In Afghanistan, visiting Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has told US troops they will remain in the country until they get the job done. Mr. Rumsfeld met US troops and two leaders of the new interim Afghan government during a five hour stop at Bagram Airbase north of the capital, Kabul.
It was the Secretary of Defense's first visit to Afghanistan since the September 11 terrorist attack in the United States.
Amid heavy security the defense chief of the interim government, Northern Alliance General Mohammed Fahim, greeted Mr. Rumsfeld at Bagram airbase. Mr. Rumsfeld then met privately with Mr. Fahim and the incoming leader of the interim government Hamid Karzai.
During the one-hour meeting Mr. Karzai reportedly thanked the United States for helping Afghan opposition forces topple the Taleban from power. Mr. Rumsfeld characterized their first meeting as very positive. "We had a good discussion and he is looking forward to [Saturday, December 22,] when he will be installed as the interim government leader," the secretary said. "He is anxious to be cooperative with us in every possible way and he is very pleased and appreciative of everything the United States and the coalition forces have done to make what is happening possible."
Mr. Rumsfeld also took a brief tour of Bagram airbase. The base houses more than 100 US troops who have been working closely with opposition Northern Alliance and anti-Taleban forces to defeat the Taleban and destroy Saudi-born fugitive Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist organization.
The Secretary thanked the soldiers for their efforts, but with Taleban leader Mohammed Omar and Osama Bin Laden still at large, Mr. Rumsfeld warned the war in Afghanistan may not be over anytime soon. "In terms of the United States responsibility and task here, there is no way to know how long it will take to find Omar and to find Osama Bin Laden, and to find the senior al-Qaida leadership and to see that they are punished," he said. "That will take some time. As far as our presence here, we are not leaving until we get the job done."
Mr. Rumsfeld left Washington Friday to meet leaders in Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. He will leave the Georgian capital Tbilisi on Monday to attend NATO meetings in Brussels.