- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

President Bush yesterday called on the citizens of Afghanistan to help the United States oust the Taliban, which he described as foreign oppressors, as the administration began to draw distinctions between good Afghans and bad Afghans.
"The mission is to rout terrorists," Mr. Bush told reporters in the Rose Garden. "And one way to do that is to ask for the cooperation of citizens within Afghanistan who may be tired of having the Taliban in place, people from foreign soils in their own lands, willing to finance this repressive government."
The president also moved swiftly to shore up support for Attorney General John Ashcroft's plan to give law-enforcement authorities broad new powers, which has come under fire from civil liberties groups.
During a visit to FBI headquarters, Mr. Bush said the new powers would be constitutional.
"Ours is a land that values the constitutional rights of every citizen, and we will honor those rights, of course," the president said. "But we're at war, a war we're going to win. And in order to win the war, we must make sure that the law- enforcement men and women have got the tools necessary, within the Constitution, to defeat the enemy."
As the administration continued to assemble a global coalition against terrorism in general and the Taliban in particular, the president reached out to the people of Afghanistan as possible allies in toppling a regime that harbors Saudi-born terrorist Osama bin Laden.
"We have no issues and no anger toward the citizens of Afghanistan," said Mr. Bush, flanked by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. "We have obviously serious problems with the Taliban government. They're an incredibly repressive government, a government that has a value system that's hard for many in America or in Japan, for that matter to relate to. Incredibly repressive toward women."
While Mr. Bush dismissed the entire Taliban as "evil," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sketched a more complex picture, saying some members oppose the Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, and Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, al Qaeda.
"There are people in the Taliban who don't agree with Omar and they don't agree with creating a hospitable environment for al Qaeda," Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon.
Neither does the Northern Alliance, a group of rebel fighters who control a small portion of Afghanistan, Mr. Rumsfeld noted. He also suggested that various tribes in southern Afghanistan would welcome the eradication of terrorism.
"There are many Afghan people who are being starved, who are fleeing for their lives, and it's just a terrible shame," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "And we have to do everything possible we can from a humanitarian standpoint to see that their lives are made better than they currently are by the Taliban government."
But the White House was loath to talk about how it might replace the Taliban if and when the regime is deposed.
"We're not into nation-building," Mr. Bush said. "We're focused on justice."
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said any military action against Afghanistan "is not designed to replace one regime with another regime."
He also placed new emphasis on preserving the "stability" of the region, even as the sweeping war against terrorism is prosecuted.
"But that's not to say the Taliban will be given a free pass," said Mr. Fleischer. He cautioned that it would be a mistake for the Taliban to believe it can "encourage terrorism, harbor terrorism, and then, because we have to worry about issues involving instability, we won't take action. The president's made clear we will."
Still, the new emphasis on preserving the stability of the region was unmistakable. While there was a conspicuous absence of qualifiers to the administration's previous pronouncements against terrorism, yesterday's statements were more circumscribed.
"We will take whatever actions necessary with our eye always on stability to protect people from terrorism that is sponsored by the Taliban," Mr. Fleischer said. "Stability is always an objective."
The presidential spokesman, like Mr. Rumsfeld, took pains to distinguish between the Taliban and ordinary Afghans. He said the administration would support any elements within Afghanistan who are willing to "end terrorism."
Such statements from the administration recalled the 1991 urgings of the president's father to the people of Iraq to rise up against Saddam Hussein in the wake of the Persian Gulf war. The elder Mr. Bush was later criticized for abandoning the Kurds and Shi'ites of Iraq.
"The Afghan people are not synonymous with the Taliban; they are different," said Mr. Fleischer. "And the Taliban, to a significant degree, has come in from the outside, from other nations, from different regions of the world.
"And they've taken advantage of the turmoil that existed in Afghanistan and the lack of a powerful central government in Afghanistan to make Afghanistan the breeding ground for their international terrorism," he added. "So there is a difference between the Afghani people and the Taliban."
While administration officials strained to make such distinctions, Mr. Bush went to FBI headquarters to bolster Mr. Ashcroft's proposals to broaden police powers in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
"We must give the FBI the ability to track calls, when they make calls from different phones, for example," the president said. "We're asking Congress for the authority to hold suspected terrorists who are in the process of being deported until they're deported. That seems to make sense."
He added: "The only alternative is to let suspected terrorists loose in our country. I don't think anybody wants to do that. I certainly hope not."
Mr. Bush yesterday canceled most stops on what was scheduled to be a 10-day trip to Asia next month.
While he will still take a two-day trip to Shanghai for the annual meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group, he has postponed a stop in Beijing and visits to Japan and South Korea.
Tomorrow, the president plans to make his first trip outside the Washington region since the terrorist attacks more than two weeks ago. He will travel to Chicago's O'Hare airport to meet with airline workers to discuss safety and the troubled economy.
Those topics were covered during a White House meeting yesterday morning between Mr. Bush and congressional leaders of both parties. The president discussed airline safety further in an afternoon meeting with Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.

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