ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Four weeks of U.S. bombing has greatly weakened the Taliban's ability to operate as a government in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday.
"The Taliban [are] not really functioning as a government," Rumsfeld said after arriving in Pakistan, the latest stop on a trip which has taken him to Russia and a pair of Central Asian states bordering Afghanistan.
Militarily, the Taliban are "using their power in enclaves throughout the country to impose their will on the Afghan people," Rumsfeld said. But he added, "they are not making major military moves. They are pretty much in static positions."
Rumsfeld said the Taliban were trying to prevent U.S. strikes on their military targets by using mosques as military command centers and for storing ammunition and placing tanks near hospitals and schools. The Taliban are "actively lying about civilian casualties," he added.
Rumsfeld, who arrived from Uzbekistan, spoke after talks with Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who has called for a break in the bombing during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan which begins around Nov. 17.
President Bush already has said the bombing was likely to continue through Ramadan. Rumsfeld gave no indication that stand had changed.
"The reality is that the threat of additional terrorist acts is there," he said. The United States will be sensitive to the views in the region, he added, but he declined to outline military plans.
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar, who appeared with Rumsfeld at a news conference, said his country wanted the military campaign to be as brief as possible — but it also needed to achieve its objectives.
At his earlier stop in Uzbekistan, Rumsfeld told reporters that the anti-terrorist campaign was "proceeding at a pace that is showing measurable progress."
Rumsfeld's stopovers in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — two nations on Afghanistan's northern border — came at a time when Washington is looking to send more troops into Afghanistan to scout out targets and train opposition fighters. Uzbekistan in particular has been pointed to by many experts as a possible staging ground for Afghan operations.
But Rumsfeld's visit did not bring any announcements of any change in either country's level of cooperation with the campaign against Afghanistan.
But while Rumsfeld said he "appreciated" Uzbekistan's help, he and the Uzbek defense minister said they had not discussed expanding the U.S. presence in this former Soviet republic. Rumsfeld said the United States needed all kinds of assistance in the war against terror, but firmly insisted that he would not detail the contributions of any country.
The United States already has some 1,000 troops in Uzbekistan. Although Uzbekistan has balked at allowing the United States to carry out strikes from its bases, it has agreed that soldiers for search-and-rescue and humanitarian missions can be based on its territory.
Rumsfeld met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Defense Minister Qobir Ghulomov on Sunday on his second visit to this Central Asian nation in a month.
During his brief visit to Tajikistan — which shares a long and volatile border with Afghanistan — Rumsfeld said he reached no deals on military cooperation, though he said Tajikistan and the United States would form an "assessment team" to look into ways in which the country could assist in the military.
Tajikistan currently allows flights carrying U.S. aid to cross its airspace. Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov said assistance could be expanded to allow overflights of military planes or the use of Tajikistan's air fields.