- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2001

Hundreds of al Qaeda terrorists have fled into Pakistan but still pose a threat of returning to Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.
"The Pakistani army is doing a good job along the border of Afghanistan," Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon. "They have captured a very large number hundreds of people who were fleeing over the border."
But he noted that while fighting in the Tora Bora area has stopped, the battle could recommence in the future.
Mr. Rumsfeld said the Pentagon has been talking to the Pakistani government and "doing everything humanly possible to avoid having the people that we're pressing in Afghanistan from moving into neighboring countries, where they could cause damage and terrorist acts."
"Our goal is to stop them, not to simply move the problem from one nation to another," he said.
The defense secretary spoke following an uprising in Pakistan by about 150 al Qaeda prisoners at a border outpost. At least 12 died in the battle that erupted after the captives seized weapons of their Pakistani army guards and started shooting.
Mr. Rumsfeld said Pakistan's army had moved seven battalions of troops to the border area near Jalalabad to seize fleeing al Qaeda and Taliban forces.
A Pakistani government official told Reuters that additional al Qaeda fighters were fleeing the Tora Bora area and heading south toward the border with Pakistan. Pakistani troops in the region had been deployed to capture the fighters, he said.
U.S. air strikes have subsided as the fighting has switched to cave-by-cave searching that involves Afghan forces backed by U.S. Special Forces troops.
Alluding perhaps to possible future actions, Mr. Rumsfeld stated: "The Afghanistan campaign, of course, is not the only terrorist problem in the world. There are other terrorist networks that threaten us and threaten our friends. They operate in dozens of countries, and we are fully intending to [deal with] the problem [posed by] all terrorists that have global reach."
Mr. Rumsfeld said al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden grew up near the Saudi border with Yemen, and the area is one that the government of Yemen "has difficulties with."
"Yemen has a strip along the Saudi border that has that problem," he said. "And it has been known to be a haven for terrorists, and, I suppose, criminals and various types of bad people, including al Qaeda."
U.S. officials, both military and intelligence, are interrogating al Qaeda captives and seeking clues to where and how the terror network operates, Mr. Rumsfeld said.
The captives, especially those in Pakistan, will be categorized according to their nation of origin and then vetted, he said.
Fifteen al Qaeda prisoners were moved to a Marine detention center at Kandahar airport in Afghanistan; they are "people we're interested in interrogating," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
"We will be deeply involved in interrogation and intelligence gathering, because it should be a treasure trove," he said.
According to Mr. Rumsfeld, the leadership of al Qaeda is scattered. "We've got some of them," he said. "Some other folks have some of them. Some of them are dead, and a lot of them are missing. And the latter category's larger than the former."
He said the terrorist group blamed for the September 11 attacks has not been defeated yet.
"I would think that it would be a mistake to say that the al Qaeda is finished in Afghanistan at this stage," he said. "They certainly aren't functioning well. They're running and they're hiding and they're having difficulty communicating with each other. But a large number of them seem to behave in a fanatical way, and I suspect that we'll hear more of them."
U.S. airborne sensors are being used to track down the fleeing terrorists, who lost a major battle in the mountains near Tora Bora last weekend.
Asked if bin Laden had disappeared, Mr. Rumsfeld said: "I don't know that. I don't think he's vanished. He's either dug in some tunnel, or he's alive. And if he's alive, he's either in Afghanistan or he isn't.
"And it does not matter, we'll find him one day," he said.

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