- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Al Qaeda terrorists are looking for softer targets as tighter security has made old prey such as U.S. airliners, embassies and military facilities more difficult to penetrate.

"They are shifting their efforts, of necessity," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday, assessing the organization's status more than nine months into the Bush administration's war against terrorism.

"That's what terrorists do," he told reporters at the Pentagon. "They move across the spectrum, looking for ways to achieve their goal. And their goal is to kill innocent men, women and children, and there are lots of ways to do that. There's just a lot of things that have changed and, therefore, you've got to assume they're going to migrate."

At the same time, most al Qaeda fighters have fled their base of Afghanistan for Iran, Pakistan and other countries.

"The activity in Afghanistan clearly instigated a dispersion of these people," the defense secretary said, referring to months of air strikes, special-operations raids and one large battle, Operation Anaconda, in which hundreds of Osama bin Laden's men were killed.

"They've got less money; they've got fewer training camps probably none in Afghanistan and fewer in the world," he added. "There is no question but that their lines of control and communication have been disrupted."

He acknowledged that "a lot of folks came over, Taliban and al Qaeda" into Pakistan and are "milling around."

With tensions decreased between Pakistan and archrival India, Pakistan moved a small number of reinforcements to the Afghan border Sunday to aid troops hunting for al Qaeda and hard-core Taliban in lawless tribal regions.

In recent weeks, much of the U.S. military operations has focused on sweeping the high-altitude caves of eastern Afghanistan, where bin Laden once commanded hundreds of fortified troops. Now, coalition forces are finding large arms caches but no enemy.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said that teams this month found large numbers of rocket-propelled grenades, hundreds of thousands of small arms and rounds, and 30 Chinese-made SA-7s, a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile.

The Washington Times reported last year that China shipped SA-7 missiles to the ruling Taliban after al Qaeda's September 11 attack on the United States, according to a U.S. intelligence report. Beijing said the report was not true.


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