Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says U.S. counter-terrorist training programs are improving security in at least two countries: Georgia and the Philippines. But with few terrorists caught in those countries, Mr. Rumsfeld is questioning whether there have been any overall gains in the war on terrorism.
Mr. Rumsfeld says the presence of 160 U.S. military advisors backed by 1,000 support personnel has made a difference in the Philippines.
But speaking to reporters at the Pentagon this week, the Defense Secretary acknowledged the arrival of the American soldiers may have simply caused terrorists to flee elsewhere. "My point being that you can improve the situation in one place by your presence, but unless you get the terrorists, you have not improved the situation net in the world," said Mr. Rumsfeld. "And there has been very little of getting terrorists in the Philippines, thus far."
He said there is a similar situation unfolding in Georgia, where U.S. military advisors have just launched a counter-terrorist training program. "We have been told by folks that the small U.S. training presence in Georgia has led some folks to think, 'Well, maybe Georgia is not the best place to be, and maybe we will go somewhere else and make mischief.'"
Mr. Rumsfeld says the problem is that the United States cannot be everywhere in the world, bringing about calm through the presence of handfuls of American soldiers.
But he also says unless terrorists are caught or killed, they are still out there, somewhere, a continuing threat. "Unless you get them, unless you find them, unless you capture them, unless you stop them, they are still out there and they are going to move to a place that is a bit more hospitable than in this instance was the Philippines or another instance might be Georgia," said the defense secretary.
Mr. Rumsfeld suggests other countries with training capability could be doing more internationally, effectively helping tighten the net around globally-mobile terrorists.
Pentagon officials acknowledge they are holding discussions with what they call "a lot" of other countries about possible training missions.
The officials will not identify any of these countries by name. They say many, like Yemen, where there are already some U.S. trainers, shun publicity and do not want their military links with Washington discussed openly.
The ultimate goal is clearly to eliminate the worldwide terrorist threat, with an immediate goal of making life so difficult for terrorists that they are unable to operate effectively anywhere.
But there are still countries and places that bear watching, according to Pentagon officials. Places unlikely to invite U.S. troops in, whether as trainers or in hot pursuit of terrorists.
One such country is Iran, where defense officials say al-Qaida fighters are known to have traveled. Another where intelligence sources say al-Qaida has a presence is Somalia, a territory with no central government. U.S. officials say Somalia represents a potential breeding ground as well as a safe haven for terrorists.
In addition, Pentagon officials are quick to point out terrorists are likely to be in hiding in Afghanistan and in neighboring Pakistan.