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Rumsfeld: Bombing Accuracy Due to More US Troops On Ground - 2001-11-05

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says the military operation in Afghanistan is becoming more effective, as the campaign enters its fifth week. Mr. Rumsfeld was in India on the last leg of a five-nation tour aimed at bolstering support for the campaign against terrorism.

Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters in New Delhi the effectiveness of the bombing in Afghanistan has vastly improved, with more ground teams in the region communicating with aircraft overhead, assisting with resupply and targeting. He says he does not believe the campaign will take years to complete.

"The effectiveness of the bombing is improving everyday," he said. "I don't think that there probably ever has been a bombing campaign that has been any more attentive and precise and focused solely on the military capabilities than this one."

He describes the operation as an exercise in self defense and says the campaign is much bigger than Afghanistan, which he sees as only the "first problem."

Mr. Rumsfeld played down fears about the risk of Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Islamic militants. He says he believes nuclear capable countries effectively manage the safe handling of nuclear warheads. "I think that countries that have nuclear weapons have a healthy respect for their power and the lethality of those weapons and the dangers they pose to the world, and take the appropriate steps to assure that they are managed and handled in a way that reflects the dangers those weapons pose," said Mr. Rumsfeld.

Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes and Mr. Rumsfeld discussed increasing military cooperation between the two countries. Mr. Rumsfeld says there will be a series of visits by American defense officials to India to see how to build on the strategic relationship.

The U.S. defense secretary says the issue of supplying India with high-technology weapons will be discussed between the two countries. The Indian Government has asked the United States to lift restrictions on the sale of such weapons.

Mr Rumsfeld is the latest in a series of senior Western leaders to visit India and Pakistan to try to lower tensions between the two countries over the disputed region of Kashmir.

Mr. Rumsfeld's tour has taken him to Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan, all allies in the campaign against terrorism.