- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2003


Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld questioned whether the United States was doing enough to win the war on terrorism, citing “mixed results” in the fight against al Qaeda in a pointed memo to top Pentagon officials.

Mr. Rumsfeld said the U.S.-led coalitions would win in Afghanistan and Iraq, but not without “a long, hard slog.” He wrote that the United States “has made reasonable progress in capturing or killing the top 55 Iraqis” but has made “somewhat slower progress” tracking down top Taliban leaders who sheltered al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

“My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?” Mr. Rumsfeld wrote.

The memo, dated Oct. 16 and first reported by USA Today on yesterday, offered a much more stark assessment of the global war on terrorism than contained in Mr. Rumsfeld’s public statements.

“It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog,” he wrote.

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, said the memo “is a little different than the sort of self-assurance that was communicated to us in Congress.”

“This is the first sort of introspection that I have even whiffed coming out of the civilian side of the Defense Department,” Mr. Biden told reporters on Capitol Hill.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, traveling with President Bush in Australia, reacted by voicing support for Mr. Rumsfeld. “That’s exactly what a strong and capable secretary of defense like Secretary Rumsfeld should be doing,” Mr. McClellan said.

“The president has always said it will require thinking differently. It’s a different type of war,” Mr. McClellan said.

Mr. Bush talked about the war on terrorism with reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Canberra, where he planned to discuss it with Prime Minister John Howard.

“I’ve always felt that there’s a tendency of people to kind of seek a comfort zone and hope that the war on terror is over,” Mr. Bush said. “And I view it as a responsibility of the United States to remind people of our mutual obligations to deal with the terrorists.”

Mr. Rumsfeld’s spokesman, Larry Di Rita, told reporters yesterday the memo was meant to raise “big questions that deserve big thinking” and preserve a “constant sense of urgency” about where the war on terror is heading.

On the battle against the terror network blamed for the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Mr. Rumsfeld wrote: “We are having mixed results with al Qaeda, although we have put considerable pressure on them — nonetheless, a great many remain at large.” They include the group’s top leader, Osama bin Laden, and his right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Mr. Rumsfeld wrote “we are just getting started” in battling Ansar al-Islam, an Iraq-based terrorist group linked to al Qaeda.”

Mr. Di Rita said the memo was another in a series of provocative questions that the secretary regularly raises with Pentagon brass.

Three members of Congress who met with Mr. Rumsfeld yesterday morning said the defense secretary gave them copies of the memo and discussed it with them.

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