- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 3, 2001

President Bush yesterday rebuked critics who charge the military campaign in Afghanistan is failing and asserted the relentless bombing and ground war is unraveling Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.
"There are some that say, 'Well, shouldn't this have happened yesterday?' This is not an instant-gratification war," said Mr. Bush.
Mr. Bush said the military campaign will not halt during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in mid-November, and also urged the Senate to pass his economic stimulus package, calling last month's 0.5 percent rise in unemployment "not good news for America."
"We need to work together to prevent further loss of jobs by passing an economic stimulus package that in fact will cause the job base to firm up and expand," Mr. Bush said.
Taking direct aim at critics primarily the media who have criticized the early phase of the war in Afghanistan, Mr. Bush said "this is a different type of struggle, and our strategy reflects that."
But he said anyone who thinks the Taliban and bin Laden are unaffected by the bombing and ground war are dead wrong.
"The Taliban's air defenses have been completely demolished. Their assets, whatever assets they had, have been demolished. And we're slowly but surely tightening the net to achieve our objective," said Mr. Bush.
"And we're going to get him and them."
While he said the war will not be halted for Ramadan, he left the specifics to the generals.
"The enemy won't rest during Ramadan and neither will we," he said, echoing what Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said earlier this week. "We're going to pursue this war until we achieve our objective. This is not a political campaign. This is a war."
On a day Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said the latest state of "high alert" is being extended indefinitely, Mr. Bush said Americans realize the United States is in for the long haul.
"What Governor Ridge is saying, and what I've been saying all along, is we're in a new day here in America.
"We're fighting a two-front war. And I believe most Americans understand that now," he said.
"We're running down every single lead, we're hardening assets, we're on the hunt, we're going to chase them down. And the American people fully understand that we're in for a long struggle, and I appreciate the patience of the American people."
Meanwhile, the Pentagon predicted the U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan will capture or kill bin Laden, the prime suspect in the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed more than 5,000 people from 80 countries.
"We are tightening the noose. We have the means. It's a matter of time," said Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem, the deputy director of operations on the Joint Staff.
Before yesterday, Mr. Bush had not chastised his critics, who have begun questioning whether the campaign will be successful and if the United States can hold together the international coalition fighting terrorism.
Several newspaper polls say Americans strongly support Mr. Bush but are growing anxious about the anti-terrorism campaign.
The percentage of people who think the military will capture bin Laden has declined since the campaign began more than a month ago, as has the percentage of people who think the international alliance will hold, the polls say.
But the president has taken more control over the message, as evidenced yesterday by a lengthy question-and-answer period with reporters during a Rose Garden event with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He also plans a national address perhaps from a stadium, a White House source said next week and will meet with at least eight world leaders.
"President Bush is not necessarily unhappy with the daily flow of information," said a senior administration official, "but he wants to make sure everyone stays on message."
To help in the public relations war, a new information war room has been set up in the Old Executive Office Building, with branch offices in Britain and Pakistan.
Officials will respond immediately to claims by the Taliban, an issue the White House thinks is important.
For instance, the White House yesterday categorically denied Taliban claims that it had already lost as many as 100 soldiers in the terror war.
"Once again, the Taliban are just lying," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
The president said he did not think the administration was sending mixed signals by telling Americans to return to their daily routines while putting law- enforcement agencies nationwide on high alert.
"Well, I wasn't rattled when I went out and threw out the ball at Yankee Stadium. Right after, I had instructed the Justice Department to inform 17,000 law- enforcement agencies to be aware, to harden targets, to harden assets," said Mr. Bush, who donned a bulletproof vest for his World Series pitch Tuesday.
"Most Americans understand that there is a new day here in America. They appreciate the efforts the government is making, and they're going to fight terrorism by going about their daily lives," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rumsfeld, who headed for Russia yesterday, said a U.S. defense against missiles can be deployed without breaking the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
"We will deploy a missile defense, and that can be done with the treaty still in place," said Mr. Rumsfeld.
In Moscow, he will talk to his counterpart, Sergei Ivanov, about the war against terrorism in Afghanistan.
He then will make a fast-paced swing through Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and India to discuss Pentagon plans for intensifying ground combat in Afghanistan.
Mr. Rumsfeld said final decisions on two or three missile-defense issues probably would be left for the talks President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold this month in Washington and Crawford, Texas.
Also yesterday, the United States added 22 "foreign terrorist organizations" to the FBI list of groups under tighter financial restrictions introduced after September 11.
Designation as a "terrorist organization," which already led to the freezing of assets, now allows the United States to close down the U.S. branches of foreign banks that do not comply with its requests.
It also meets demands from Israeli leaders and U.S. lawmakers that the tighter restrictions apply to groups that attack Israelis, such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.


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