(Press availability at the U.K. Provincial Reconstruction Team Headquarters, Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. A photo from the availability is available at http://www.defenselink.mil/photos/Dec2003/031204-F-2828D-213.html.)
Q: This resurgence of Taliban activity in the south -- are you afraid that the Taliban are trying to make a comeback?
Rumsfeld: Am I afraid that the Taliban are trying to make a comeback? No, it is no great surprise that those who have been defeated and removed would like to come back. That’s always been the case and they will not have that opportunity. To the extent that they assemble in anything more than ones and twos they’ll find that that’s the case and they’ll be killed or captured.
Q: There was a suggestion recently that Osama bin Laden had been hiding out in a monastery in Quetta --
Rumsfeld: There is a suggestion nearly every day that somewhere in the world he’s been spotted --
Q: President Karzai said that he’d been spotted in a mosque in Afghanistan, sir.
Rumsfeld: Is that a question or a statement?
Q: President Karzai said that he’d been spotted. Is that reliable intelligence as far as you’re concerned --
Rumsfeld: You’d have to ask him.
Q: Is it time this man was captured?
Rumsfeld: Oh goodness! It would be wonderful if he were captured. Yes. Most of the militaries of the world are organized to fight armies, navies and air forces, not to track down single individuals. It’s a difficult thing to do. And it will take time, but it will happen.
Q: Mr. Secretary, after your meeting here do you get any sense that these two generals will be accelerating their plans to disarm and demobilize?
Rumsfeld: Each of them has initiated that process. It is underway. And that is a very good thing. At what pace it will proceed, I guess, remains to be seen. We are pleased that they have agreed to do so and we are pleased that they have initiated it and we’ll be attentive and encouraging as we go along to see it toward completion.
Q: Do you believe that PRTs such as this are working and are bringing the government outside of Kabul? Bringing the sovereignty of this country into an area, such as northern Afghanistan, that has been racked by violence for two decades?
Rumsfeld: There is no question but that the circumstances in every part of this country are different from every other part. It is not a single circumstance for the country of Afghanistan. The Provincial Reconstruction Teams do not have a fixed template that then is imposed on an area. The ones that have been initiated are each different in their own way. They are doing things that fit the local circumstances. I would say that Colonel Davis and his team have done an outstanding job. There is no question but that they have made a very constructive contribution. And, in answer to your question about linkage to the central government, most certainly it is. It is a way of having the efforts of the transitional government and the Karzai Administration felt and reflected outside of the capital city. And that’s a good thing.