- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 7, 2002

President Bush has positioned troops in and around eight nations on three continents to directly take on international terrorists in a global war that will last at least until 2005, the end of his first term.
American commandos and conventional forces are in Europe, Central Asia, the Persian Gulf, east Africa and Asia on simultaneous anti-terror deployments. Some are hunting and killing terrorists, as in Afghanistan's emerging guerrilla war. Others are telling local armies how to do the same.
Broadening from the initial Afghanistan clash, the war is placing additional strains on an armed forces already taxed by a decade of peacekeeping and major air offenses. The war's cost, and open-ended nature, is drawing cautious criticism from Democrats as the price tag exceeds $1 billion a month.
But the public stands firmly behind Mr. Bush, who has racked up record-setting job-approval ratings. A majority concurs with the war's central theme: If Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network is not destroyed, its violent, suicidal operatives will strike U.S. shores again, perhaps with weapons of mass destruction.
"My view is that we need to continue the all-out focus on destroying the international terrorist network in all its manifestations, and we need also to be very wary about getting bogged down in nation-building in any one country," said James Webb, a former Navy secretary and decorated Marine in Vietnam.
Mr. Webb cautioned that it is difficult to make judgments on future missions without access to internal intelligence reports. But the best-selling author expressed a firm opinion on Afghanistan: The United States should not get bogged down in the country's internal affairs.
"We have succeeded in changing the government in Afghanistan, but we will not change its culture, including its tribal-military culture," he said. "It is important to internationalize the 'mopping up' military activities there, and it seems to me that this is what is happening. Then we need to preserve our military capabilities by getting out and moving on."

Taking on Saddam
The biggest struggle may lie ahead, however. The September 11 attacks on America crystallized the continuing threat of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who, government intelligence reports say, is determined to possess nuclear weapons. Some in the Pentagon argue privately that Mr. Bush's declared war on terrorism cannot claim victory until Saddam is toppled from power, and the action must come before the president's first term ends to ensure the job gets done.
But plans for taking on Saddam grew complicated in recent weeks as Israel declared war against Palestinian militants and sent troops into key West Bank towns.
"I think Iraq is going to be down the road a little anyway," said James Phillips, a Middle East analyst at the Heritage Foundation. "Assuming that [the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] is still going on, then it certainly won't help. It will make it harder for the United States to extract cooperation from the Arab world. But fortunately, if the war is short and sharp, extensive cooperation will not be needed. If the United States can attract cooperation from Kuwait and Turkey [that border Iraq], that probably would be enough."
Throughout the war on terrorism, Mr. Bush and his aides have continued to state that Saddam poses a threat to U.S. national security, and that he must be stopped.
"All options are on the table," Mr. Bush declared recently. "But one thing I will not allow is a nation such as Iraq to threaten our very future by developing weapons of mass destruction."
"We just cannot continue living with this threat over our heads for years and years," added Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz on CNN.
The U.S. military's far-flung missions can be divided into three categories: direct combat such as the cave-to-cave warfare in Afghanistan; training and advising surrogates, such as helping the Philippine military destroy the Abu Sayyaf terrorist army; and watch and wait, such as what ships and surveillance aircraft are doing around the east African country of Somalia, a possible haven for fleeing al Qaeda fighters.
Diplomatically, Washington is holding up the fate of Afghanistan's now-ousted Taliban regime as a "stick" to spur other leaders to rid their nations of terrorists who possess "global reach."
Mr. Bush, speaking on the six-month anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed about 3,000 persons, said the United States had entered "the second stage of the war on terror." He described phase two as "a sustained campaign to deny sanctuary to terrorists who would threaten our citizens from anywhere in the world."
Addressing the question of what's next in the war on terrorism, Mr. Bush asserted: "I have set a clear policy in the second stage of the war on terror. America encourages and expects governments everywhere to help remove the terrorist parasites that threaten their own countries and the peace of the world."
The president remained vague on any new war theater. In fact, besides Iraq, there appear to be few additional options for U.S. military strikes. These new theaters may involve law-enforcement work and intelligence collection not combat.

