Rumfeld: Military Operations on Track
Myers said, ”We are pretty much on our plan.”
“We are in the driver’s seat.”
Rumsfeld said some senior leaders of the Taliban and the al-Qaida organization have been killed by the more than 3,000 bombs and missiles dropped on Afghanistan since Oct. 7.
“There’s no question that Taliban and al-Qaida people, military, have been killed,” Rumsfeld said, but added that as far as the Defense Department knew “none of the very top six, eight, ten people” were among those killed.
In response to questions about mounting civilian casualties, Rumsfeld said that such casualties, while regrettable, have always been a part of war.
“War is ugly,” Rumsfeld said. “It causes misery and suffering and death.
“The Taliban — an illegitimate, unelected group of terrorists — started [the war] when they invited the al-Qaida into Afghanistan and turned their country into a base from which those terrorists could strike out and kill our citizens,” he said.
“So let there be no doubt. Responsibility for every single casualty in this war, be they innocent Afghans or innocent Americans, rests at the feet of Taliban or al-Qaida.”
Addressing the debate over whether to continue military strikes during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins mid-November, Rumsfeld repeated Pentagon intimations that the strikes would not cease.
“The Taliban and al-Qaida are unlikely to take a holiday,” Rumsfeld said. “We are under an obligation to defend the American people and we intend to work diligently to do that.”
U.S. campaign continues
The latest U.S. raids targeted Taliban and al-Qaida military positions, hitting Taliban front lines around Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif and bombarding a network of caves and tunnels in eastern Afghanistan thought to be a hide-out for Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“Today [the strikes] continue to focus on emerging targets — the al-Qaida and Taliban command and control, including caves and tunnels,” Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said. “We are trying to work through the Taliban military today, including armor and troop concentrations.”
Recent strikes for the first time also targeted Taliban forces in the extreme northeast of Afghanistan, near the border with Tajikistan.
Meanwhile, the Taliban has expressed confidence in its ability to defeat the United States. Taliban officials said they have rejected offers from Pakistani tribesmen to cross into Afghanistan to wage a holy war on the U.S. because the volunteers would be putting themselves in too much danger.
“We have requested that since there are only air assaults in Afghanistan there is no need and great danger for them being there,” Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban’s foreign minister, said in Islamabad.
Anti-U.S. sentiment has spread in Pakistan, no longer limited to towns near the border with Afghanistan. Demonstrations blocked the Karakoram Highway that goes along the ancient Silk Road in northern Pakistan into China.
Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Army’s Central Command for the war in Afghanistan, spoke today with Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf about Pakistan’s fragile support of the U.S. campaign. Franks is scheduled to meet with Uzbek officials, who have provided the United States with bases, on Tuesday.
European Union ministers today said they continue to support the U.S.-led strikes.
“Everybody understands the impatience of the public and still more the impatience of the media,” British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, “but we said from the start that fighting this appalling, terrible terrorist threat is going to be a long haul, and that is the case.”
Saudi Arabia’s support has been weaker. A key regional ally for the United States, Saudi Arabia endorsed the U.S. fight against terrorism, but has stopped short of endorsing the military strikes in Afghanistan.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stand against terror and terrorists.. and we say there must be active work to end terrorism,” Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister Prince Nayef said today. “But as far as the present situation is concerned, the truth is that no one wishes this was to continue because it affects innocent people and we hope it ends.”