As U.S. forces carried out a second straight night of air attacks on Taleban military and al-Qaida terrorist targets in Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld downplayed any expectations of a quick victory.
Mr. Rumsfeld will not say whether U.S. ground forces may have to enter Afghanistan in significant numbers to finish the fight against the al-Qaida terrorists and their Taleban supporters.
But the U.S. Defense Secretary tells reporters at the Pentagon that air strikes alone will not be sufficient to do the job. Mr. Rumsfeld said, "I think it's unlikely that the air strikes will rock the Taleban back on their heels as you say. They have very few targets that are of high value that are manageable from the air."
Mr. Rumsfeld says the air raids are only a small part of the allied effort to destroy terrorist networks and sanctuaries an effort launched in the wake of last month's bloody terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. He says it is a campaign that is likely to go on for years not just weeks or even months.
He acknowledges there will be covert military operations as well as the highly visible air strikes. But he declines to offer any details, citing the need for operational security designed to protect American lives.
Mr. Rumsfeld says it is unlikely the Taleban will make any late concessions in order to avoid further attacks.
But he indicates the Bush administration believes it is time for the Taleban to go anyway. "There's no question but that the group of people that are closely linked to al-Qaida who are in the Taleban including [Mullah] Omar and his lieutenants and that structure are harmful to the world and dangerous to the world and that Afghanistan would be vastly better off were they not there," he said.
In addition to military missions, Mr. Rumsfeld again stresses the need for continued diplomatic, economic, financial and law enforcement actions against terrorist groups and their supporters.