- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2001

Even before allied bombing began, the United States was on its way to cracking the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and putting terrorist leader Osama bin Laden on the run. Right now, war planning should start against Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

News reports last week indicated that panic and disarray were taking hold among Taliban clerics and fighters, who are said to be abandoning Kabul and Kandahar.

Since bombing started, the Taliban and bin Laden have issued statements of defiance, but the Taliban has got to be unsettled.

Look at the situation it's in: It has made Afghanistan a wasteland in years of war and oppression. Its population is near starvation. It is hated at home and has needed to continually struggle against the Northern Alliance in order to remain in power.

And on Sept. 11, its paying guest, Osama bin Laden, aroused the wrath of the United States, the hated hegemon, superpower and Great Satan. (There are advantages to being thought hegemonic, i.e., all-powerful.)

And what's worse for the Taliban, the whole world is siding with the United States, including former Islamic allies, such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The Taliban is now surrounded by enemies Iran, India, China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan all allied with the United States.

The success achieved so far by the Bush administration's pursuing the coalition strategy favored by Secretary of State Colin Powell is that the Taliban is utterly isolated.

And now, U.S. commandos are undoubtedly in its territory, and bombs are falling.

Under such circumstances, it would not be surprising if one Taliban faction turned against another, and someone ratted out bin Laden, exposing him and his lieutenants to attack.

Whether or not bin Laden is killed, of course, the United States and it allies need to continue rooting out his al-Qaeda organization and other terror networks.

The best description I've seen of how the war might go is contained in an e-mail written by retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, former drug czar, Pentagon strategic planner and chief of the U.S. Southern Command, and now a West Point lecturer.

In an interview, Gen. McCaffrey also outlined a strategy against other terror-sponsoring countries, some of which might be intimidated into abandoning terrorism by U.S. success in Afghanistan.

Gen. McCaffrey said, though, that Iraq's Saddam Hussein would have to be confronted and threatened with the loss of his life, his armed forces, his oil fields and his country or actually attacked if he refuses to submit to international inspection to prevent his developing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

His e-mail to a West Point cadet has been widely circulated on the Internet. In it, Gen. McCaffrey wrote of the terror war: "There will be no end state. We will, if successful, manage this chronic threat to our survival, economy and self-confidence by dramatically lowering the risk.

"We will build a series of defensive programs [to] increase our day-to-day security. We will form a coalition based on common danger. Much of the globe will join us to leverage foreign intelligence and security services to fight these terrorist organizations in forward battle areas.

"Finally, we will take the gloves off and use integrated military power to find, fix and destroy these organizations. We are going to disrupt these people through pre-emptive attack. We will deceive them. We will run psyops [psychological warfare operations] on them.

"At selected points and times, they will be killed suddenly, in significant numbers and without warning [by] Tomahawk [cruise] missiles, 2,000-pound laser-guided weapons [or] remote-control booby traps."

Gen. McCaffrey, who emphasized to me that he was writing from long experience and not inside knowledge, wrote that "in places, small groups of soldiers or SEALs will appear in total darkness, blow down the doors, and kill them at close range with automatic weapons and hand grenades.

"We will find their money and freeze it. We will arrest their front agents. We will operate against their recruiting and transportation functions. We will locate their training areas and mine them.

"We will isolate them from their families. We will try to dominate their communications and alternately listen, jam or spoof them. We will make their couriers disappear.

"If we can we find out how they eat or play or receive rewards, or where they sleep, we will go there and kill them by surprise."

He emphasized, as Bush administration officials have, that much of the war will be conducted through intelligence and with economic and diplomatic leverage. And, he said, foreign aid must be increased to reduce the despair that helps breed terrorists.

Then, he said, the United States should confront other states supporting terrorism, including Iran, Syria, Cuba, Sudan and North Korea and, chiefly, Iraq.

"If deterrence does not work then their political will must be shattered with overwhelming violence directed at their armed forces and the political decision-makers," he wrote.

In Iraq's case, he told me, the United States should station a corps 2.5 divisions of army troops next door in Kuwait and be prepared to destroy Iraq's oil fields and military. We should also assist anti-Saddam opposition groups perhaps even inducing his two sons to betray him.

At the moment, many U.S. allies don't want to attack Iraq. That's why the Bush administration isn't talking about that phase of the war. But victory in Afghanistan could get a mighty ball rolling.

Morton Kondracke is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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