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11 September 2003

On 9/11 Anniversary, Pentagon Leaders Assess War on Terrorism

Cite capture of al-Qaeda figures, recovery progress in Iraq

By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Staff Security Affairs Writer

Washington -- On the second anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers said the United States, with its abundant resources, is prepared to carry out its many commitments around the world while simultaneously pursuing the fight for freedom in Iraq, implementing peace in Afghanistan, and hunting for al-Qaeda leaders and terrorists.

During an interview September 11 on NBC's "Today" program, Myers said that even if Osama bin Laden were captured, it "would not make the al-Qaeda threat go away." It remains "a difficult enemy," he said.

It is possible that bin Laden may be in hiding somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistan border in an ungoverned area "where he has supporters that he can pay off," Myers said in response to a question about the two-year-long hunt for the al-Qaeda leader.

Myers insisted that "very good progress" has been made on nearly every front, with more than 500 top al-Qaeda leaders captured or killed, Afghanistan no longer providing safe haven for al-Qaeda, and the successful disruption of al-Qaeda financing.

He described al-Qaeda as "a thinking enemy" that has "shifted to more of a network than a hierarchical approach." But at the same time, Myers said "we have reorganized to make ourselves even more efficient" in hunting bin Laden and former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Myers took exception to the interviewer's suggestion that a newly liberated Iraq is unraveling. In four months, he said, the number of Iraqis trained, armed and in uniform has gone from zero to 55,000. "In fact, they're the largest part of the coalition right now," the Air Force general said -- "Iraqis securing Iraq for Iraqis."

In another interview, with the CBS "Early Show," Myers said the battle against terrorism in Iraq and for "the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people" is being won. The press reporting emanating from Iraq "just doesn't tell the story that's out there," he said, noting that members of Congress, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz have all returned from recent trips there bearing the message that "it's going a lot better than being reported."

Pointing to examples of recent progress, Myers said the Iraqi Governing Council is up and running and the Arab League has announced its willingness to accept Iraq's interim foreign minister in the organization.

He also said the war in Iraq has "absolutely not" derailed the war against terrorism. The United States has been a nation at war for two years, Myers said in remarks later in the day at Arlington National Cemetery during a memorial ceremony for the victims of the September 11 attack on the Pentagon.

"Terrorists are trying to defeat what we Americans stand for: peace, freedom, tolerance and respect for human life," he said, "So we've undertaken an enormous effort to prevent them from spreading their creed of bloodshed, of hatred, of intolerance."

"We've got an Afghanistan today that is free of the al-Qaeda. They no longer have safe haven for planning, for working out their operational schemes which hatched 9-11," he said.

Rumsfeld, who also spoke at several ceremonies marking the 9-11 tragedy, said "Let this day always be a reminder to our nation and ... the world why we fight in freedom's cause and why we must fight and win this global war on terror."

Later, Rumsfeld accepted an American flag from House Speaker Dennis Hastert that had flown over the west side of the Capitol -- the closest side to the Pentagon -- on September 11, 2001. Speaking at the Pentagon chapel, Hastert said he was moved when he heard that Pentagon employees had contributed time, talent and resources to create stained glass memorial windows for the chapel dedicated to those who lost their lives while serving their country.

Speaking from the crash site, Wolfowitz told the "Fox and Friends" broadcast that no American will forget exactly where they were two years ago: "the whole country remembers it." It is important to remember, the deputy defense secretary said, because it's a turning point to "the way we view terrorism and the world."

Wolfowitz said the war against terrorism is not just a military war but also one that must "be waged through intelligence, law enforcement, financial and diplomatic channels."

"We can't make ourselves safe just by building walls around our country or walls around our buildings. The only way we're going to make our country safe," he said, "is to go on the offense; to go after the terrorists where they live, where they are supported, where they have sanctuary."

The war on terrorism won't be won exclusively by killing or capturing terrorists, Wolfowitz added, "We also have to work as we're working on the Arab-Israeli peace process to promote better conditions, particularly in that part of the world -- the Middle East," he said, which has been "unfortunately the seed ground for so much of this."