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Military

11 March 2002

Transcript: Rumsfeld Welcomes Coalition Members to Pentagon

(Event commemorates victims of attacks six months ago) (1610)
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hopes that all remaining al-Qaida
and Taliban forces will be cleared this week from the 60-square-mile
combat zone near Gardez, Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld made the comment as he welcomed representatives from 29
nations that are part of the coalition against terrorism at a March 11
Pentagon ceremony honoring the victims of the September 11th terrorist
attacks on the Pentagon and in New York and Pennsylvania.
The United States "will stay very much in charge" of the current
combat operation, Rumsfeld told questioners, even as several hundred
U.S. troops are rotated out of the operation.
"Some people may leave, and others will go in. But ... [the operation]
will continue till its completed," Rumsfeld said. Several al-Qaida
fighters have been captured and will be interrogated to try to find
out what level of leadership may have been killed in the operation, he
added.
Following is a transcript of Rumsfeld's remarks:
(begin transcript)
U.S. Department of Defense
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
March 11, 2002
(Remarks by Secretary Rumsfeld welcoming military representatives of
countries in the worldwide coalition against terrorism)
Rumsfeld: First let me welcome the distinguished group that's gathered
here. We just are very pleased to have you. I was talking to [General]
Tom Franks this morning and was disappointed he didn't make it to be
with us as well. But we appreciate your being here and welcome you to
the Pentagon.
Six months ago today, one could walk out these steps and see a
peaceful blue sky like this, but if one turned to the northwest, you'd
see black smoke, thick smoke and flame rising from this building. The
Pentagon had been attacked, as were the World Trade Center towers.
Thousands of innocents died, husbands and wives, and sons and
daughters, and mothers and fathers.
The military and diplomatic leaders that are arranged here today
represent some of the scores of nations that have joined the campaign
against terror, for September 11th was truly an attack against the
world. Citizens from more than 80 countries died that day, men and
women of every race and every religion. So the United States was not
alone. Indeed, our NATO allies promptly invoked Article 5 for the
first time in the 53-year history of the alliance. At the Organization
of American States, the Rio Treaty was invoked. And nations all across
the globe very quickly joined in the global war against terror.
With us today are representatives from 29 nations that are
contributing military support and other assistance to the war on
terrorism. Twenty-seven of the nations have representatives that work
at the CentCom [U.S. Central Command, Tampa, Florida] headquarters on
a regular basis assisting General Franks in his important work.
Coalition countries have contributed in many ways: military,
diplomatic, economic, financial, intelligence sharing, as well as
humanitarian assistance.
Some have helped openly. Others have helped quietly. Many leaders have
courageously spoken out against terror. Dozens of nations have
provided troops, materiel, humanitarian aid, overflight and basing
privileges. Military personnel from several nations have now lost
their lives. We offer our deepest sympathy to their families, to their
friends. They courageously served their countries and the cause of
freedom.
This morning we visited the White House to meet with President Bush,
and this afternoon the gentlemen here will meet at the Pentagon to
discuss the progress on the war on terrorism, and I want each of you
gentlemen to know that I thank you and your nations for your valued
help in a time of crisis. Six months after the war began, it is
certainly far from over, but if we stand together, as President Bush
said this morning, the final outcome is assured.
The attacks of September 11th were clearly a terrible tragedy, and our
nation grieves for those who were lost, and our hearts go out to their
families -- those in New York, in Pennsylvania, and yes, those of our
friends and colleagues here at the Pentagon.
But from the ashes hope springs. With the coming of spring, the
Pentagon building is rising, and thanks to the truly outstanding
effort of the workers, repairs are ahead of schedule. Indeed, from the
outside the building looks like it's almost new. I just visited the
site a few minutes ago to mark the progress that's been made in these
past six months.
If one thinks back, our world has changed a great deal. It has
awakened to the threat of terrorism, and as all can see here, the
civilized nations of the world have reached truly new levels of
cooperation, unity, and strength. We have the opportunity to tear
terrorism out by the roots. By our campaign against terrorism, we are
preventing acts of terror that may well have been planned before
September 11th and would -- we would have never known until it was too
late. The memory of September 11th reminds us all of the need to
remain vigilant.
I thank each of you for being here. I look forward to seeing you at
lunch. And I am told that I should respond to a few questions from the
gathered assembly.
Charlie.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, with the weather clearing somewhat around
Gardez now, will the United States press the attack this week? And do
you hope perhaps to have the al Qaeda and Taliban cleared from the
pockets perhaps this week?
Rumsfeld: Yes, one would hope so.
Q: This week?
Rumsfeld: One would hope so.
Q: I see.  Do you plan  --
Rumsfeld: You can't know that now, Charlie. I want you to understand
that. I talked to General Franks this morning, and there is no
question but that there are some numbers of them still on the
so-called whale, the area to the left of the area that's been
contained. There are also some folks that need to be -- either
surrender or dealt with, and that work's going forward. The Afghan
troops as well as the coalition forces are dealing with that as we
speak.
Q: You've removed more than 400 troops from the fray, leaving about
800. Do you plan to return those to the fight, or do you plan to let
the Afghans control the operation as time goes on?
Rumsfeld: There have been -- oh, no, no, the U.S. will stay very much
in charge. At the present time, there's a larger number than you've
suggested and an equal -- roughly equal number of coalition forces and
Afghan forces. And that work will continue. Some people may leave, and
others will go in. But it will continue till it's completed.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I have a bit of a follow-up on that. There has been
some speculation because of the bad weather, the snow and cold and
what have you, that some of the al Qaeda and Taliban have managed to
get across that porous border into Pakistan. Any comments on that
please?
Rumsfeld: No. I have no information that people have either
successfully gotten in or gotten out.
Q: Mr. Secretary, can you tell us if General Franks was able to give
you any information on what type of al Qaeda leadership might have
been killed in the latest battles?
Rumsfeld: We do know there are a great many al Qaeda that have been
killed. We do not have names and ranks and serial numbers. We do have
several al Qaeda prisoners that have been captured and will be
interrogated.
And of course, as the mopping-up process continues, additional
information will be gained.
Q: Mr. Secretary?
Rumsfeld: We'll make this the last question.
Yes.
Q: On this six-month anniversary, how would you sum up the situation
of where you are in the war in Afghanistan? And what sort of message
does this send to other terrorists and nations such as Iraq -- the
victory so far in Afghanistan?
Rumsfeld: Well, I would just say that I think the President of the
United States earlier this morning summed up the situation with
respect to the war on terrorism perfectly. The -- a great deal has
been accomplished. The Taliban government is no longer running the
country of Afghanistan. The people have been liberated. The al Qaeda
in that country are no longer using the country as a haven or a
sanctuary for terrorists -- to conduct terrorist attacks against the
rest of the world. We have the al Qaeda in Afghanistan on the run, and
we are assisting several other countries around the world with
training so that they, too, are able to deal more effectively with the
terrorists in their own countries.
The important thing to remember is, from day one, the task was to deal
with the terrorists, but also to deal with the nations that harbor
terrorists. We would have accomplished very little if we were
successful in Afghanistan as a coalition and then allowed the
terrorists to reassemble in other countries across the globe and
continue the attacks against the United States and other countries. So
we have to be continuing to put on pressure, to see that all the
elements of national power are brought to bear: political, diplomatic,
economic, financial, as well as military -- both overt and covert.
That's what's taking place. And countries that are part of this effort
from every continent are involved and interested and doing their part,
and we're all very grateful for the coalition support.
Thank you very much.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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