- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2001

President Bush dispatched America's answer to terrorist infamy yesterday.
"Operation Infinite Justice" was set loose with the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and the ordered deployment of more than 100 warplanes, possibly including B-1 bombers.
The Roosevelt and its 80 aircraft will join warplanes stationed in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait. They will stand by for the president's order to attack terrorists in Afghanistan responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York and the assault on the Pentagon.
The carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Enterprise are already patrolling the Arabian Sea near the coast of Pakistan, together with cruisers, destroyers and submarines in the battle group. The Roosevelt, which left Norfolk yesterday, is scheduled to go to the Mediterranean Sea, but will likely be diverted to join the Vinson and Enterprise.
The inclusion of the B-1 bombers would suggest Mr. Bush will order an extensive bombing campaign aimed not just at targets in Afghanistan but also in Iran, which harbors terrorists' training camps. The B-1 carries a satellite-guided bomb called the Joint Direct Attack Munition, used effectively against Yugoslavia in 1999.
Afghanistan's Taliban rulers have refused U.S. demands to turn over terrorist Osama bin Laden, the man Mr. Bush wants "dead or alive" for orchestrating attacks on New York and the Pentagon that killed more than 5,000 people.
A Pentagon official said the deployment will include F-16 and F-15 fighter jets, and possibly the B-1B bomber. The warplanes would join fighter-bombers, AWACS early-warning aircraft and airborne electronic jammers stationed in Gulf countries. The United States began rotating the planes to the Gulf on a permanent basis after the 1991 Persian Gulf war to enforce a no-fly zone in southern Iraq and to deter Baghdad from menacing its neighbors.
Mr. Bush's new deployment order substantially tightens the pressure on the radical Taliban rulers, who learned earlier this week from Pakistani emissaries that they face an all-out U.S. attack unless they turn over bin Laden.
Three carriers off the coast of Pakistan would provide more than 200 warplanes for an attack, plus hundreds of Tomahawk cruise missiles on surface ships and attack submarines.
The Enterprise had completed its tour in the region, but was kept in place after terrorists hijacked four airliners, flying two into New York's World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon.
The air armada assembling in the region could be further reinforced by two types of heavy bomber: the B-2 based at Whitman Air Force Base, Mo., and B-52s, which could be prepositioned on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. The B-2, made of radar-absorbing materials, carries satellite-guided bombs. The B-52 drops gravity bombs and fires the precise Air Launched Cruise Missile.
Pakistan has agreed to a U.S. request to let the military use its airspace for possible attacks on Afghanistan. It is also favorably disposed to letting warplanes use its airfields, a luxury that would cut down on mission time and the need to constantly refuel fighter-bombers.
When President Clinton authorized Tomahawk cruise missile strikes on a bin Laden hideout in 1998, he did not seek permission to use Pakistani airspace beforehand.
But this time, the Bush administration is planning for a more sustained attack on the Taliban regime. Afghanistan is, in may ways, a desolate place with few high-value targets. But the Taliban's militia-style army does hold MiG fighters, surface-to-air missiles, radars, tanks, helicopters and airfields all of which could be attacked. The Pentagon could also target bin Laden's homes, hideouts and training camps.
A Pentagon spokesman told reporters, "The United States is repositioning some of its military forces where required to prepare for and support the president's campaign against terrorism and to support efforts to identify, locate and hold accountable terrorists and those who support and harbor them."
Mr. Bush has declared war on international terrorists in the wake of the Sept. 11 attack. He said in recent days that part of his strategy for catching perpetrators such as bin Laden is to smoke them out of hiding places so they can be caught.
Military officials say a sustained bombing campaign against Afghanistan may force bin Laden and his operatives to move. Someone might spot them and relay his location to the United States via Pakistan's intelligence ties.
Special operations forces on the Pakistani border could then spring into action to try to find the fugitive. Bin Laden already stands indicted by a federal grand jury for the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
Military officials say it is likely that commandos from Fort Bragg, N.C., home to the Delta Force insertion team, already have deployed overseas.
Mr. Rumsfeld is restricting public information on planned troop deployments. The Navy has refused to give the exact location of the Carl Vinson or Enterprise. Yesterday's announcement did not specify where the added warplanes will deploy.
"There are movements, and you will see more movements," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told reporters. "I hope everyone understands, I'm sure the American people understand, why we do not want to reveal the details of those movements to people who may be trying to figure out what we're about to do next."
He added, "I think we're going into a campaign and, with the enormous will and resources of the American people behind it, we will win."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide