12 October 2001
President Bush says U.S. led military strikes have terrorists on the run in Afghanistan. But he admits the fight against global terrorism may take a long time. The comments came at the first formal news conference of his presidency.
The President clearly had two goals going into this session with reporters: to reassure the American public and to reaffirm his determination to crush the global terrorist network.
Standing before television cameras in the historic East Room of the White House, Mr. Bush sounded at times somber, at times determined.
The President began by giving the American people an update on the war on terrorism, and then acknowledged that the threat of another attack on U.S. soil is very real. He spoke just hours after the FBI issued a chilling warning of possible imminent terrorist action.
"I think the American people do understand that after September 11, that we are facing a different world. And they accept that responsibility," he said.
He said the government is doing all it can to keep America out of danger, then added the best way to end the threat is to destroy the global terrorist network, starting with the al-Qaida organization and its backers in Afghanistan's Taleban regime.
"People often ask me 'how long will this last?' This particular battlefront will last as long as it takes to bring al-Qaida to justice," he said. "It may happen tomorrow. It may happen a month from now. It may take a year or two. But we will prevail."
President Bush said he does not know if terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, the head of al-Qaida, is alive or dead. Mr. Bush has described him as the prime suspect in the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. But at his news conference the President emphasized this is not just a fight against one man.
"We'll get him running. We'll smoke him out of his cave. And we will get him eventually," he said. "But success or failure depends not on bin Laden. Success or failure depends upon routing out terrorism where it may exist all around the world."
Mr. Bush stressed time and time again that he is looking to the long term. He indicated America does not plan to let total chaos reign in Afghanistan should the Taleban be removed from power. And for the first time, he talked about a possible role for the U.N. during a transition period.
"It would be a useful function for the United Nations to take over the so-called nation building, I would call it 'the stabilization of a future government', after our military mission is complete," he said.
The first formal news conference of his presidency took place on the one-month anniversary of the September 11 terrorism attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. After the last question was asked, Mr. Bush asked reporters to remain in their seats while he made one last statement. It was an appeal to America's children.
"We are asking every child in America to earn or give a dollar that will be used to provide food and medical help for the children of Afghanistan," he said.
The U.S. government has already promised $320 million in humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people. President Bush says this new special relief program, children helping children, is a way to teach young Americans a lesson about service, character and kindness.