STATEMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
November 1, 2001
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld released today the following statement:
Good afternoon. I have reflected on some of the questions posed at the last briefing: questions about the ‘speed of progress’ in the campaign-questions about the "patience" of the American people-if something does not happen immediately.
I have a sense that the public understands the following facts:
On September 11th terrorists attacked New York and Washington, DC, murdering thousands of innocent people — Americans and people from dozens of countries and all races and religions — in cold blood.
On October 7th, less than a month later, we had positioned coalition forces in the region, and we began military operations against Taliban and al-Qaeda targets throughout Afghanistan. Since that time — roughly three weeks ago — coalition forces have flown over 2,000 sorties, broadcast 300-plus hours of radio transmissions, delivered an amazing 1,030,000 humanitarian rations to starving Afghan people.
Today is November 1, and smoke — at this very moment — is still rising from the ruins of the World Trade Center.
With the ruins still smoldering and the smoke not yet cleared, it seems to me that Americans understand well that — despite the urgency in the press questions — we are still in the very, very early stages of this war. The ruins are still smoking!
Consider some historical perspective:
- After the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, it took four months before the United States responded to that attack with the Doolittle raid of April 1942.
- It took eight months after Pearl Harbor before the U.S. began a land campaign against the Japanese — with the invasion of Guadalcanal in August of 1942.
- The U.S. bombed Japan for three-and-a-half years — until August 1945 — before we accomplished our objectives in the Pacific.
- On the European front, the allies bombed Germany continually for nearly five years — from September of 1940 until May of 1945.
- It took 11 months to start the land campaign against the Germans — with the invasion of North Africa in November of 1942.
- It took the United States two years and six months after Hitler declared war on us before we landed in France on June 6, 1944.
We are now fighting a new kind of war. It is unlike any America has ever fought before. Many things about this war are different from wars past-but, as I have said, one of those differences is not the possibility of instant victory.
At my briefing when I announced the start of the air campaign on October 7th, I stated that our initial goals were:
- To make clear to the Taliban that harboring terrorists carries a price;
- To acquire intelligence to facilitate future operations against al-Qaeda and the Taliban;
- To develop useful relationships with groups in Afghanistan that oppose the Taliban and al-Qaeda;
- To make it increasingly difficult for the terrorists to use Afghanistan freely as a base of operation;
- To alter the military balance over time by denying to the Taliban the offensive systems that hamper the progress of the various opposition forces; and
- To provide humanitarian relief to Afghans suffering oppressive living conditions under the Taliban regime.
That was 24 days ago — three weeks and three days — not three months or three years, but three weeks and three days. We have made measurable progress on each of these goals.
The attacks of September 11 were not days or weeks but years in the making. The terrorists were painstaking and deliberate, and it appears they may have spent years planning their activities.
There is no doubt in my mind but that the American people know that it’s going to take more than 24 days.
I also stated that our task is much broader than simply defeating the Taliban or al-Qaeda — it is to root out global terrorist networks, not just in Afghanistan, but wherever they are, to ensure that they cannot threaten the American people or our way of life.
This is a task that will take time to accomplish. Victory will require that every element of American influence and power be engaged.
Americans have seen tougher adversaries than this before-and they have had the staying power to defeat them. Underestimating the American people is a bad bet.
In the end, war is not about statistics, deadlines, short attention spans, or 24-hour news cycles. It is about will — the projection of will, the clear, unambiguous determination of the President and the American people to see this through to certain victory.
In other American wars, enemy commanders have come to doubt the wisdom of taking on the strength and power of this nation and the resolve of her people. I expect that somewhere, in a cave in Afghanistan, there is a terrorist leader who is, at this moment, considering precisely the same thing.