Rumsfeld says fighting terrorists requires unconventional weapons, tactics

Monday, September 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States is getting ``overwhelming support from all across the globe'' for its battle against terrorism - a fight that will require the use of unconventional military methods, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says.

``It is clear that there are terrorists and countries harboring terrorists that are determined to cause great damage to the United States ... It really strikes directly at what we really are. We're free people. So we have to be, as the president said, in a state of heightened awareness,'' Rumsfeld said today on ABC's ``Good Morning America.''

America has recieved ``overwhelming support from all across the globe,'' the Pentagon chief said, adding, ``This is a question of self-defense. The only conceiveable way that the United States can be protected against terrorist acts of this type ... is if we attack the problem of terrorism at its roots and go after the people who are doing it.''

Meanwhile, U.S. forces are readying for potential military action, a senior Pentagon officer said.

Bush planned to stop by the Pentagon on Monday for a briefing on the reserve call-up, and to meet with reservists, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

In the wake of Bush's declaration that everyone in uniform must get ready, commanders of elite airborne and assault troops have sent out orders to alert troops to potential changes of mission. Such alerts advise troops to get their personal lives in order and be ready for further, more detailed orders that could include short-notice movement, the officer said.

``It's taking prudent action, but it doesn't order them on the plane tomorrow,'' the officer said.

Top Pentagon officers have been preparing a wide array of potential courses of action for some days now, the officer said.

Rumsfeld said Sunday that fulfilling Bush's pledge to eradicate terrorism will mean relying more on unconventional military methods than on traditional weapons like bombers, tanks and warships.

``These are people who operate in the shadows, and we have to deal with them in the shadows,'' Rumsfeld said Sunday.

It might require adding to the ranks of military commando units, known as special operations forces, he said.

``The terrorists who are attacking our way of life do not have armies, navies or air forces. They do not have capitals. They do not have high-value targets that the typical weapons of war can go in and attack.''

``They're in apartments, and they're using laptops, and they're using cell phones and they are functioning in the shadows, not out in front.''

Rumsfeld praised the capabilities of the special operations forces, which are rarely in the limelight because much of what they do is secret _ difficult and dangerous missions behind enemy lines.

The military has 29,000 special operations troops on active duty and an additional 14,000 in the reserves. They are trained in a wide array of missions, including psychological warfare, sabotage and kidnapping, small-scale offensive strikes, fighting terrorists and training and equipping indigenous forces in foreign lands.

Rumsfeld and other administration officials who appeared on the Sunday television talk shows offered no hint of when Bush might order the first strikes against those linked to last week's terrorist attacks.

While the terrorists lack the kind of military forces and bases that could be attacked by conventional means, nations that support or harbor them do, Rumsfeld said. He was not specific, but Afghanistan is known to be harboring Osama bin Laden, whom Bush named as the prime suspect behind the airborne attacks Tuesday on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Rumsfeld made clear that defenses against terrorism, no matter how strong, are not enough.

Therefore, Rumsfeld said, those nations targeted by terrorists need to go on the offensive.

Fighter jets maintained continuous air patrols over the nation's capital and New York City on Sunday, and Rumsfeld said fighters are on 15-minute alert at 26 bases elsewhere. The Air Force also is flying AWACS radar planes to help monitor air traffic, Pentagon officials said.

Vice President Dick Cheney said that in the midst of the multiple hijackings, after the attacks on the World Trade Center, Bush authorized U.S. fighter pilots to shoot down any plane headed for Washington.

``Yes, the president made the decision on my recommendation as well,'' Cheney said. ``I wholeheartedly concurred in the decision he made, that if the plane would not divert, if they wouldn't pay any attention to instructions to move away from the city, as a last resort our pilots were authorized to take them out.''