- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 6, 2001

U.S. troops are now in Afghanistan, and the war on terrorism is moving into a new phase. Numbers are small: About 100 U.S. military personnel are on the ground so far. According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, however, more are on the way, so it should surprise noone that the ghost of Vietnam is being raised once again. The campaign in Afghanistan has lasted only a month, but if you listen to some television pundits, you'd think that we're on the road to a stalemate or worse. They carp that the Taliban have not been defeated and that Osama bin Laden is not being led down Pennsylvania Avenue in chains. But the short answer is that the war is going pretty well, and our president and our warriors deserve the steady support they are getting from most Americans.

The reports from Afghanistan were giving the appearance of State Department-induced hesitancy, doubts about the Northern Alliance and reluctance to change the bombing campaign to benefit them directly. But the Taliban have some 40,000 to 50,000 troops in Afghanistan defending two major fronts, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul. They outnumber the Northern Alliance by about three-to-one. If ever there was hesitancy, it's gone now. In a war like this or any war our objectives can be attained not only by killing our enemies, but also by instilling shock, awe and fear in them. The effect of our bombing campaign will not be known until after the war, but the B-52 strikes and the special forces operations appear to be doing what they are supposed to do preparing the battlefield and the Northern Alliance for advances on both fronts.

Comparing recent statements by President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with bin Laden's latest video-from-hiding puts things in perspective. Mr. Bush says, with quiet assurance, that our enemy will not enjoy the luxury of a Ramadan cease-fire. Mr. Rumsfeld's briefing made no wild claims of success, but gave a sense of measured progress. Bin Laden's continued attempts to call every Muslim to jihad against us look desperate surely, they seem less attractive to his audience each time he makes them. Perhaps the irony that he's not volunteering for a suicide mission is finally dawning on his listeners.

Others are trying to convince us that we must win before the Afghan winter falls or we will see Pakistan and its nuclear weapons fall into Taliban hands. Winter is not our enemy in Afghanistan. Mr. Rumsfeld's buildup of special operations troops there will make the winter a time when the Taliban will tremble to light a fire or even a cigarette for fear of lighting up a sniper's infrared scope or an aircraft's heat sensors. It will be a slow war for the coming months, but the season will not be to our disadvantage.

Winter, however, is not a severe season in most of America, and it will present no problems for our enemies here. Our homeland security will be constantly threatened, and some of those threats will take a toll. It is up to us to help our warriors by helping ourselves. We can be smart, we can be alert and with a little help we can be safe.


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