Afghan War 'Ain't Over'; Coalition Must Remain Focused
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2001 - The war in Afghanistan "ain't over yet, " and the United States must c, Dec. 10, 2001 The war in Afghanistan "ain't over yet," and the United States must concentrate on the business at hand and not get complacent, said Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
Wolfowitz said the coalition against terrorism has made great progress in Afghanistan. He said the coalition has accomplished one major goal -- the defeat of the Taliban government -- but more remains to be done.
He said what has happened to the Taliban regime is "a worthy example to any other country that would aspire to support Al Qaeda or shelter or harbor Al Qaeda terrorists."
But the leadership of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda network are still at large. Wolfowitz said it would be a long and involved process to round up these men. He said Afghanistan is as large as Texas and has terrain that "is favorable to those who want to run and hide." He said the United States is working with Pakistan to block the border with Afghanistan and has stopped ships departing the area to ensure no Al Qaeda or Taliban leaders are aboard.
"The conditions in Afghanistan are very far from stabilized," he said. "A lot of the progress that has been made is a result of people switching sides. The situation is fluid and remains fluid and it could be dangerous for our people who are there. So we have to remain alert. We cannot make the mistake of thinking it's all over but the shouting. There's a lot more work to be done."
Appearing with Wolfowitz, Joint Staff briefer Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem told reporters that reports from the area tend to point to the area around Tora Bora as Osama bin Laden's hideout. He said the United States has substantially reduced bin Laden's ability to command and communicate both with forces inside Afghanistan and Al Qaeda cells outside the country.
"I think we've substantially reduced his authority over people who might be inclined to listen to him," Wolfowitz said.
The deputy secretary said bin Laden is a man on the run and who has a big price on his head. "(This is) a man who has to wake up every day and has to decide 'do I keep all this security around me which I need to make sure some Afghan bounty hunter doesn't turn me in,'" but which help to pinpoint his location.
Wolfowitz said bin Laden "doesn't have a lot of good options," but that does not mean Al Qaeda is powerless.
"This is a network with many bad apples in it. You don't take out a network just by taking out one piece," he said. "You have to go after every piece of it."