Archive for Sunday, September 16, 2001

Rumsfeld says the fight against terrorists will be unconventional, long-lasting

September 16, 2001

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— Fighting the shadowy network of terrorists that President Bush has vowed to eradicate will require relying more on unconventional methods than bombers, tanks and warships, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday.

It might even require adding to the ranks of the military's commando forces, known in the military as "special operations" forces, Rumsfeld said.

"The terrorists who are attacking our way of life do not have armies, navies or air forces. They do not have capitals. They do not have high-value targets that the typical weapons of war can go in and attack," he said. "They're in apartments, and they're using laptops, and they're using cell phones and they are functioning in the shadows, not out in front."

Secretary of State Colin Powell said intelligence, information gathering and law enforcement will join the armed forces in the fight against terrorism.

Rumsfeld praised the capabilities of the military's special operations forces. They rarely are in the limelight because much of what they do is secret _ difficult and dangerous missions behind enemy lines.

"They're unconventional, and we're dealing in an unconventional time, and we may very well need more of them," he said.

The military has 29,000 special operations troops on active duty and an additional 14,000 in the reserves. They are trained in a wide array of missions, including psychological warfare, sabotage and kidnapping, small-scale offensive strikes at discrete targets, fighting terrorists and training and equipping indigenous forces in foreign lands.

Rumsfeld and other administration officials who appeared on the Sunday talk shows gave no hint when Bush might order the first strikes against those linked to last week's terrorist attacks.

The defense secretary said that while the terrorists lack the kind of military forces and bases that could be attacked by conventional means, nations that support or harbor the terrorists do.

He did not mention any countries. Afghanistan, however, is known to be harboring Osama bin Laden, whom Bush named as the prime suspect behind the airborne attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Rumsfeld has pointed at Iraq as a long-standing supporter of international terrorism. But Vice President Dick Cheney and Powell said Sunday that the United States has no evidence linking Iraq to the attacks.

While it remains possible that terrorists behind the four hijackings could strike inside the United States at any time, the military has relaxed slightly its worldwide "defense condition," or alert status for going to war, Rumsfeld said.

Similarly, the military "threat condition," or level of alert for threats to U.S. forces, has dropped a notch.

Fighter jets maintained continuous air patrols over the nation's capital and New York City on Sunday, and Rumsfeld said fighters are on 15-minute alert at 26 bases elsewhere. The Air Force also is flying AWACS radar planes to help monitor air traffic, Pentagon officials said.

The Air Force, meanwhile, confirmed that three people named by the FBI as suspects in the hijackings have names similar to three non-Americans who attended U.S. military schools. The names are Mohamed Atta, Abdulaziz Alomari and Saeed Alghamdi, the Air Force said. It added, however, that discrepancies in their biographical information, such as birthdates, make it unlikely that they are the same three named by the FBI.

One of the three attended the Defense Language Institute at Monterey, Calif., and the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.; one attended just the language institute, and one the Aerospace Medical School, the Air Force said.

Rumsfeld also said that "at the moment" he did not see the military draft resuming even as the administration is committing the country to a sustained fight against terrorism. But, he said, "I wouldn't rule out anything, however."

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