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Rumsfeld Expects Further Terror Attacks - 2002-01-15

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he fully expects further terrorist attacks by al-Qaida and its sympathizers.

Mr. Rumsfeld says the United States is taking all the steps necessary to try to prevent further terrorist strikes in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

But the U.S defense secretary says despite all the precautions that are being taken, attacks are likely to occur. "But the truth is you cannot defend at every place against every technique at every moment of the day or night," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld says the only way to deal with the problem is to take the battle to the terrorists - to find them and root them out just as is now being done in Afghanistan. "And that is why we are putting a major effort into gathering intelligence and learning more about these folks and arresting and detaining people, and interrogating them and doing sweeps throughout Afghanistan, trying to find all the kinds of things that would give us additional information and we're having a lot of success," said Donald Rumsfeld.

Mr. Rumsfeld declines to give any details on any intelligence that has led to the uncovering of any new terrorist plots.

But he did confirm the United States is helping take the battle against terrorism into a new arena by sending hundreds of troops to the Philippines to assist in operations against Muslim extremists linked to al-Qaida.

The U.S. defense secretary says the U.S. forces are involved not in combat but in training and support for Philippine troops. "So they have a very real terrorist problem and we have been friendly with the Philippines for many years and we're happy to be providing assistance to them and training," he said.

But the major U.S. military commitment remains for the moment in Afghanistan, where Mr. Rumsfeld says U.S. forces are uncovering more caves and tunnels, unearthing often sizable arsenals of Taleban and al-Qaida weapons and occasionally confronting pockets of Taleban and al-Qaida resistance.

He says there is no new clear and compelling intelligence information on the whereabouts of fugitive al-Qaida and Taleban leaders Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohamed Omar.

But Mr. Rumsfeld remains confident they will be found. "We're looking, we have been looking and we intend to keep on looking, not just for those two individuals but for their senior associates and I expect we'll find all or most of them," said Secretary of Defense Rusmfeld.

Mr. Rumsfeld says in the meantime he detects no pressure from Afghanistan's new interim authorities for a speedy U.S. military departure from the country. He says they want American and other international assistance and recognize the country faces a host of problems. "They every bit as much as we, want to see those pockets of Taleban and al-Qaida taken out," he said. "They every bit as much as we, want to see the senior people in both Taleban and al-Qaida captured or killed. They every bit as much as we, would like to see order and a lower level of criminality and violence in their country."

During the interview in his Pentagon office, Mr. Rumsfeld was also asked about the treatment of Taleban and al-Qaida detainees transferred from Afghanistan to the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

He denies they have in any way been abused and says he does not feel even the slightest concern about their treatment - treatment he calls vastly better than that which the terrorists gave to others.