Capturing al Qaeda members
Somalia, which once hosted active terrorist training camps, seems dormant today, according to Somali and U.S. officials. Army Green Berets have trained for possible missions in that country but so far lack any hard targets, officials said.
Yusuf Hassan Ibrahim, Somalia's foreign minister in a transition government that is trying to unify the country's various warring factions, said U.S. diplomats have toured the country and found no active camps.
"We cooperated with the international community to find out whether there are camps for al Qaeda or not," Mr. Ibrahim said in an interview. "It is a positive assessment. There are no camps in Somalia."
The United States will not put military advisers in Indonesia, home to 200 million Muslims, to eradicate al Qaeda cells in that country. Senior officials compare Indonesia to Western countries who unwittingly play host to these cells and want to eliminate them through law-enforcement actions. Officials say there is no evidence that terrorists fleeing Afghanistan ended up in Indonesia.
Much of phase two will involve a mix of intelligence collection and sharing, coupled with law enforcement. The hope is to capture al Qaeda members in small groups, such as the recent operations in Singapore that led to the arrest of suspects. The operations were based on information derived from searches in Afghanistan.
"Fighting terrorists is not unlike bird hunting," said John Hillen, who fought as an Army captain in the 1991 Persian Gulf war and advised the 2000 Bush campaign. "You use your dogs intelligence agencies, customs, treasury, special ops to find and flush the birds and then you pounce and shoot with the military. I think at this stage we've got all the dogs out and are hunting a lot of different fields, including the United States, in order to scare up some birds."
Today, there are enough active anti-terror theaters to keep the U.S. military busy for the rest of Mr. Bush's term:
Afghanistan. Once al Qaeda's "home sweet home," this impoverished Central Asian country will require a significant U.S. security presence for a decade. There are 6,000 U.S. troops in the region, as well as more than 2,000 British soldiers and hundreds more from key allies, such as Australia and Germany. Gen. Tommy Franks, the U.S. Central Command head who is overseeing the war in Afghanistan, wants to keep two carrier battle groups in the region, plus scores of Air Force strike aircraft nearby.
With the Taliban regime ousted from Kabul and bin Laden himself on the run, the U.S. military's day-to-day task is to watch for clusters of al Qaeda fighters and kill them. There could be more than 1,000 al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in eastern Afghanistan and its neighbor, Pakistan. Their game plan: orchestrate a guerrilla war, wear down the American "invaders" and retake power one day.
"This effort's going to last for some considerable period of time," Vice President Richard B. Cheney told CNN. "There's a temptation, I think, because there's not an active bombing campaign under way on any particular day, for people who want to run out and say, 'well, it's over with.' It's not. This is a long-term commitment. We have to make certain we get a good government stood up in Afghanistan, that it can never again become a sanctuary for a terrorist organization like al Qaeda."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is resisting a deep military involvement in Afghanistan. He opposes the deployment of a large international peacekeeping force there. Officials say he is wary of creating big targets for al Qaeda and hard-core Taliban fighters to attack in a protracted guerrilla war. He also wants the bulk of peace enforcement left to other countries, while American troops lead the rooting-out war.
Gen. Franks said he has no plans to put in the thousands of troops it would take to better seal the Pakistan border to prevent al Qaeda members from escaping.
"I will tell you that in the nine or 10 years of Soviet experience in Afghanistan, they put 620,000 soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "And I think the results of that particular approach to the Afghan problem are recorded well in history."
Yemen. Washington plans to send scores of military personnel to this Arabian Peninsula country to train security forces. President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has sought closer ties with the West, has assured the U.S. administration that he wants an end to the presence of radical Islamic groups in his country. He already has dispatched troops to kill suspected al Qaeda members.
Bin Laden has a loyal base of recruits in ungoverned regions of the country along the border with Saudi Arabia. It was in this area that al Qaeda members planned the 2000 bombing of the destroyer USS Cole.
"We will help Yemeni forces with both training and equipment to prevent that land from becoming a haven for terrorists," Mr. Bush said. "We are working to prevent the possibility of another Afghanistan."
