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Rumsfeld: U.S. must 'drain the swamp'

Roosevelt carrier group headed to sea

Rumsfeld: Anti-terrorism campaign "will not be quick, and it will not be easy."  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group prepared to leave for the Mediterranean Sea, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday the United States hoped to "drain the swamp" that supports terrorism.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt and its escorts were to leave for the Mediterranean "and perhaps points east" from its home port of Norfolk, Virginia, on Wednesday.

Pentagon officials said the Roosevelt's move was a regularly scheduled deployment and that its departure date was not moved up after last week's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The Roosevelt and its 10 escort ships will be followed Thursday by the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which includes three ships led by the amphibious assault carrier USS Bataan. The total deployment involves about 15,000 sailors and Marines.

In a news conference at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld warned that the United States was in for a long fight against terrorist groups. He said the U.S. would go after terrorists by moving "to drain the swamp they live in."

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"They're benefiting from the support of governments and from the support of nongovernmental organizations that are either actively supporting them with money, intelligence and weapons, or allowing them to function on their territory and tolerating, if not encouraging, their activities," Rumsfeld said.

U.S. officials say Saudi exile Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization are the prime suspects in last week's attacks that may have killed more than 5,000 people -- including a Pentagon civilian worker who died Tuesday of injuries suffered when a hijacked jetliner crashed into the building.

Rumsfeld warned that al Qaeda "may have activities in 50 to 60 countries, including the United States."

Terrorists may not have significant assets the United States can hit, but "those countries that support them do have those targets," he said.

Rumsfeld did not name specific nations. A Pakistani delegation on Monday warned the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan -- where bin Laden has lived for the past few years -- they risked attack by U.S. forces if they did not hand over bin Laden.

The anti-terrorism campaign begun after the destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon "will not be quick, and it will not be easy," he said.

"The people who committed these acts are clearly determined to try to force the United States of America and our values from the world, or to respond by curtailing our freedoms. If we do that, the terrorists will have won, and we have no intention of doing so," Rumsfeld said.

With many governments offering to help the United States "in any way possible" against the terrorist organization behind the attacks last week and its backers, senior U.S. officials said they are rushing to agreements in writing.

Top U.S. officials were reportedly negotiating agreements with several countries in the central Asia region Tuesday.

Pakistan, Afghanistan's closest ally, has agreed to allow U.S. military overflights of its territory if necessary. It has not been asked to accept ground forces.

Uzbekistan has expressed willingness to help a possible military effort, but Tajikistan has said it will not, according to U.S. officials.

• Norfolk Naval Station
• USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)

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