Accessibility links

Breaking News

Defense Secretary Questions Success of War on Terrorism in Published Memo - 2003-10-22

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is questioning whether the United States is doing enough to win the war on terrorism.

The memorandum, dated October 16, was sent to the Pentagon's most senior civilian and military leaders and focused on the global war on terrorism. In it, Mr. Rumsfeld says it is his impression, "that we have not yet made truly bold moves."

The defense secretary reports what he describes as "mixed results" in cracking down on al-Qaida, noting "a great many" of its terrorist fighters remain at large. He goes on to describe progress in tackling the Taleban as "slower" and says of efforts to curb the al-Qaida-linked terror group Ansar al-Islam in Iraq, "we are just getting started."

Mr. Rumsfeld voices confidence that U.S.-led coalition forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq can win, but he adds, quoting again, "it will be a long, hard slog [struggle]."

The memo was first reported by the newspaper USA Today, which also printed a copy of the Rumsfeld document. Mr. Rumsfeld's spokesman, Larry DiRita, confirms its authenticity, but downplays the significance of the statement.

He tells reporters it is intended to raise major questions that could shape future anti-terrorism activities.

"These are clearly big questions that deserve big thinking and the people that he addressed it to are the people that will be able to engage the rest of this institution (Pentagon) into that kind of thinking," Mr. Rumsfeld.

The memo was addressed to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers, and his deputy, General Peter Pace, and to Douglas Feith, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.

The document asks whether the United States is capturing or killing more terrorists than are today being recruited, trained, and deployed. It also asks how the financing of radical Islamic madrassa religious schools can be halted. In addition, the memo asks whether the Defense Department needs new ways to organize for the war on terrorism or whether a new anti-terror institution is needed.

Mr. Rumsfeld writes that the United States is putting what he terms "relatively little effort into a long-range plan" while putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists. He then says, "the cost-benefit ratio is against us. Our cost is billions against the terrorists costs of millions."