- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002


The Pentagon wants U.S. forces to get special training in manhunts so they can nab al Qaeda operatives including Osama bin Laden who continue to elude them, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.

In an interview, Mr. Rumsfeld said he wants military training refocused on "the kinds of things that would better enable us to do the task at hand. And that is to help track down terrorists and terrorist networks, and deal with countries that harbor terrorists."

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Last month, Mr. Rumsfeld ordered Air Force Gen. Charles Holland, the head of the Special Operations Command, to develop a more aggressive plan to apprehend or kill al Qaeda terrorists. The Washington Times last week first reported the plan, about which Gen. Holland briefed Mr. Rumsfeld on Friday.

Gen. Tommy Franks, head of U.S. Central Command, yesterday attended a meeting of President Bush and his foreign policy advisers. Aides would not reveal the agenda, but said Gen. Franks frequently attends the National Security Council sessions.

Mr. Rumsfeld did not reveal specifics yesterday, but said the campaign in Afghanistan is more of a manhunt than a traditional military operation and he wants the skills of U.S. forces brought in line with that duty.

The last large-scale military assault of the war was Operation Anaconda, in which troops tried to clean out a section of eastern Afghanistan.

"Our department was not organized, trained and equipped to do manhunts. We were organized, trained and equipped to deal with armies, navies and air forces," who now are not really the main threat, Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Mr. Rumsfeld spoke to reporters taking part in the National Journalists Roundtable, a forum that promotes increased access between top U.S. officials and black reporters.

When asked about news reports that he has grown impatient with the pursuit of al Qaeda fighters, Mr. Rumsfeld said he was not "unhappy with the pace of things," and he praised U.S. commanders and forces who have those assignments.

"I think people have got that sense of urgency," he said.

But, Mr. Rumsfeld added, "I can understand why the stories come out, because I am, I suppose, genetically impatient. If everything were being done absolutely perfectly, I'd probably still be impatient. I'm anxious to see that we can stop any conceivable terrorist attack that it's possible to stop. I'm anxious to capture or kill any terrorists we can find. I'm anxious to see that countries [that] are harboring them stop doing that."

Mr. Rumsfeld denied that a U.S. attack on Iraq is imminent.

But he noted the support Iraq's neighbors gave to the 1991 Persian Gulf war and said that this time around, "I think you would find that countries would find a way publicly or privately to be supportive."

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