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Rumsfeld says anti-terror campaign more like Cold War than a shooting war. Hints there may be no attack.

g and compass

CBC News

October 5, 2001

Rumsfeld says anti-terror campaign more like Cold War than a shooting war

CAIRO (AP) - The U.S.-led struggle to defeat terrorism is more likely to resemble the West's decades-long contest against communism - fought on many fronts, often outside the military arena - than a major shooting war, U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday.

Rumsfeld's comments offered the strongest suggestion yet by the Bush administration that, while the U.S. military will play a role in rooting out terrorists, its contribution may be smaller than commonly assumed.

U.S. military action also could come later rather than sooner. French Defence Minister Alain Richard said retaliation for the Sept. 11 terror attacks isn't likely for several weeks.

"The decisions to take action haven't been made," Richard said in Paris. "Everyone is going to prepare their own means that will be well-adapted for a joint effort. We aren't at the end of that."

Rumsfeld himself alluded to the unlikelihood of an early attack. "I haven't said we are undertaking military action," he said at one point in an interview.

The United States has assembled more than 30,000 troops in the region around Afghanistan, including two aircraft carrier battle groups, a contingent of Marines, hundreds of land-based warplanes and preparations for army special operations soldiers to conduct hit-and-run commando raids inside Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld indicated the first purpose of the growing force might be to apply military pressure rather than to launch a major attack, as the freezing of terrorist groups' money is applying a financial squeeze. He stressed it could take unexpected turns but eventually would succeed.

The administration hopes that pressures applied over a sustained period will dry up the terrorists' sources of money, their pool of recruits and their means to hide in places such as Afghanistan.

"It undoubtedly will prove to be a lot more like a cold war than a hot war," Rumsfeld said in the interview in his Cairo hotel room after a 14-hour day of consultations with the leaders of Oman and Egypt.

He harked back to the Cold War between the United States and its western allies on one hand and the former Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies on the other, a struggle between capitalism and communism that ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the eventual collapse of Soviet communism.

"In the Cold War it took 50 years, plus or minus. It did not involve major battles. It involved continuous pressure. It involved co-operation by a host of nations, ... and when it ended, it ended not with a bang but through internal collapse," he said. "That threat to the world just disintegrated from inside."

On Friday, Rumsfeld was to travel to Uzbekistan, on Afghanistan's northern border, and to Turkey to discuss the fight against terrorism. Before stopping in Cairo, Rumsfeld met with Sultan Qaboos in Oman and King Fahd and other members of the Saudi royal family in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The first target of the U.S.-led campaign is Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network that the Bush administration says was unquestionably behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

At a news conference Thursday after his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Rumsfeld made clear that the U.S. administration does not intend to stop after disposing of bin Laden.

"If he were gone the problem would remain," he said. "There are any number of lieutenants in the al-Qaida organization, and there are any number of other terrorist networks that exist, all of which are a danger to free people."

Asked why, then, the United States would launch a military attack if it would not end the threat of terrorism, Rumsfeld replied, "I haven't said we are undertaking military action." He said he was being realistic in saying that there's no way to predict what it might take to root out the terrorists.

"The important thing is to see that we put enough pressure on these terrorists, and the people who harbour terrorists, through a variety of means, over a sustained period, so that they have to alter their behaviour and they have to move from where they are, and they have to try to do things differently," he said.

Rumsfeld said the administration is satisfied with Egypt's response to Bush's anti-terror campaign, although Mubarak said Thursday before meeting with Rumsfeld that Egyptian troops will not be sent abroad for any military action.

"On the fundamental issue," Rumsfeld said, "there is no question but that President Mubarak and President Bush are of like mind: that the problem of terrorism is a very serious one and one that all know is something that is very difficult to defend against, which means that the only way to deal with it is to go at it where it is."

Rumsfeld also told reporters that as part of Bush's accelerated effort to provide humanitarian relief to Afghanistan, the U.S. military will conduct airdrops of food in certain parts of the country.

"There's no doubt in my mind that there will be food drops by the military over a period of time," he said, adding that it would be done only with assurances that the Taliban's air defences, including Stinger shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons, would not pose a threat to American aircraft.

The Canadian Press, 2001

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