The Pentagon is hinting at stepped up humanitarian aid deliveries into Afghanistan as a concession to the coming Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says U.S. officials are sensitive to Muslim concerns about military activities during Ramadan. But he told a small group of radio reporters at the Pentagon that the campaign against the Taleban and the al-Qaida terrorist network led by Osama bin Laden will continue. "It is a particularly holy time of year for Muslims," he said, "but if we had a chance to capture bin Laden or some of his senior operatives, it wouldn't matter to me if it was Christmas, or Hanukah or Ramadan - we have to do it."
Still, Mr. Wolfowitz hinted at some sort of humanitarian gesture by U.S. forces. "It's a time to concentrate even more than we do anyway, which is a lot, on things like humanitarian operations," he said. But Mr. Wolfowitz noted that the Afghan people suffering under what he termed Taleban oppression are Muslims. He said stopping the war and leaving them under Taleban control would not be doing them a favor.
He likened Taleban activities to atrocities committed by the Nazis during World War II Germany. "When we achieve our objectives in Afghanistan and people are able to see clearly what the record of the Taleban regime is," he said, "I imagine it's going to look a lot like Europe after the Nazis or Eastern Europe after the Soviet Union. When people are free to talk, I think the story is going to come out our way and very clearly."
Mr. Wolfowitz said the United States is working actively to enlist more and more Afghans, both in the north and south, to fight the Taleban and foreign terrorists. But he denied there is any reluctance or unwillingness on the part of the Pentagon to deploy large numbers of U.S. ground troops in Afghanistan.