Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tells Congress the U.S.-led war on terrorism is closer to the beginning than the end. Mr. Rumsfeld said Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network blamed for last September's attacks is still able to strike worldwide.
The campaign against al-Qaida and the Taleban has made progress, but nearly a year after the September 11 terrorist bombings, Osama bin-Laden still remains nowhere to be found. Secretary Rumsfeld told a Senate panel there have been no fresh leads regarding his whereabouts, despite press reports that he might be in Pakistan.
"We do not know if he's dead or alive. We do know that he is having a great deal of difficulty functioning. He may be dead, he may be seriously wounded, he may be in Afghanistan. He may be somewhere else. But wherever he is, if he is, you can be certain, he is having one dickens of a time operating," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
And, he said the world can expect more terrorist attacks by an al-Qaida network still operating in 60 countries including the United States.
That led to an outburst of frustration from Democratic Senator Max Cleland, who wonders whether the Bush administration has lost sight of its goal in waging the military campaign in Afghanistan. "I think it's fine to nation build or liberate Afghanistan. But for me, the frustration continues because we still have not killed or captured Osama bin Laden and his terrorist cadre," Senator Cleland said.
That prompted this sharp response from Secretary Rumsfeld. "Do we know where he is? Do we have coordinates? No. Are trying hard? Is intelligence working on it? You bet it is. Mission number one you said ought to be al-Qaida and the Taleban. That is exactly what we're doing and we're doing it all across the globe. People are getting arrested every day. Arms caches are being discovered every day. People are being interrogated, people are being detained. It seems to me that the United States armed forces were designed to deal with armies, navies and air forces. Doing a single manhunt is a different type of thing," he said.
He and General Tommy Franks, the top Pentagon commander for Central Asia, say the mission in Afghanistan is far from complete and won't be over at least until a new Afghan army is fully trained and able to maintain the country's security.
Both testified the fact that more than a million Afghan refugees have returned home since the war began last October is evidence that conditions are much better now than they were before.