- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 11, 2001

The Bush administration is holding up the collapse of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban as a lesson to other terrorist-supporting states around the world.
Afghanistan has become Washington's "big stick" in waving this message: Providing a safe haven to terrorists, as the Taliban did for Osama bin Laden, may result in a change of government via the U.S. military, the CIA and homegrown opposition groups.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is explicitly sending that warning out in recent weeks.
"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," Mr. Wolfowitz told a group of foreign journalists. "I think that is a useful principle."
Yesterday, Mr. Wolfowitz kept up the drumbeat, telling reporters, "[The Taliban] are now, I think, a worthy example to any other countries that would aspire to support al Qaeda or to shelter or harbor al Qaeda terrorists."
Such a blunt warning stirs up images of U.S. military intervening in other countries after Afghanistan.
The administration will not comment on future operations. But its warning may already be delivering some dividends as it sifts through the state sponsors of terrorism and decides whether diplomacy alone or military force is needed to alter behavior.
Iran, which the United States says is a top provider for international terrorists, has been reaching out to Washington and may be willing to end its role, U.S. officials say.
Yemen, a reluctant host for al Qaeda cells, has told the administration it will do more to eliminate them. In Yemen, bin Laden's foot soldiers planned and executed the deadly bombing of the destroyer USS Cole.
"The Yemeni record in the past was not a very good one, but they are promising new things and we'll see," Mr. Wolfowitz told ABC on Sunday. "We're trying to work with them to improve their capability. There are some serious problems with al Qaeda cells in Yemen, but we think now, finally, the Yemenis have the message and they will go after them."
Will others get the message?
James Phillips, a Middle East analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said it depends on the ruler. Yemen and the Sudan, may heed the warning, but not Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
"Iraq is a tougher nut to crack," Mr. Phillips said. "Saddam has charted his course and I don't think there's much the U.S. can do to move him from that course short of war."
Iran, where government "moderates" spout a more conciliatory message than the ruling ayatollah, may also succumb to diplomatic pressure.
"Iran may evolve in a positive way by itself and get out of the terrorism business," Mr. Phillips said. "Iraq is frozen as long as Saddam is in power."
Of the Bush team's new message, he said, "It may not work by itself. But it's a valuable addition to the U.S. diplomatic arsenal because it's another source of leverage."
Pentagon planners have discussed privately whether the strategy in Afghanistan air strikes, special-operations forces and indigenous opposition armies could topple Saddam.
John Hillen, an Army veteran of the 1991 Gulf war and military adviser to the 2000 Bush campaign, said some countries may simply make their terrorist guests harder to detect.
"I think our success in Afghanistan will definitely give terrorist-sponsoring states pause and even scare a few," Mr. Hillen said. "But in the end there will be as many states that simply get smarter about masking their support for terrorists as there will be those who will give up supporting terrorism altogether. Our key to success is to build on this early victory by staying ahead of this decision cycle in other words hitting states before they can effect this calculus and being ruthless in our prosecution of this war."
Said Mr. Wolfowitz, "I think the president has made it clear this is going to be a long war and we're going to go after these people everywhere. And I think if people haven't gotten the message from the Taliban about the dangers of harboring terrorists, they just haven't been paying attention."

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