- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2001

U.S. military retaliation for Tuesday's kamikaze-style attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon will come sooner rather than later as part of a broader war against terrorists, administration officials said yesterday.

Military officers said the Pentagon has quickly updated options for striking terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, a haven for Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, the No. 1 suspect in masterminding the well-coordinated terrorist attacks. Officials said the Bush administration is in the early stages of developing a much broader war on Middle East-based terrorist organizations that could involve attacks on training camps in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

One source said that early evidence indicated the airline hijackings were executed by a large network of terrorist cells, with bin Laden as the main player.

Senior Bush officials are openly talking of quick retaliatory strikes that would merely be the opening salvo in a longer bombing campaign, once terrorist sites are identified.

Said Secretary of State Colin Powell on NBC: "I can assure the American people that the president, if he is able to get the information pinpointed who it is and where they are and get targetable information, I am quite confident that he will look at every option he has available to him to respond militarily."

Suggesting that any military action would be sustained, Mr. Powell added, "Let's not think that one single counterattack will rid the world of terrorism of the kind we saw yesterday. This is going to take a multifaceted attack along many dimensions."

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he preferred not to rattle the Pentagon's considerable sabre.

"I guess I'm kind of old fashioned," he said. "I'm inclined to think that if you're going to cock it, you throw it, and you don't talk about it a lot."

The White House said the FBI and intelligence agencies were collecting and going over a massive amount of evidence. But military officials said privately that all signs lead to bin Laden as being the one who masterminded the attacks especially intercepted communications of two operatives telling the ex-Saudi millionaire that the targets had been hit.

The United States attacked bin Laden once before, in 1998, when the Navy launched Tomahawk cruise missiles at his suspected hideouts in Afghanistan. But that attack has been viewed as generally ineffective. Today, military officials say a much larger and more intensive campaign is needed to eliminate bin Laden and his extensive terrorist network.

"I think you have to introduce Army ground troops," said a retired four-star general who endorses forcible entry into Afghanistan's mountainous terrain.

Said an active duty Army officer: "It would be something like Somalia. A large element to secure the outer perimeter and a team to take down the suspected structures."

Another retired general said President Bush must order an attack soon. "If we don't retaliate by tomorrow afternoon, it becomes anti-climatic. The American people expect it. I don't know how we cannot."

Military officials pointed out that Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan and then attempted to occupy and control the country. But Muslim guerilla fighters, led in part by bin Laden and aided by U.S. Stinger missiles, eventually defeated the Soviets.

With that in mind, any U.S. intervention would have to be quick and lethal, the officials said.

The National Security Agency, the nation's global listening post, is conducting an extensive review of intercepts, looking for any bit of evidence that identifies the perpetrators.

The U.S. military remained on its highest level of alert threat condition Delta for a second straight day yesterday. Jet fighters streaked over the Washington skyline just in case another terrorist-driven airliner appeared. A Navy carrier stood guard off the coast of Long Island, NY.

"We are, in a sense, seeing the definition of a new battlefield in the world, a 21st century battlefield, and it is a different kind of conflict," Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters, shortly before going to the White House for a National Security Council meeting with Mr. Bush.

Mr. Powell said that at an earlier meeting, "we reviewed all that has happened and began to make our plans for the efforts that we will be taking in the future, not only to bring these perpetrators to justice but to the punishment they deserve."


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