- The Washington Times - Monday, December 17, 2001

America's success in smashing al Qaeda in Afghanistan is emboldening other countries to acknowledge they, too, have Osama bin Laden terrorism cells and may need U.S. help to destroy them, officials say.
The U.S. military plans anti-terror assessments in at least three countries Somalia, Indonesia and the Philippines as the Bush administration's long-term strategy on fighting global terrorism starts to emerge. Yemen and Sudan recently pledged to crack down on terror units.
Officials said the swiftness with which the American military in Afghanistan ousted the Taliban, bin Laden's protector, and then uprooted al Qaeda, is showing other countries the terror network is not so fearsome after all.
"I think what is happening is success," said one administration official involved in broad anti-terror planning. "The demonstration of raw power in Afghanistan is casting a shadow, and those who might have been more hesitant in the past because they wondered about American wherewithal it's different now. We started something. If we just keep it up, it's going to make a large difference."
The latest country to acknowledge an al Qaeda problem is Indonesia, home to the world's largest Muslim population.
The country's intelligence chief told reporters on Wednesday that al Qaeda foot soldiers had set up training camps in the remote jungles of Sulawesi, where radical Muslim groups are waging war against Christians.
A.M. Hendropriyono later backed off the comments somewhat, saying al Qaeda once had a presence there, but no longer did. Other Indonesian government officials have said, without specifying al Qaeda, that foreign Muslim militants are present in their country.
Navy Adm. Dennis C. Blair, who commands all U.S. forces in the Pacific, last month made a six-nation Asian anti-terrorism tour, including a stop in Jakarta, Indonesia. He told reporters the best way to help Indonesia fight global terrorists is intelligence sharing and troop training.
"I think the main ways that we can assist are a sort of handoff of intelligence information that we may receive, those activities outside of Indonesian area which are coming this way, and we have done some of that," Adm. Blair said. "I think the Indonesian armed forces and security forces have a lot of capability to do the job here."
Said the U.S. official, "What they need are some special forces out of Fort Bragg [N.C.] to go over there and help them organize. And they need some intelligence specialists to crack these things apart."
Indonesia's outreach to the United States came the same week a factional leader in Somalia, Hussein Mohammed Aidid, asked America to rid the east African nation of its al Qaeda operatives and training camps. With al Qaeda all but finished in Afghanistan, Somalia may become the organization's new base, U.S. officials say, and be headed by a leader yet to arise.
It was Mr. Aidid, a member of the Ethiopian-backed Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council, who told reporters that an American delegation had visited the southwest Somali town of Baidoa to assess al Qaeda's presence.
Two U.S. officials said in interviews that U.S. Central Command, which is overseeing the war in Afghanistan, is working on contingency plans to strike al Qaeda targets in Somalia. The impoverished, lawless country has the highest concentration of al Qaeda operatives and facilities outside Afghanistan, U.S. officials say.
"We have been continuously consulting since the September terrorist attacks on the the United States with representatives of the U.S., the Ethiopian and Kenyan governments on the terrorists," Mr. Aidid said.
The Philippines already has accepted U.S. military advisers to help Manila deal with the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, whose founder was educated in Afghanistan and which has ties to bin Laden. The group has kidnapped and killed Americans, as well as locals.
As the Pentagon reaches out to al Qaeda-infested nations, President Bush's strategy is becoming clearer. Washington estimates that 60 countries are home to one or more al Qaeda cells. Western nations, such as Germany and Spain, can largely handle the problem themselves, aided by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement.
Poorer nations such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Yemen and possibly even Sudan will need more direct aid by the CIA and the Pentagon.
"Most of these countries don't want this al Qaeda outfit around," said the senior U.S. official. "They were fearful of going against it because it looked like it was on a roll. But it's a very different image of it now."
Iraq and Somalia, however, will likely require air and ground combat to eliminate the terrorists. In Iraq, the administration is looking at solving the problem with the same strategy employed in Afghanistan: Oust the current regime led by Saddam Hussein.
Vice President Richard B. Cheney last week said he believes most al Qaeda cells can be disbanded without direct U.S. military force.
"There may be a few cases where military force is the the only option, or where military force is required for one reason or another to wrap up these cells," he told Fox News Channel.


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