By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2004 – The U.S. general responsible for U.S. military operations from the Horn of Africa to Central and Southwest Asia pledged today to destroy "piece by piece" the terror network of fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, met briefly with reporters along with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John D. Negroponte following a closed Senate briefing.
Zarqawi has a $10 million bounty on his head, and is believed to have personally decapitated several hostages whose gruesome deaths were recorded and posted on extremist Web sites.
"First of all," Abizaid said, "we clearly know that the Zarqawi network is responsible for this. We have had a lot of good effect against the Zarqawi network in the past several weeks. We'll continue to work against them as long as it takes. We will find him, root him out and destroy him and his organization, and we'll do it as quickly as we possibly can."
The general wouldn't comment on how close multinational and Iraqi forces may be to capturing or killing Zarqawi, but he pledged to keep pounding away at the terrorist's network. "We're going to keep it up. And we'll take it apart piece by piece," he said.
Rumsfeld bristled at a reporter's question about "experts" predicting that the insurgency in Iraq would last 10 years.
"General Abizaid just gave a presentation up there to the United States Senate that was powerful," Rumsfeld said, "and it is that we are up against a very serious collection of enemies -- terrorists, extremists, people who use terrorism as their weapon of choice, people who have cut off people's heads."
The secretary said moderate people of the world must oppose the extremists wherever they are, and he acknowledged that it will take time. But, he said, no one can know how much time it will take. "I think anyone who pulls a number out of mid-air and says it will take one year or five years or 10 years must have mystical powers that most people don't have," Rumsfeld said.
"It is a serious collection of people who are determined to kill innocent men, women and children, and attack the state system that exists in this globe," Rumsfeld continued. "And it's the job of civil societies all across the globe to do everything humanly possible to see that they're not able to kill innocent men, women and children."
Abizaid predicted more violence leading up to the elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, but said his troops are up to the challenge. "We know that we will have to fight for the elections in both countries. We know that the enemy will come at us very, very tough," the general said. "But we also know that we've got the military capacity to deal with anything that may come our way. In three years of fighting in the Middle East, we have yet to lose a single tactical engagement, and we're going to keep it that way. Our troops are doing great work."
He praised the work of U.S. military forces throughout the Central Command area of responsibility. "I'd like to thank the wonderful young men and women of the armed forces of the United States for the activities and the actions and the bravery and the heroism that they've put forward in defending our nation in the Central Command area," he said. "That doesn't only include Iraq; it includes Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and the entire Middle East and Central Asia."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld [/bios/rumsfeld_bio.html] Army Gen. John Abizaid [/bios/abizaid_bio.html]
U.S. Central Command centcom.mil
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