relief supplies by rail, road and across the river, as well as airlift to some airfields in Afghanistan, has rendered this form of delivery as unnecessary," he said. DoD will remain involved in the humanitarian mission. C-17s dropped more than 2.4 million humanitarian daily rations to starving Afghans since operations in the country started Oct.7.

Rumsfeld did not comment on the tape of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden discussing the planning of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. In late November, U.S. forces near Jalalabad found the tape, shot by an unknown photographer.

"I think I will not try to impose my feelings about that tape or that person or other people," Rumsfeld said. "I think everyone can make their own judgments about it. I know what I think."

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