- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

President Bush said yesterday that Afghanistan's former Taliban government is just "the first regime to fall in the war against terror" as he cited a continued threat from "axis of evil" nations bent on unleashing weapons of mass destruction.

In a speech to cadets at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, the president said the United States will not rest until terrorist organizations worldwide are defeated.

"A small number of outlaw regimes today possess and are developing chemical and biological and nuclear weapons. They're building missiles to deliver them, and at the same time cultivating ties to terrorist groups," Mr. Bush said.

"In their threat to peace, in their mad ambitions, in their destructive potential and in the repression of their own people, these regimes constitute an axis of evil and the world must confront them," he added.

The president did not refer specifically to Iraq, Iran or North Korea, the nations that constitute what he termed an "axis of evil" in his Jan. 29 State of the Union address. However, he said the terror network al Qaeda, having lost its Taliban sponsor in Afghanistan, is seeking help from rogue nations.

"We must prevent al Qaeda from moving its operations to other countries. We must deny terrorists the funds they need to operate. We must deny them safe havens to plan new horrors and indoctrinate new recruits," he said.

Delivering an update on the war in Afghanistan, Mr. Bush said the campaign is far from over. He pledged not to make the same error as other nations that have been engaged militarily in the mountainous country.

"As the spring thaw comes, we expect cells of trained killers to try to regroup, to murder, create mayhem and try to undermine Afghanistan's efforts to build a lasting peace," Mr. Bush said.

"We know this from not only intelligence, but from the history of military conflict in Afghanistan. It's been one of initial success, followed by long years of floundering and ultimate failure. We're not going to repeat that mistake," he added.

"We're tough, we're determined, we're relentless. We will stay until the mission is done."

At the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said the United States has not achieved its goal of crippling al Qaeda's leadership.

"Many of us have said that this country is not safe while bin Laden is still at-large," Mr. Daschle said. "The bottom line is that we've got to find him."

"Out of the 12 major al Qaeda leaders, we've only found two. So al Qaeda, currently, is apparently still at-large, still capable of inflicting real harm on the United States. And I think our job ought to be what President Bush said it was last fall: we need to find bin Laden, we need to find the al Qaeda leadership and we need to deal with them directly," he said.

The president said the recent capture of a top al Qaeda leader, Abu Zubaydah, is proof that the anti-terror campaign is working.

"He's not plotting and he's not planning anymore. He's under lock and key, and we're going to give him some company. We're hunting down the killers one by one," Mr. Bush said.

The president also said that the ground war in Afghanistan has allowed U.S. troops to gather evidence of atrocities committed by the Taliban regime.

"We find mounting horror, evidence of horror. In the Hazarajat region, the Red Cross has found signs of massacres committed by the Taliban last year, victims who lie in mass graves. This is the legacy of the first regime to fall in the war against terror," Mr. Bush said.

"These mass graves are a reminder of the kind of enemy we have fought and have defeated. And they are the kind of evil we continue to fight," he added.

Speaking at the George C. Marshall ROTC Award Seminar at VMI, Mr. Bush repeatedly recalled the Army general's work as secretary of state in rebuilding Europe and Japan after World War II.

"The war against terror will be long. And as George Marshall so clearly understood, it will not be enough to make the world safer. We must also work to make the world better," Mr. Bush said.

As he has done on earlier occasions, the president also advocated aiding Afghanistan in the development and training of its own army. He called on world leaders to help the nation develop a stable government.

"By helping to build an Afghanistan that is free from this evil and is a better place in which to live, we are working in the best traditions of George Marshall. Marshall knew that our military victory against enemies in World War II had to be followed by a moral victory that resulted in better lives for individual human beings," he said.

The president praised nations that have accepted U.S. aid in the global war against terrorism among them the Philippines, Georgia and Yemen and pledged that any nation "that needs our help will have it."

"No nation can be neutral. Around the world, the nations must choose. They are with us, or they're with the terrorists," Mr. Bush said.

Dave Boyer contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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