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Rumsfeld Warns bin Laden Hunt May Not End Soon - 2001-12-16


U-S Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is warning that the U-S-led military campaign in Afghanistan to find Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network may not be over any time soon.

But Mr. Rumsfeld -- on his first visit to the war-ravaged Afghanistan -- said the United States is not leaving the region until, in his words, "we get the job done."

Mr. Rumsfeld arrived at an Air Force base north of Kabul today (Sunday) and immediately went into talks with interim Afghan government leader Hamid Karzai. He said Mr. Karzai -- who takes office next Saturday -- is anxious to cooperate with coalition forces, as they seek to crush al-Qaida and arrest or kill its leader.

The Secretary said about two thousand al-Qaida terrorists are on the run in eastern Afghanistan, after being driven from caves near Tora Bora by alliance fighters backed by U-S airstrikes and special forces.

Mr. Rumsfeld has been traveling in the Caucasus and Central Asia -- visiting Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia -- bolstering support for the U-S-led campaign against terrorism. From Afghanistan, he is to travel to Uzbekistan.

U-S officials kept silent about details of Mr. Rumsfeld's surprise visit until just before he arrived, in a move to bolster security around the meeting with Mr. Karzai.

The Bagram base is guarded by American and British troops, and is considered key to the distribution of humanitarian aid to millions of Afghans hard-hit by years of civil war and severe drought.

Earlier today, the Defense Secretary said documents and materials found at a former terrorist camp near the southern city of Kandahar are being tested for links to chemical, biological and radiation weapons. The camp used by members of the al-Qaida network was near an airbase where U-S Marines moved in last month.

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