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23 October 2003

Rumsfeld: Multi-Prong Attack Needed to Reduce Number of Terrorists

Raises idea of a 21st century version of USIA

By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Security Affairs Correspondent

Washington -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says free people are unable to defend against terrorist attack "at every place, at every moment of the day or night, against every conceivable type of technique" because the advantage of taking the offense resides with the terrorists.

The only way to defeat terrorists "is to take the war to them ... go after them where they are, where they live, where they plan, where they hide; (and) go after their finances ... the people who harbor," assist, support, and finance them, he said, "so that the number of new terrorists coming into the process ... is reduced."

Rumsfeld spoke to reporters at the Pentagon October 23 to mark the 20th anniversary of the bombing of U.S. Marine headquarters in Beirut and to respond to questions about a recent memorandum he wrote to four senior defense officials about the prosecution of the global war against terrorism.

The secretary recalled that the Beirut bombing killed more than 240 Americans in what he described as "an enormously violent event." Today terrorists are being hunted "where they are, and we're rooting them out and we're capturing them, we're killing them," the secretary said. "It's difficult work," he added, and "It won't be over any time soon."

Asked if the Beirut attack provided lessons for the current war on terrorism, Rumsfeld answered: "there is no question" that civilian and military Defense Department officials seeking ways to combat terrorism "go back ... to (the attack on the USS) Cole (in Yemen in 2000) and they go back to all of the events that have occurred where terrorists have been successful." He said "anyone who thinks that free people can just hunker down and find a way to hide and defend (in that way) against what's happening in this world of ours" is wrong.

In response to another question, Rumsfeld said he was not disturbed that the memo he wrote recently on anti-terrorism efforts was leaked to the press. He said it is important to pose probing questions to his senior leaders and others.

In fact, the secretary said, the memo subsequently "served as a very useful vehicle" for discussing important aspects of the global war on terror with a contingent of members of Congress.

Beyond raising issues in his memo about how the Defense Department should be organized to combat terrorism over the long haul, Rumsfeld said he also raised searching questions about how the broader U.S. government should be organized. He referred, for example, to "the fact that USIA (the U.S. Information Agency) doesn't exist anymore." And, he asked, "Is it appropriate -- might there be a need for some new element, a 21st century version of that" organization,, responsible for public diplomacy "that could help the United States, as a country, communicate with the world on some of these important issues?"

Rumsfeld came to the podium during a briefing designed to provide an operational update on the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Air Force Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pointed to recent military successes in Afghanistan. For example, he said "Operation Mountain Viper" has netted mortar rounds, rockets and munitions during search and destroy missions in Kandahar and Orgun.

In Iraq, Schwartz said some 6,000 weapons caches have been identified, about 5,600 have been eliminated, and another 100 are under military guard. Rumsfeld said Iraq "is a country that has just enormous amounts of weapons," and he expressed confidence that even more ammo dumps would be located as part of the ongoing discovery process.

Among other highlights, Schwartz pointed to 18 Iraqis who were recently detained by Iraqi border police as they sought to enter the country from Syria. He said the Iraqi border police are proving to be effective in intercepting "suspect personnel illegally crossing the border." There is a major effort under way to secure Iraq's borders, he added.

Schwartz was also asked about possible links between Ansar al-Islam (AI) and Saddam Hussein loyalists. He said there are some indications of links "between the former regime loyalists and some of the AI seniors, but generally speaking, they are independent actors." The military officer described AI as the main "organized terrorist adversary in Iraq right now," and, he added, "we are concentrating our resources on that."

Asked about possible links between AI and some of the recent suicide bombers in Iraq, Schwartz replied: "We do not have a case, a convincing body of information that would lead to a particular group. The basic sense of it is, though, that this continues to be former regime loyalists or recruited foreign fighters."

Rumsfeld and Schwartz made their comments as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz prepared to make another of his quarterly visits to Iraq. He will be there four days to meet with Iraqi officials and coalition forces.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)