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'911 - RUMSFELD SAYS NO SIGN OF BIN LADEN DIRECTING AL QAEDA - 4 JUN 2002'


11th September 2001
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FROM: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A54813-2002Jun3.html

Al Qaeda Active, Rumsfeld Says
Pentagon Chief Finds No Sign Of Bin Laden Giving Direction

By Vernon Loeb and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 4, 2002; Page A01


Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden does not seem to be formally directing al Qaeda operations, even though there is "no doubt" the terrorist network remains active around the globe.

"My guess is, if he were active, we would know it -- we would have some visible sense of it, which we haven't seem to have had, for some reason," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld said he did not know whether bin Laden is keeping a low profile for security reasons, suffering from an illness, or dead. But whatever his fate, he said, the U.S. government has evidence showing that other al Qaeda leaders continue raising money and communicating with one another, albeit with greater difficulty due to losses in Afghanistan and thousands of arrests worldwide.

"We know they're in enough countries and have enough money and have enough leadership that you've got to expect they, in fact, are going to be back again," Rumsfeld said in an interview at the Pentagon with Washington Post reporters and editors. "There have to be six, eight, 10, 12, 15 people who know where the bank accounts are, who know people who were trained, who know what their techniques are, who can pick it up."

Rumsfeld's comments on bin Laden and the state of al Qaeda's leadership were his most extensive in months and came after a series of warnings from the Bush administration in recent weeks about the likelihood of future terrorist attacks. Despite the military's success at toppling the Taliban movement from power in Afghanistan and eliminating al Qaeda sanctuaries in that country, Rumsfeld and other senior administration officials acknowledge that U.S. troops alone cannot prevent al Qaeda from staging new attacks.

A senior intelligence official agreed with Rumsfeld's assessment of bin Laden's current activity but said that the consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies is that bin Laden is alive and has "intentionally lowered his profile for security reasons." Most intelligence analysts, the official said, believe bin Laden is in either Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Rumsfeld again acknowledged that large numbers of al Qaeda fighters fled Afghanistan and "got away" across the Pakistani border. "It has been our worry for the last six months that the border is porous, that people move back and forth going both ways, and that there are pockets of al Qaeda and Taliban still floating around on both sides," he said.

Rumsfeld said the Pakistani military has deployed forces along the border to help hunt down al Qaeda and Taliban remnants. For the most part, those forces remain in place, Rumsfeld said, despite escalating tensions between Pakistan and India over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

"The Pakistanis have moved away some small elements but not major forces yet -- some reconnaissance people and some communications people, nothing big," Rumsfeld said. "The forces are still reasonably in place along the Afghan border."

Rumsfeld said finding people in that remote, mountainous region is like finding "a needle in a haystack" and acknowledged that recent sweeps by U.S. and allied forces of suspected al Qaeda redoubts along the border have turned up "a lot more materiel than people."

"A lot of groups are out making sweeps and they're discovering large caches of weapons, big numbers of rockets, small arms, ammunition, in some cases some armored personnel carriers," he said. "So they're having good success. There are probably about four or five activities either just finishing or underway."

About 150 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division were sent out on Sunday to search a suspected former al Qaeda training camp east of Jalalabad, near the Pakistan border, said Army Maj. Bryan Hilferty, a military spokesman at Bagram air base in Afghanistan.

The soldiers closed four caves and returned to Bagram yesterday morning, Hilferty said. None of the caves or buildings searched by the troops appeared to have been occupied for weeks. Soldiers reported finding some documents and a small pile of ammunition, and said they blew up entrances to the caves to seal them off and prevent them from being used again.

Despite the relative quiet in Afghanistan, the U.S. military is bracing for increased turmoil there as a loya jirga, or grand council, is convened next week to pick a new central government, said one U.S. official. The fear is that various regional commanders could rise up in opposition to Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-backed interim leader of Afghanistan, and others allied with him if they feel inadequately represented in a new government.

"There are a lot of people with a great deal to lose in the loya jirga," the official said.

On Iraq, Rumsfeld said that President Saddam Hussein's government is more of a threat now than it was in December 1998, when U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in advance of U.S. and British airstrikes. "There's no question but that their [weapons of mass destruction] program and their military capabilities are going to evolve in ways that are favorable to them," he said.

But Rumsfeld made it clear that an invasion of Iraq would represent a major undertaking for the U.S. military. Asked about military strategists who have called toppling Hussein a "cakewalk," Rumsfeld strongly disagreed.

"Listen, nothing is a cakewalk," he said. "Everything is unpredictable, and life is hard. Those folks have weapons that they'll use, and anyone who thinks it's a cakewalk isn't right."

He also took exception to those who have argued that large numbers of Iraqi troops and civilians would rise up in support of U.S. troops in the event of an invasion. Rumsfeld said it is logical to assume that some forces would surrender, noting that 80,000 Iraqi troops surrendered during a four- or five-day period in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

But that is different than mass insurrection, he said. "Will they rise up?" he asked. "I think that's not likely. People who rise up get killed."

© 2002 The Washington Post Company.

FROM: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A54813-2002Jun3.html

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