- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2001

Al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan have developed chemical and biological weapons and could have nuclear-related arms, defense officials said yesterday.
"What we believe is that they have a crude chemical and possibly biological [weapons] capability," a senior defense official said.
"And if there's any nuclear capability, it is liable to be more radiological than fissile," the official said.
Radiological weapons are bombs that combine radioactive material with conventional explosives to increase their deadliness. A fissile nuclear device produces a nuclear blast.
The chemical weapons al Qaeda is believed to have include simple poison weapons such as chlorine and phosgene. "We're not talking up to sarin," the official said. Sarin is an extremely deadly nerve agent.
The chemicals are relatively simple to produce, the official said, noting that "they don't take a lot of mixing."
Delivering the weapons could be difficult for the terrorists, but they may resort to "innovative" means, the official said.
As for biological weapons, the senior official said it is "probable" the al Qaeda terrorists have developed some type of deadly toxin weapons, possibly including anthrax.
"And this could be a bucketful; this could be a ton," the official said.
The officials would not discuss the facilities for the development of the weapons of mass destruction inside Afghanistan.
Other U.S. intelligence officials have said there have been reports that al Qaeda has secret weapons laboratories in the country.
"We have copies of the manuals that they've actually used to train people with respect to how to deploy and use these kinds of substances," Vice President Richard B. Cheney said in an interview yesterday on PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."
Officials said al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan are predominantly "Arab Afghans" and number between 1,500 and 4,000. The Islamic extremist fighters were described as more ideologically motivated than regular Taliban troops.
The officials, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, said opposition Northern Alliance forces have made several major gains in the past week.
A group of 40 Taliban officers and 1,200 Taliban fighters appear to have defected to the alliance, a loose-knit group of northern Afghans who have a total of about 15,000 fighters, the officials said. The defections occurred at the central Afghanistan town of Konduz. "We think it's highly possible that that has happened, although we're not sure about numbers," one official said.
Additionally, the alliance has succeeded in taking the key central Afghan town of Chaghcharan in the last two days. "The Northern Alliance has claimed that that has been taken from the Taliban," one official said. "We believe that may very well have happened."
The town is significant because it could allow two groups of opposition forces in the east and west to link up.
Military clashes between Taliban and Northern Alliance forces have been concentrated in four areas: north of Kabul, near the town of Taloquan, near Chaghcharan in the province of Ghowar and the northern area around the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
One official said that a Taliban military unit known as the 55th Division is "part of the important relationship between Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar and their top commanders," referring to the leader of al Queda and the leader of the Taliban.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that U.S. military forces have damaged al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban military forces during.
Mr. Rumsfeld said opposition forces on the ground in Afghanistan are poised to take action against the Taliban after U.S. warplanes finish bombing Taliban military targets.
"Clearly, at some point when we feel we have done a certain amount with respect to those Taliban and al Qaeda military targets, it may very well be more appropriate for ground forces to be moving in areas where we previously have been bombing," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Overall, Mr. Rumsfeld said the military campaign is progressing.
"We have disrupted their communications somewhat, and we have, we believe, weakened the Taliban military, and damaged but certainly not eliminated their air-defense capabilities," Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon.
"And we have worked over a number if not all of their terrorist training camps," he said. "Those camps have been locations where terrorists that are today spread across the globe have been trained. Threats clearly still exist."
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said military operations are "going according to our plan."
"We have made a good first step in the military effort destroying or damaging terrorist training camps, disrupting communications, weakening the Taliban military forces in Afghanistan and damaging their air defenses," Gen. Myers said.
On Thursday, Air Force bombers and Navy jets attacked six targets in Afghanistan, including a training facility and camp, military garrison compounds, and motor vehicle and ordnance facilities.
Gen. Myers said the military's "sustained effort" will not be limited to conventional military attacks, which he described as "stage-setters for follow-on operations."
U.S. and allied special operations commandos are expected to move in to Afghanistan at some point in order to identify and attack terrorists, as well as gather intelligence.
"We want to get their Rolodexes," said one administration official of the ground operations.
Mr. Rumsfeld said he does not believe the Taliban will surrender bin Laden to the United States.
President Bush on Thursday said the Taliban might be able to end the U.S. bombing campaign by turning over bin Laden.

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