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A Long War Lies Ahead, Rumsfeld Tells Troops

April 27, 2002|From Associated Press

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — In a pep talk Friday to U.S. troops in this Central Asian outpost, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld urged them to prepare for a long war against the "evil of mass murderers"--and not only in Afghanistan.

"To the extent that they have safe havens, sanctuaries where they can go, then the effort we've put into Afghanistan will be for nothing," he told about 400 troops assembled under a tent.

"You stand against an evil--an evil of mass murderers," he said to rousing cheers. "It's an evil that can't be appeased, it can't be ignored, and it certainly cannot be allowed to prevail."

About 1,000 U.S. troops are based in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, for fighter, cargo and air refueling missions over Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld's four-nation Central Asian tour is taking him next to Afghanistan for meetings with interim government officials and visits to U.S. and allied troops.

Citing security concerns, officials barred reporters accompanying Rumsfeld from disclosing in advance which parts of Afghanistan he would visit.

In a question-and-answer session with U.S. and allied troops, one airman asked, "When we get our hands on Mr. Bin Laden, are we going to negotiate with him or annihilate him?"

Grinning amid hoots and hollers from his audience, Rumsfeld replied, "In truth, it's kind of his choice."

"We're hunting him down," he said. "We're tracking him down. He's hiding. We haven't heard hide nor hair of him for about, oh, since December, in terms of anything hard." Rumsfeld said that even with Bin Laden still at large, "he is probably not very effective now in running the Al Qaeda organization."

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