- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 15, 2001

Afghanistan's militant Taliban government warned the United States yesterday that it would retaliate "through different means" to any American attack.
Neighboring Pakistan, the Taliban's main ally, meanwhile, delayed responding to a U.S. request that seeks use of its airspace for such an attack.
"We will take revenge if America attacks through different means," Taliban official Abdul Hai Mutamaen told reporters in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
The Taliban for years has given shelter to Osama bin Laden, leader of a global network of Islamic terror groups whose goals include killing Americans.
With growing evidence pointing to bin Laden as the mastermind behind Tuesday's attacks on New York and Washington, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell warned the Taliban yesterday that it faced the same punishment as any terrorists it shelters.
As Taliban leaders defied the United States, ordinary Afghans fled their cities in fear of an expected U.S. retaliation.
Late yesterday, the Taliban replaced the governors of Afghanistan's border provinces with new men from its inner circle. No reason was given.
Taliban leaders continued to insist that bin Laden, whom they call an "honored guest," lacks the ability to orchestrate terror attacks like those that destroyed New York's World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon in Washington.
"Training of pilots is the work of a running government. Osama has no pilots, and where did he train them? In Afghanistan, there is no such possibility for the training," said Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar in a statement read by his ambassador to Pakistan.
A reporter asked Mr. Powell at the State Department yesterday what message he would like to deliver to the Taliban.
Choosing his words carefully, he replied: "The message is: To the extent that you are providing havens, support, encouragement and other resources to organizations such as the organization headed by Mr. Osama bin Laden, that is attacking civilization, that is killing innocent people you cannot separate your activities from the activity of these perpetrators.
"And in our response we will have to take into account not only the perpetrators, but those who provide haven, support, inspiration, financial and other assets to the perpetrators," Mr. Powell said.
Mr. Powell went further and warned that "I would give this message to any other regime and any other country that might be doing similar things."
He was careful to say that no final proof existed that bin Laden was responsible for Tuesday's attacks.
"We have not yet identified Osama bin Laden as the direct perpetrator, but the evidence — we have a lot of evidence — is mounting which will allow us to determine in the near future who it is," he said. "But he certainly is the leader of that kind of organization."
On another front, Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, met for seven hours with his military chiefs yesterday but gave no public response to a list of supportive actions Mr. Powell delivered earlier this week.
Pakistan, caught between two allies — the Taliban and the United States — is thinking over a request from Washington for several measures, including
c Closing its border with Afghanistan.
c Providing the United States use of its airspace.
c Sharing any intelligence it has on bin Laden's whereabouts.
Mr. Powell yesterday dismissed the delay in Pakistan's response to the U.S. request, saying:
"We are waiting to hear from President Musharraf of Pakistan, and I'm quite encouraged that the Pakistani government is taking this so seriously and so deliberately."
A senior administration official said, "We are confident that Pakistan will agree to cooperate."
However, analysts and officials in Pakistan and the United States worried that the nuclear-armed country faces tremendous instability if it sides with the United States in attacking bin Laden and his Afghan hosts.
"President Musharraf is between a rock and a hard place," said Nisar A. Chaudhry, president of the Pakistan-American Congress.
"Jamaat and other right-wing Islamic groups have become more powerful than before," Mr. Chaudhry said. "These groups can paralyze commerce and transport as well as threaten the country's stability.
"If the United States and other countries do military actions inside Afghanistan, it can make or break Musharraf," Mr. Chaudhry said.
When the United States attacked bin Laden training camps in Afghanistan after the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, anti-American riots broke out in Pakistan.
Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institution said that Mr. Musharraf, a former army chief who seized power in a coup in 1999, has solidified his control over the army and that it is "unlikely" he might be overthrown for collaborating with the United States.
However, he warned that the reaction of Pakistan's 140 million people — fervently Islamic and penetrated by militant fundamentalists who control schools and mosques — would depend on the kind of U.S. action taken in Afghanistan.
"If it is a quick operation that is not seen as an attempt to destabilize the Taliban" there would be less chance of a backlash, said Mr. Cohen, a former U.S. official responsible for South Asia policy.
Mr. Powell refused to say whether Pakistan was taking sides for or against the terrorists, even though it was named in the State Department's 2000 Global Terrorism Report for allowing terrorist recruiting and training on its soil.
"We're talking with countries that are friendly to us, and we will present requests to them and see what they are able to do within their capacity and within their political circumstances," he said.
"But if we find a particular country, especially those that might be serving as a haven or as a well-known supporter of this kind of activity and they are simply unresponsive and we deem that unresponsiveness to be contributing to additional terrorism or to the fertile ground in which terrorism thrives, then that will certainly affect the kind of relationship we're going to have with them in the future."
Hundreds and possibly thousands of Arabs live in training camps and small villages in Afghanistan, attracted by bin Laden's call for a worldwide holy war against America and the West.
After Tuesday's attack, they have made themselves scarce in market towns where they used to roam freely, reports said.
Some Afghans told reporters they feared an attack on the Arab trainees would mean they too would be hit.
One possible target for attack is a farm 12 miles south of Jalalabad owned by former insurgent leader Maulvi Younus Khalis, where hundreds of Arabs are bivouacked, the Associated Press reported.
Four eastern provinces are believed to have bin Laden bases, a senior Taliban official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press.
Misan-e-Logar, about 60 miles outside Kabul, is another possible target, holding an estimated 400 houses of Arab nationals apparently affiliated with bin Laden.

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