US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is questioning whether America has failed to take “truly bold moves” in Iraq and Afghanistan and asking the Pentagon to rethink its strategy.
In an internal memo, Rumsfeld said the US-led coalitions would win in Afghanistan and Iraq, but so far had had mixed results. He wrote that the United States “has made reasonable progress in capturing or killing the top 55 Iraqis” but has made “somewhat slower progress” tracking down top Taliban leaders who sheltered al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
President George Bush, in Australia today, chimed in with support, saying he agreed that the “war is going to be tough work and it’s going to take a while”.
Bush told reporters he had not seen the secretary’s memo but said that as for the idea of doing more to prepare, “I cannot agree more”.
Rumsfeld wrote in the October 16 memo, which was first reported by USA Today yesterday: “My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?”
Rumsfeld said last night he sent the memo to keep top Pentagon officials thinking about the broader implications of the war on terrorism.
“I asked questions. I didn’t answer questions,” Rumsfeld said after meeting politicians on Capitol Hill. “Elevating that issue forces people to think about it in the broadest possible context, which is why I did so.”
The memo also raised the possibility of creating a new team or agency in the federal government specifically to fight terrorism worldwide.
The Pentagon released a copy of the memo, addressed to Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Richard Myers and two of their deputies. In it, Rumsfeld offered a much more stark assessment of the global war on terrorism than he often gives publicly.
“It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog,” he wrote.
The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, said the memo “is a little different than the sort of self-assurance that was communicated to us in Congress”.