- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 4, 2001

Senior Pentagon policy-makers are discussing action against Iraq that would mirror the campaign in Afghanistan: air strikes, special-operations forces and indigenous opposition armies to do the ground fighting.
U.S. officials said in interviews that civilians working for Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, have discussed the early outlines of such a campaign.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is said to favor such an approach. Mr. Wolfowitz is one of the administration's leading advocates that the United States cannot win the global war on terrorism until Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is removed from power. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is described as interested in some type of military plan to oust Saddam.
Officials said the Pentagon is so pleased with how the strategy has worked in Afghanistan that they are examining whether to apply it to Iraq. They added, however, that neither the Pentagon nor President Bush has approved strikes on Iraq as part of the war on terrorism.
"With the civilian side [at the Pentagon], that is the way they are thinking," said one U.S. official. "First, the fight will be with the chiefs, then with the State Department."
The "chiefs" is the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Military leaders have been reluctant to get involved with resistance groups, especially in Iraq.
The U.S. official, who spoke on the condition he not be identified, said the campaign in Afghanistan proves that if you remove a tyrant's defense structure, public support slips quickly.
"The lesson being drawn from the Afghan experience is this: In both Afghanistan and Iraq, what you have are tyrants, and tyrants have little support," the source said. "When you threaten that tyranny and when it looks like it can't stand, then what happens is those who may be aligned with it for practical reasons, for survival reasons, start to abandon it."
In Afghanistan, the Bush administration has waged a war on three fronts to topple the ruling Taliban militia and destroy Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.
First, air power was used surgically, based on rich sources of intelligence, to strike Taliban and al Qaeda military and command sites.
Second, a CIA paramilitary force and special-operations forces were deployed to build up anti-Taliban forces in the north and south. Some commandos found targets for air strikes; others directly engaged in combat.
Third, the indigenous forces were left to do much of the ground-taking, seizing major cities and pushing bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders into the hills.
Pentagon planners believe the same approach could work against Saddam, although it would require a much larger operation.
U.S. Central Command, which oversees the war in Afghanistan, is updating its target list on Iraq. Once the war in Afghanistan ends in "months, not years," as Mr. Rumsfeld has estimated, land-based U.S. warplanes in the Persian Gulf and Navy carriers would be free to attack Baghdad.
At the same time, the CIA and American commandos could work with a mix of Kurd, Sunni and Shi'ite opposition forces in the north and south to mount an offensive against Baghdad. "If Saddam sends forces against them, we use air power," said one U.S. official.
This official, and others, cautioned that Iraq presented a much tougher challenge than the ill-equipped Taliban and al Qaeda's Arab fighters. Saddam directs a potent ground force of hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Opposition groups in the north and south, now protected by no-fly zones, are disorganized. Supporting them would require a large influx of arms and extensive training by the CIA and special operations.
Congress three years ago approved nearly $100 million in aid for the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an umbrella for loosely knit opposition groups. But to date, the State Department, leery of INC's effectiveness, has released only a fraction of the money.
Even if the Pentagon settles on the Afghanistan model for Iraq, such a policy likely would face stiff resistance from the State Department.
Just about every time an administration "hawk" rattles a saber at Saddam, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell shoots down speculation that the U.S. will go to war in Iraq.
"I never saw a plan that was going to take [Saddam] out," Mr. Powell said last month. "It was just some ideas coming from various quarters about, 'Let's go bomb.'"
But Mr. Powell seems alone among the most senior officials.
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, known to express President Bush's thinking, told reporters, "There is plenty of reason to watch Iraq. There is plenty of reason to make very clear to the Iraqis that the United States does not intend to let the Iraqis threaten their own people, threaten their neighbors or threaten our interests by acquiring weapons of mass destruction."
Mr. Bush last week warned Iraq that it either had to let weapons inspectors back in the country or "find out" what the United States would do.
To Pentagon planners, a move against Iraq is justified even if the repressive regime is not linked to the September 11 attacks on America.
Pentagon policy-makers argue that Baghdad has a history of supporting terrorists with global reach a requirement for action laid down by Mr. Bush. Iraq also owns chemical and biological weapons.
Despite Mr. Powell's apparent opposition to attacking Iraq, Mr. Wolfowitz strongly hints at action, saying all terrorist-supporting leaders risk ouster.
"I think what's happening in Afghanistan is a message to every state that supports terrorists or harbors terrorists that if you keep it up, you're going to have the same fate as the Taliban. I think that is a useful principle," Mr. Wolfowitz recently told European journalists. "There are a lot of networks, and there's a pretty clear list of states that support terrorism that includes Iraq and quite a few others."
Mr. Wolfowitz also noted internal administration disputes on anti-terrorism policy. He said, "I don't think I've see anyone disagree fundamentally with the proposition that state support for terrorism is not something that's acceptable any longer. We can argue, as we argue internally, we can argue with our allies and other countries, about not only which countries are problems, but also about what is the best way to approach a solution."
On "Meet the Press" Sunday, Mr. Rumsfeld was asked about a report that Washington had assured Egypt it would not attack Iraq in the war on terrorism.
"The only person who could make such an understanding is the president of the United States, and he hasn't," Mr. Rumsfeld replied.

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