- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2001

President Bush yesterday ordered American flags raised to full staff as U.S. troops reportedly arrived near Afghanistan and the Pentagon confirmed it had lost contact with a unmanned spy plane the Taliban claims to have shot down.
There were reports that a pair of C-130 transport planes carrying hundreds of American troops have arrived in Uzbekistan, just north of Afghanistan. American ships and warplanes continued to speed toward the region with plans to take up positions in several other nations neighboring Afghanistan.
Mr. Bush returned to the White House after a weekend at Camp David during which he lifted sanctions against Pakistan for conducting underground nuclear tests in 1998. The move was designed to reward Pakistan for enlisting in the offensive against terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, based in Afghanistan, and his al Qaeda network. The president also lifted sanctions on India, which conducted similar tests in 1998.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld confirmed that the United States has lost contact with a drone spy plane that was gathering intelligence over Afghanistan. Taliban forces had been crowing about downing the plane since Saturday, although they were not initially certain it was American.
"The United States has, in fact, lost a lost contact, I should say with an unmanned aerial vehicle," Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters. "That happens from time to time in terms of the controls. We have no reason to believe it was shot down, as the press is reporting." The Washington Times reported Saturday that the Air Force is operating Predator unmanned reconnaissance planes in the region.
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice yesterday made clear that any military strikes against terrorism would be controlled by the United States, not the United Nations, as some Middle Eastern nations have suggested.
Although Miss Rice said the United Nations might be used to help choke off financing to terrorists, it will not be making military decisions.
"Let's be very clear about what happened here," she said on "Fox News Sunday." "There was an attack on the United States, an act of war against the United States.
"The United States has the right to self-defense," she added. "That is fully recognized in international law. The right to self-defense is recognized by the United Nations itself."
Mr. Rumsfeld emphasized that not every nation in the global coalition that Mr. Bush is assembling will "agree with or be involved in everything we do. The message I would leave is this: that the mission determines the coalition. And we don't allow coalitions to determine the mission."
Miss Rice also said the United States will "possibly" secure the cooperation of Iran, which itself is a state sponsor of terrorism, according to the State Department. Although there is still much antipathy over the taking of American hostages by Iranian extremists in 1979, Iran is believed to despise the Taliban more than the United States, making it a potential ally in the hunt for bin Laden.
Syria is another state sponsor of terrorism that might be enlisted in the administration's effort. But such nations might be required to renounce terrorism within their own borders before going after bin Laden.
"Let me be very clear," Miss Rice cautioned. "We are not going to declare that there are good terrorists and bad terrorists. There's terrorism. And if you sponsor terrorism, you are hostile to the United States."
Miss Rice also indicated the Northern Alliance, a rebel group that controls a small portion of Afghanistan, might be useful in thwarting the Taliban, which rules most of the country.
The Northern Alliance is recognized by the United Nations as Afghanistan's legitimate government.
"The Northern Alliance, which has been fighting the Taliban for some time, obviously is playing something of a role in dealing with the Taliban," she said.
Although Miss Rice denounced the Taliban yesterday as a "very repressive and terrible regime," Mr. Rumsfeld said the United States might be able to exploit elements of the regime that do not support al Qaeda, the terrorist network headed by bin Laden and intertwined with the Taliban.
"There are many people in the Taliban who don't agree with the leadership of the Taliban," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
"There are a lot of people in the Taliban who do not support the al Qaeda organization and would dearly love to see that group expelled from that country.
"So this is not something where you're going to see a front, and a Battle of the Bulge and some trench warfare against good people and bad people," he added. "What we're seeing here is all of the complicated gradations and dimensions of this problem."
Before departing Camp David, the president and his wife, first lady Laura Bush, placed their hands over their hearts and presided over a ceremony in which Marines hoisted the American flag to full staff. It ended a 12-day period of flying flags at half staff as a symbol of mourning for some 6,500 people killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States.
No words were spoken during the three-minute ceremony, held in a meadow in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland.
As the Bushes watched solemnly, four Marines in full dress uniform raised a smallish flag to the top of a flagpole, where it hung limp in the still morning air. A Marine band played "The Star-Spangled Banner" as Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans, observing from a distance, sang along.
The arrival of military assets in Uzbekistan, reported by Agence France-Presse, suggested that the former Soviet republic would play a crucial role in any U.S. military strikes against Afghanistan. It has an 85-mile common border with Afghanistan and a number of air bases that were used as staging areas by the Soviet Union during that nation's decade-long assault on Afghanistan, which ended in failure and retreat.
The Washington Times, quoting military sources, reported on Saturday that Uzbekistan and Tajikistan had agreed to allow American special-operations troops to launch raids from their soil.
An Uzbek military source told AFP on Saturday that the C-130 transport planes were carrying reconnaissance equipment. Others said the United States still had helicopters in Uzbekistan that were used in joint exercises between that nation and NATO forces. Although there is some anti-American sentiment in Uzbekistan, the country is considered a more stable environment for U.S. troops than Pakistan, where larger segments of the population are sympathetic to the Taliban.
U.S. forces are expected to take up positions in other nations that neighbor Afghanistan, but Mr. Rumsfeld declined to give specifics.
"What we've been hoping is getting our capabilities located, positioned, arranged around the world so that at that point where the president decides that he has a set of things he would like done, that we will be in a position to carry those things out," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
He added that the name of the operation was being changed because some Muslims had objected to the original moniker, "Operation Infinite Justice." He did not reveal the new name.
"We want to find a name that is representative of the effort, and it certainly in no way at all would raise any question on the part of any religious or any group of people," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

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