President Bush says the U.S.-led strikes against terrorist and Taleban military installations in Afghanistan are going well. But he says the operation could come to a halt if the Taleban would surrender suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. Mr. Bush spoke after talks at the White House with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
The president leaves no doubt he is satisfied with the news he is getting from the Pentagon. He says the mission has been successful. And he offers the Taleban a way to bring the strikes to an end. "There is one way to shorten the campaign in Afghanistan," he said. "And that is for Osama bin Laden and his leadership to be turned over so he can be brought to justice."
But the president acknowledges that is not likely to happen. Instead, he predicts a sustained fight against terrorism that reaches beyond Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization and its supporters in the Afghan regime. "I want there to be justice," he said. "And it is al-Qaida [that is guilty]. But it is [also] anybody who feeds al-Qaida, who houses al-Qaida, who encourages al-Qaida. Any other terrorist organization who is affiliated with al-Qaida is just as guilty as far as I am concerned."
White House officials have gone to some lengths in recent days to shift the focus away from just Osama bin Laden to the global terrorism network. These officials have also been very limited in the amount of information they are willing to share with reporters about the operational details of the military mission.
The president leaves no doubt he is setting the pace. He offered a sharp response when a reporter asked about the possibility of deploying ground troops. "We will not share intelligence," he said. "Nor will we talk about military plans that we may or may not have in the future."
Mr. Bush also stressed he has no patience with members of the U.S. congress who share classified information with the news media. He defended a decision to limit top-secret briefings on the war on terrorism to just eight lawmakers. "Our nation has put our troops at risk and therefore I felt it was important to send a clear signal to Congress that classified information must be held dear," he said.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Bush officially informed Congress of his decision to engage in military action. In a letter to congressional leaders, he said it is impossible to predict either the length of the operation or its scope. But he noted it is likely to be lengthy, and he will do what he must to protect U.S. citizens and interests.