- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2001

America may soon be engaged in a war with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, should the Taliban refuse to hand over Osama bin Laden. We need to think about what this fight will involve. President Bush and his team rightly aim to tear up the terrorist network. But that will be no easy task, particularly in Afghanistan. The president has said he would not fire a $2 million missile to blow up a $10 tent. Bill Clinton's approach was to do precisely that, and it failed to have any effect on anything other than the famously demolished aspirin factory.
If you wanted to pick a tough place to fight, Afghanistan has to be high on anyone's list. It's big, only a bit smaller than Texas, and mostly mountainous. If you fight there, you have to acclimate your troops to high altitudes for them to be effective, which consumes precious days or even weeks. It's landlocked. The nearest ocean is 300 miles away. All three of the biggest cities are 500 air miles or more from anywhere the Navy can operate, and roads over which armies can maneuver are almost nonexistent.
The president is right to bring our NATO allies into the fight. But a big question remains over who can, or will, help. Probably, Australia, New Zealand and Canada will stand up to be counted. We have stood with them before, and their troops, ships and aircraft will certainly pull their weight. Israel, if it can, will help. But the nation we can count on for the most help the boots in the mud, cover-your-wing man, up close and personal help is Britain. This page usually finds little opportunity to agree with liberal Prime Minister Tony Blair, but his government has been a strong voice in the past week, offering help that is a lot more than mere talk. Tommy Atkins, the British soldier from Kipling's famous poem, is readying for a fight.
As Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has made clear, much of the early fighting is likely to be done by special operations troops, Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets and Rangers, and Marine Force Recon. Even for these really tough guys, fighting on Afghan ground will be no easy task.
The British Special Air Service (SAS), which our Green Berets were modeled after, specializes in, among other things, mountain warfare. One of its units, the Revolutionary World Warfare wing, has been training in the Pakistani mountains for five years. They, along with America's special operations troops, will be in the vanguard of any operations in Afghanistan. "Acclimatization" altitude training has already started for the SAS at least in preparation for the coming fight.
This is not a fight the United States has sought; it is also not one we should rush into without proper deliberation of our strategic goals. But neither is it a fight we can shy away from. The next move belongs to Mr. Bush.

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