- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2001

President Bush yesterday went to the Pentagon to get a closer look at developing anti-terrorist plans, as military sources said a war strategy is emerging to bomb Afghanistan to force Osama bin Laden out into the open and into U.S. hands.
Flanked by Donald H. Rumsfeld, his hawkish defense secretary, and other top military advisers, the president was asked how he wants bin Laden captured for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Mr. Bush replied, "I want justice. And there's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.'"
The military sources, who are familiar with military options being discussed by Mr. Bush's national security team, said the ruling Taliban government in Afghanistan could defuse the plan by turning over bin Laden — who is widely suspected of masterminding last week's terrorist attacks. Bin Laden is a welcomed guest of the radical Islamic Taliban rulers. The Saudi-exile millionaire uses the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan as home for a network of underground bunkers and training camps from which to mount terrorist assaults.
Mr. Bush's strategy of getting bin Laden to move, and thus possibly tip off his location, was revealed in the past few days in comments made by the president himself and his national security team.
"They like to hit and then they like to hide out," Mr. Bush said of his terrorist foes. "But we're going to smoke 'em out."
At Camp David on Saturday, the president said, "They find holes to get in. And we will do whatever it takes to smoke them out and get them running and we'll get them."
Vice President Richard B. Cheney, who as secretary of defense under Mr. Bush's father directed U.S. troops in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, said Sunday that countries such as Afghanistan who harbor terrorists face "the full wrath of the United States."
The administration's new terrorism policy says it will deal just as harshly with terrorist-protecting states as with the perpetrators themselves.
The administration is in the early stages of putting together a long-term anti-terrorist campaign.
But one early objective, military sources said, is to capture the biggest prize in the new war — bin Laden.
Officials said that if a bombing campaign begins, it would be a sustained, punishing attack aimed at terrorists' training camps, bin Laden's known hideouts and Taliban military facilities.
The attack would be carried out by two Navy battle groups in the region, led by the carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Enterprise. The Air Force would supply long-range B-2 stealth bombers, which would be prepositioned at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
The B-2 is armed with Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
The bombers can drop the satellite-guided bombs from 40,000 feet without anyone on the ground hearing the approaching jets.
The United States is known to have attacked bin Laden and his organization in 1998.
Scores of Navy Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired after U.S. intelligence agencies learned of a meeting of bin Laden operatives, which perhaps included the dissident leader himself.
The attack killed some followers, but not bin Laden.
The Clinton administration ordered no other follow-up attacks against the elusive terrorist, who had become the prime suspect in the bombings of two American embassies in Africa.
Afghanistan lies in a region for which U.S. Central Command, based at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., oversees U.S. military operations. The commander is Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, a wounded Vietnam War veteran who also fought in the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
"[Gen. Franks] is always fully engaged with the Pentagon leadership regarding his AOR [area of responsibility]," a spokesman said yesterday.
Central Command maintains a list of possible military and anti-terrorist targets in Afghanistan. Planners, along with Pentagon officials, have been updating the list since Sept. 11, when suicide terrorists steered hijacked commercial airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner, who commanded coalition air forces during the Gulf war, said the problem with bombing Afghanistan is that it possesses few high-value targets such as the ones found in Iraq or Yugoslavia during air attacks on those countries.
"There's nothing in Afghanistan worth bombing hardly, and of course the Afghan people have suffered so much," Gen. Horner said. "It's essentially still a mujahideen military."
But he agreed that one benefit of bombing could be to force bin Laden to move and thus expose himself to eyewitnesses or an intercept of his communications.
"The key to dropping bombs on bin Laden is having someone on the ground observing," he said.
In addition to terrorist-support sites, the Taliban's loose-knit military force does present some targets of value.
It owns 20 to 30 surface-to-surface missiles, Russian-made air-defense missiles and fewer than 100 MiG fighter jets, according to London's International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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