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Rumsfeld Not Upset With Kabul Over Taleban Prisoner Release - 2002-01-11


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is disputing suggestions he is dissatisfied with Afghanistan's interim leaders because some senior Taleban officials have been set free.

Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters in Washington Friday he is not frustrated. He said he finds the new interim government headed by Hamid Karzai most cooperative and just as interested as the United States in ridding Afghanistan of Taleban and al-Qaida leaders. "No. I'm not frustrated or concerned. I am finding the government very cooperative," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld said Afghan officials are focused on the problem of detained Taleban leaders. But he acknowledged there appear to have been some instances in which Taleban officials have managed to avoid detention. "Is it a perfectly tidy place? No. Is everyone doing exactly what one might hope they might do? No. But is the interim government focused on this problem roughly the way we are? You bet they are," he said. "And I feel quite good about it."

Mr. Rumsfeld gave no details. But he was asked specifically about reports that several Taleban leaders, some of them considered senior, were allowed to go free in the Kandahar area.

He said he cannot verify those reports. "I've tried to track down these fascinating stories I've been reading in the press and hearing debated on television, and I am not able to do so," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld said it could be that the reports were based on mistaken information about individuals who were in fact never in custody.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, said there may also have been confusion over the identities of some released who had either the same names or similar names to Taleban leaders.

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