- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 13, 2001

The Bush administration plans to maintain peace in a postwar Afghanistan by promising aid to rival tribes and closely monitoring defecting Taliban soldiers to ensure they are changing sides permanently, officials said yesterday.
While the opposition Northern Alliance controls Mazar-e-Sharif and while the capital, Kabul, seems certain to fall in the coming weeks, administration officials warn that the tough phase for the U.S. military still lies ahead.
Special-operations troops and the CIA must locate and eliminate hundreds, if not thousands, of hard-core members of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network to meet President Bush's operational goals, they said.
"I think it is important that al Qaeda and Taliban be taken out of Kabul, and every inch of that country," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said on Fox News Channel.
Officials said it would make no sense to stop military action once the radical Taliban militia loses power. They would simply reorganize and mount an insurgency against what Washington hopes will be a broad-based coalition government.
To keep the peace, the administration plans to avoid the kind of tribal warfare in the 1990s that led to the Taliban's rise to power five years ago.
The United States will attempt to keep the peace among the southern Pashtun tribes nominally loyal to the Taliban and among the Tajik and Uzbek ethnic groups who make up the Northern Alliance. The unifier: cold hard cash.
One official said the peacemaking could be as simple as the CIA delivering cash payments to various warlords, plus promises to rebuild infrastructure and supply large amounts of food.
"Make it in their interests to cooperate," this official said.
Said Mr. Rumsfeld: "The country has a history of a lot of conflict, a lot of fighting among the tribes. On the other hand, at some point, there is exhaustion."
One official said the administration expects committed Taliban soldiers to keep fighting, perhaps in a last stand in their stronghold of Kandahar in southeast Afghanistan. Those Taliban members who do defect will need to go through some type of vetting procedure to ensure they do not try to destabilize a new government.
"You see in the defections Taliban militia who come from different Pashtun elements or clans," the official said. "These are the ones you want to try to buy off."
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell predicted this week that some of the southern Pashtun tribes that had supported the Taliban's harsh rule will break away.
"I think they might start deciding that there's a better life to be had by separating themselves from the Taliban and trying to help the Afghan people, rather than keep this repressive, evil regime in place that supports Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
With Afghanistan controlled by the opposition this winter, the United States will focus on killing Taliban soldiers and al Qaeda members. The methods promise to be fierce and shadowy, some involving special- operations troops, others conducted by the CIA.
"Once the Taliban comes down, you can use special operations forces, in conjunction with elements of the Northern Alliance, to hunt down al Qaeda and the senior leadership of al Qaeda," said an official.
Mr. Rumsfeld has said it will take ground action, as well as the ongoing air campaign, to rid the country of terrorists. He predicts the operation will take months, but not years.
The Pentagon estimates that with the Taliban there are about 5,000 Arab fighters provided by and paid for by bin Laden. "If the Afghan Arabs are as ferocious as they say, then we might have a dogfight on our hands," the official said.
A senior U.S. intelligence official said that in his opinion, once the United States kills Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, bin Laden, and his key aides Ayman al Zawahiri and Mohamed Atef the al Qaeda organization will fall into disarray.
"We only have four people we need to get," he said. "We get these guys, the network in Afghanistan falls apart. Al Qaeda crumbles a lot faster than most people think. The other people will attempt to do things, but they're not as sophisticated. [Atef is] very bright. He doesn't make mistakes. He's directly, personally involved in most everything that has happened."
Still, a Pentagon official said bin Laden has built al Qaeda over the past decade into a worldwide network able to function without him.
"They build these organizations so when they knock off the head, they don't fall," he said. "We only know about certain figures there. There are others."


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