The United States and its allies are winning some battles in the war against terror but may be losing the broader struggle against Islamic extremism that is terrorism's source, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Saturday.
The troubling unknown, he said, is whether the extremists -- whom he termed "zealots and despots" bent on destroying the global system of nation-states -- are turning out newly trained terrorists faster than the United States can capture or kill them.
"It's quite clear to me that we do not have a coherent approach to this," Rumsfeld said at an international security conference.
His remarks showed a level of concern about the long-term direction of the U.S.-led global fight against terrorism that Rumsfeld rarely addresses in public.
The Pentagon chief usually lauds the efforts of U.S. troops, denounces terrorist networks and urges other countries to join the effort to stop terrorist acts.
On Saturday he went further, saying that while terrorists must be confronted, the bigger problem is the extremist Islamic ideology that produces them.
"What you have is a civil war in that religion where a small minority are trying to hijack it," he said.
Later Saturday, in Bangladesh, Rumsfeld discussed that South Asian nation's possible interest in sending peacekeepers to Iraq after an interim government in Baghdad takes limited political control on June 30.
After meeting with Bangladesh's Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan in Dhaka, the capital, Rumsfeld told reporters the two had spoken about Iraq and Afghanistan, but not the specifics of peacekeeping in those countries. Rumsfeld also had talks with Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and senior generals.
U.S. defense secretaries rarely visit Bangladesh, but Rumsfeld wanted to draw attention to the mostly Muslim nation as a moderate Islamic country that denounces terrorism. While thousands of anti-American protesters took to the streets of Dhaka on Friday, there was no sign of hostility when Rumsfeld's entourage drove through the capital on Saturday.
In other parts of the city, however, a few hundred protesters from the Islamic Constitutional Movement, carried anti-Rumsfeld placards and burned a replica of a U.S. flag.