U.S. Does Not Target Civilians, Rumsfeld Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2001 "The United States does not target civilians," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said when asked for comment about Taliban charges that the U.S. military was wantonly killing civilians in Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld spoke following a meeting with Tom Ridge, the new director of Homeland Defense at the Pentagon Oct. 11.
"We know who does target civilians, and it's the terrorists who have killed thousands of Americans, and it comes with ill-grace for the Taliban to be suggesting that we're doing what they have made a practice and a livelihood out of," Rumsfeld said.
That doesn't mean there have been no civilian casualties, he said. Military engagements exact unintended losses of life, he said.
"I and anyone involved regret the unintended loss of life," he continued. Rumsfeld said while U.S. forces are using the full range of ordnance available to them, most are precision-guided munitions. "The munitions being used are precise, but they are not 100 percent," he said.
Rumsfeld said that Al Qaeda head Osama bin Laden is probably still in Afghanistan. "He's found it to be hospitable place to be, the forces in power have been good to him and supportive of him," he said.
The United States will work to get bin Laden, he said, but in the fog of war there is a confused picture. "I don't get up in the morning and ask myself where (bin Laden) is," he said. "I am interested in the problem of terrorists and terrorist networks and countries that harbor them across the globe. If (bin Laden) were gone tomorrow the Al Qaeda network would continue functioning as it does today. He is certainly a problem, he is not the problem."
Rumsfeld said the U.S. military is in communication with people on the ground in Afghanistan. This helps the military gather data about possible targets. He said DoD needs information on air defense capabilities in Afghanistan.
"We have to acknowledge the reality that there is still an air defense threat to the United States," he said. The air defense threat is now limited mostly to man-portable missiles and anti-aircraft artillery.
He said DoD has been working to reduce the ability of Taliban to fly by attacking airports and aircraft and helicopters and transport planes. The American military has also targeted Taliban military information networks.
Finally, U.S. planes have hit concentrations of Taliban and Al Qaeda troops. "To the extent that we have good information, we have been attempting to deal with concentrations of military capabilities," he said. "To the extent that it happens to be done in a way that favors the opposition forces on the ground, all to the better."
The United States has been targeting the command and control network of the Taliban and Al Qaeda network. If the leaders happen to be in these facilities, they too are targets, Rumsfeld said.
He said again he expects the battle against terrorism to be a long effort. "We're in the business of rooting out terrorists and creating a very high cost for those who decide they think it's in their interest to harbor terrorists," he said. "The Afghan people are going to have to sort out which among the opposition groups will have what role in a post-Taliban Afghanistan."