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Pentagon Will Not Confirm Contacts with Afghan Opposition - 2001-09-24

The Pentagon is refusing to say whether it is in contact with anti-Taleban opposition groups inside Afghanistan or whether it may provide them with military aid.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked about possible U.S. military assistance to Afghan opposition groups during an exchange with reporters at the Pentagon Monday. His reply was non-committal. "We don't have any announcements to make with respect to the activities either with the Afghan Northern Alliance or with the various tribes in the southern part of the country," he said.

Asked if aid to such anti-Taleban groups was under active consideration, Mr. Rumsfeld was equally evasive. "We are considering a whole range of things, the purpose being to attempt to create a situation where it becomes in peoples' interests to not support terrorists or terrorist networks, and where they exist, to attempt to make life uncomfortable for them," said Secretary Rumsfeld.

U.S. defense officials have, however, in recent days repeatedly pointed up the importance of the role of the anti-Taleban opposition inside Afghanistan.

In addition to refusing to discuss the issue of possible military assistance, the Pentagon will also not say whether it is engaged in contacts with opposition representatives.