- The Washington Times - Monday, October 29, 2001

Support is growing in Congress to put thousands of U.S. ground troops in Afghanistan for precision operations aimed at wiping out terrorists' nests and tracking down Osama bin Laden.
In television interviews yesterday, key Republicans and Democrats alike said they recognized large numbers of American ground combat forces may be required if the United States is to achieve victory in its anti-terrorist military campaign, which in its first month has largely been limited to air strikes.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday defended the 3-week-old air campaign, saying there has been "measurable progress." But some critics on Capitol Hill say it is getting bogged down, and Mr. Rumsfeld acknowledged deployment of ground troops is a possibility.
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and a member of the Armed Services Committee, said yesterday on CBS' "Face the Nation" that the administration needs to deploy large-scale U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan in order to win the war on terrorism.
"We're going to have to put troops on the ground. We're going to have to put them in force. And although they will not be permanent, they are going to have to be very, very significant," Mr. McCain said.
"We're going to have to put in numbers of forces that are capable of maintaining a base for a period of time, relatively short, so they can branch out and move into certain areas where we believe that the Taliban and al Qaeda's network are located. That's going to be very difficult. It's going to require a lot of air support and may even require bases in different places than they are today," he said.
On CNN's "Late Edition," Mr. McCain said of the military operation he envisions: "It's going to take a very big effort, and probably casualties will be involved. And it won't be accomplished through air power alone."
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, who followed Mr. McCain on "Face the Nation," said, "I think John may be right I don't disagree with John's point that this is going to require an extensive military operation, including the possible use of ground forces."
Mr. Dodd said he recognizes "thousands" of ground troops would be required.
"Right now, we don't have enough people on the ground. We're guessing a lot here. We don't have the human intelligence on the ground to tell us what is really going on," said Mr. Dodd, a ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee.
As things now stand, he said, "We don't have Osama bin Laden. We lost this leader of the opposition the other day, which was a blow. We're not seeing the kind of defections [from the Taliban regime] we would have liked to have seen."
Mr. Rumsfeld yesterday said that contrary to press reports the United States had sent air support to help prominent Afghan opposition leader Abdul Haq, who was captured and executed by the Taliban militia last week.
"He requested assistance and received it," said Mr. Rumsfeld. He added the aid was provided "by another element of the government," and not the U.S. military. He did not name the agency involved, but a government source told the Associated Press that it was the CIA.
House Democratic leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, asked on CBS if he believes large numbers of ground troops may be necessary in Afghanistan, said: "You can't rule it out.
"If the president comes to the conclusion that it's going to take that or something like that in order to get these people and to get this network torn down, I would support it," Mr. Gephardt said.
"Look, we're in a war. This group declared war on the United States by bombing, in effect, our two largest buildings in New York. They killed thousands of Americans we have to prevail," Mr. Gephardt added.
The United States has blamed the fugitive Saudi-exile bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network for masterminding the Sept. 11 hijacking attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which killed more than 5,000 people.
Mr. Rumsfeld, interviewed on ABC, was asked if ground troops would be deployed to help hunt down and destroy terrorists in Afghanistan.
"We have not ruled out the use of ground troops there is that possibility," he said.
But he would not say how soon that could happen.
As for the air campaign now underway, Mr. McCain said on CBS: "We can use our air power, I think, more intensively and more effectively than we have been. I think a lot more B-52s, a lot more B-2s and B-1s [should be used]. We can't have our planes flying at such a high altitude that not only is there no risk to them, but a degradation of accuracy is the result."
But even with improvements in the air campaign, ground forces will still be necessary, Mr. McCain said.
However, Mr. Rumsfeld disputed claims that the administration's bombing campaign has been ineffective. "We feel that the air campaign has been effective," he said.
He also said the war in Afghanistan is proceeding as officials expected and dismissed concerns that this will be another "quagmire" like Vietnam.
However, on CNN's "Late Edition," Mr. Rumsfeld acknowledged that trying to find leaders of the al Qaeda network in Afghanistan is "like looking for a needle in a haystack," given the country's "miles and miles and miles of tunnels and caves that they can hide in."
He said that Afghanistan's complex cave and tunnel system were targets of the bombing campaign. "There's no question that we have been systematically working on the caves and on the tunnels and on their openings, and we've had some success. The problem is there are a great many of them, so it's going to take some time to deal with them and make them less habitable," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Another problem, he said, is that the Taliban and al Qaeda are "increasingly" and "systematically" using mosques, schools and hospitals for command-and-control centers and "ammunition storages." Because such facilities are in civilian areas, U.S. planes targeting those military sites have to be "more careful," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

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