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Rumsfeld: War on terrorism will 'take time'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the pace of the war on terrorism Thursday, reiterating his message that the war "will take time."

"In the end, war is not about statistics, deadlines, short attention spans or 24-hour news cycles," he said. "It's about will, the projection of will, the clear, unambiguous determination of the president of the United States -- and let there be no doubt about that -- and the American people to see this through to certain victory."

Rumsfeld, speaking at a Pentagon news briefing, said the ruins of the World Trade Center are still smoldering even as the U.S. has launched its military response.

"We're still in the very, very early stages of this conflict," he said. "The ruins are still smoking. That is, I think, important to reflect on."

Rumsfeld noted that the U.S.-led coalition forces began military operations less than a month after the September 11 attacks. Since then, Rumsfeld said coalition forces have flown more than 2,000 sorties, broadcast more than 300 hours of radio transmissions and dropped 1.3 million humanitarian rations to Afghan civilians.

In comparison, he said the United States waited eight months before launching a land campaign against the Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor and two and a half years after declaring war on Germany to launch the invasion of Europe. He also said that Operation Desert Storm

"We're now fighting a new kind of war," he said. "It is unlike any that America has ever fought before. Many things about this war are different from others. But as I have said, one of those differences is not the possibility of instant victory or instant success."

He admitted that the analogies to World War II were not perfect but also said that in Operation Desert Storm "it was six months before a bullet was fired." A reporter noted that Iraq had a larger military than Afghanistan but Rumsfeld quickly responded by saying, "That's right, and we don't have good targets" in Afghanistan, unlike Iraq.

Rumsfeld said U.S. forces had made "measurable progress" in attaining the goals he set out on October 7 when he announced the start of the air war in Afghanistan.

Those goals, he said, were to make sure the Taliban knew that harboring terrorists would carry a price; to acquire intelligence for future operations against the Taliban and the al Qaeda terrorist network; to develop useful relationships Afghan groups that oppose the Taliban and al Qaeda; to make it increasingly difficult for terrorists to use Afghanistan freely as a base of operation; to attack the Taliban military forces positioned against the various opposition forces in Afghanistan; and to provide humanitarian relief to Afghan civilians.

The secretary said more liaison people are going into northern Afghanistan. He said the weather, and in one case ground fire, had previously prevented more teams from landing. Without saying how many U.S. troops are on the ground, Rumsfeld said he would like to see the number of teams "go up three or four times" from what they are now.

Bombing campaign will intensify

Rumsfeld also flatly denied that support had ever been withheld from the opposition Northern Alliance. He said allegations that the United States withheld aid to the Northern Alliance because it wanted a more politically acceptable group to take the Afghan capital of Kabul were "absolutely false."

Rumsfeld said the Northern Alliance may feel it has not been given all the support it wants, but he said, "You don't just start dropping ammunition out of planes to people you don't have any relationship with."

The secretary said the United States is aiding not only the Northern Alliance but also a number of other opposition groups fighting in northern and central Afghanistan.

"We're for them. We are supplying food and ammunition to some," Rumsfeld said. "We are trying to increase the number of forces, trying to improve their success."

Rumsfeld said targets in Afghanistan were selected in phases, first to clear out anti-aircraft weapons and then to move on to attack fuel storage, weapons, and command and control centers. Now, said Rumsfeld, more than 80 percent of U.S. strikes are against al Qaeda and Taliban forces.

"The reason we did it in that sequence is that we didn't have people on the ground to help with the targeting," Rumsfeld said. "The best work is being done where we have those special forces on the ground."

Rumsfeld also rejected out of hand a suggestion that Pakistan might be aiding the Taliban through the back door by allowing troops and arms to cross its borders.

"To suggest a conscious effort on the part of the government (to aid the Taliban) is a misunderstanding," he said.

In response to a question, Rumsfeld said there is concern about al Qaeda gaining access to nuclear materials, as it has been trying to do for years, but the United States believes Pakistan has secured its nuclear arsenal.

Rumsfeld said he spends a "small portion" of his day -- "an hour to an hour and a half" -- on communicating the Bush administration's views on the war. He said his goals are to communicate with the U.S. military forces, the American people, and the news media.


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