Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says U.S. forces are being dispatched to locations worldwide in preparation for an all-out assault on terrorism.
Mr. Rumsfeld declines comment on the possible use by American forces of staging bases in Central Asia for operations against targets in Afghanistan.
But he acknowledges talks are underway with a number of countries about clearances for troop movements and other cooperation. And he says U.S. forces - ships, planes, and troops - are already on the move. "We are trying to get ourselves arranged in the world with our forces in places that we believe conceivably could be useful in the event the president decided to use them for one thing or another," he said.
The initial focus of U.S. military strike planning appears to be Afghanistan, sanctuary of suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
But Mr. Rumsfeld cautions reporters that the anti-terrorist offensive envisioned by the Bush administration will not be a war in the traditional sense of a campaign against a specific country.
He likens the effort now getting underway against terrorists and their supporters to a marathon, not a sprint and he says it will be difficult, not easy.
Mr. Rumsfeld announced he is canceling a planned trip to Italy for a NATO defense ministers' meeting next week. He says there is no way he can go because he has too many things to do.