Rumsfeld Predicts a Protracted War Against Terrorism
In an interview with USA Today, Rumsfeld said there were al-Qaida cells in more than 50 countries that could be used to hide and protect bin Laden. He compared finding bin Laden and other al-Qaida operatives to “looking for a needle in the haystack.
“It’s a big world,” he said. “There are lots of countries. He’s got lots of money, he’s got lots of people who support him. and I just don’t know whether we’ll be successful.”
Rumsfeld said the thrust of the U.S. mission is to stomp out terrorists’ ability to carry out attacks.
“The task obviously is to stop those people from terrorizing people and to stop the Taliban from harboring the al-Qaida and to end up with an Afghanistan that is not harboring terrorists or engaged in terrorism,” he said. “And that is not something that is going to be easily done. And it’s not something that will be quickly done.”
Part of the difficulty, Rumsfeld said, is that Afghanistan provides an extremely good hiding place for terrorists and fugitives, like bin Laden, who are accustomed to living and fighting in the severe Afghan climate and terrain.
“These are very tough people… They’ve made careers out of fighting, and they’re not going to roll over,” Rumsfeld said, referring to the nearly three decades of wars in Afghanistan.
But Rumsfeld said military operations were just a “piece of the puzzle,” stressing the importance of intelligence collection, freezing financial assets and international cooperation to preempt future possible terrorist plots.
Air raids over Afghanistan
Today, Rumsfeld clarified his USA Today statements, saying efforts to capture bin Laden were still ongoing, and scolded journalists for allegedly using his statements on bin Laden out of context.
“Are we continuing the effort? You bet. Do we expect to get him? Yes,” the secretary said.
Meanwhile, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers told reporters that the continued U.S. campaign in Afghanistan on Wednesday attacked nine Taliban targets with 80 strike aircraft, directed at “degrading Taliban forces.”
Myers reiterated earlier claims that the Taliban was hiding in civilian areas, showing a photo of a mosque in Herat with a helicopter parked in front. Myers reported U.S. bombs destroyed the helicopter, but not the mosque.
Reports out of Kabul today said U.S. jets continued to drop bombs in the direction of Taliban military sites. The bombings may assist the Northern Alliance in their ongoing battle for Bagram airfield, located 25 miles north of Kabul, but opposition troops told local reporters the strikes had not destroyed Taliban forces.
U.S. bombs also struck the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, news organizations reported. The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press said U.S. jets conducted some 26 raids over the city’s southeast region.
In southern Afghanistan, the Taliban reported that a U.S. bomb hit a bus in Kandahar, killing at least 10 civilians. Later, waves of U.S. attacks over the city of Herat reportedly killed at least 16 people heading to a mosque for prayers, Iranian television said. Neither report was independently verified.
The U.S. allegedly used cluster bombs in a reported attack on a village near Herat Tuesday, the New York Timesreported. United Nations workers defusing Afghan mine fields went to the village afterward.
“They have determined there were 45 homes in that village; 20 of the homes were partially or completely destroyed in the attack,” UN official Stephanie Bunker told reporters, adding that the rest of the population had been evacuated. Fourteen people were injured in the attack, she added.