Sudan. The radical government in that country once provided bin Laden a haven after he was expelled from the land of his birthplace by Saudi Arabia's royal family. But Sudan is promising to cooperate with the U.S. war on terrorism and may have arrested some key al Qaeda operatives who fled Afghanistan.
Sudan served as an al Qaeda base in the early 1990s. Mohammed Atef, bin Laden's director of operations, traveled from that country to Somalia in 1993 to show locals how to wage guerilla war against American troops trying to reverse rampant famine. Atef was killed in a U.S. Navy air strike south of Kabul in November.
Bin Laden wore out his welcome in 1996 and repositioned his al Qaeda network back in Afghanistan, where he had fought with the mujahideen against the occupying Soviet army in the 1980s.
A U.S. defense official said, "Terrorists continue to use Sudan as a safe haven. Terrorists there include individuals from al Qaeda, Egyptian and Palestinian terrorist organizations."
Somalia. This Horn of Africa nation, across the Sea of Yemen, once seemed like the next target for U.S. air strikes and commando raids. But months of surveillance flights have yet to detect any al Qaeda operations there.
Mr. Ibrahim, the transition government's foreign minister, said he dispatched aides to inspect the country and collect information from local nomadic tribesmen. No trace of al Qaeda camps turned up, he said. "Even the term 'al Qaeda' is the first time the politicians have heard about it," he adds. "There's no justification for United States forces to attack. There is no threat of camps existing in the country."
Asked if bin Laden would be welcomed in Somalia, Mr. Ibrahim said, "Absolutely not."
But the transitional government holds sway only in Mogadishu and some southern cities, and may not be able to keep al Qaeda members out.
Said a U.S. defense official: "The transitional national government controls little territory, has only small, relatively poorly trained and equipped military and police forces, has little influence in the countryside and almost no real capability to fight terrorism."
U.S. officials are concerned about the Somali Islamic Union, or al-Ittihaad al-Islamiya (AIAI). This group contains Islamic extremists who want to impose a Muslim government on the country.
The defense official says Somalia's lack of a central government or adequate security forces makes it "a potential haven for some al Qaeda terrorist members."
Georgia. The war took an unexpected turn here last month, when Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze asked for help in training his forces to combat terrorists who operated on the Pankisi Gorge, near the Russian border. The United States plans to send 150 troops to train Georgians in retaking control of this lawless region.
The Philippines. This east Asian nation is playing host to the second largest deployment of U.S. forces in the war on terrorism. Nearly 600 U.S. soldiers are currently there, helping the country's armed forces directly fight the Abu Sayyaf, a vicious al Qaeda-linked terrorist group that kidnaps and beheads civilians and is dedicated to the overthrow of Manila's democratic government.
U.S. troops are under orders not to directly engage the enemy on its base, the Basilan Island. They must remain relatively high up the chain of command, at the battalion headquarters level, in training the locals. They maintain radio contact with Philippine troops. U.S. surveillance aircraft have helped the local army pinpoint and attack guerrillas.
Colombia. The Bush administration excludes the South American country from the war on global terrorism. But in practice, Bogata will become an ally in the war if Congress approves the White House's new request to let U.S.-trained and -financed Colombian military brigades attack rebel groups. U.S. law and policy now restrict use of American military aid to counter-narcotics operations.
The main enemy is the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The left-wing army of 17,000 is a U.S.-designated terror group that controls much of Colombia's cocaine production.
There are now 250 U.S. military personnel in Colombia. A shift in policy would likely require an additional 100 U.S. troops.
Iraq. Mr. Bush has labeled Saddam's regime as forming part of an "axis of evil." But whether the president believes Saddam harbors terrorists with "global reach," and thus will be attacked by U.S. forces in the immediate future, remains an open question.
As the war on terrorism expands, some senior U.S. military officers are raising warning flares that the 1.37 million armed forces are being stretched too thin.
Adm. Dennis Blair, who retires this spring as head of Hawaii-based U.S. Pacific Command, said the Afghanistan campaign has left him short of forces needed to carry out contingencies in the Pacific. The Pacific has been without a Navy carrier battle group "for quite some time," Adm. Blair told Congress. He said he compensated by moving tactical aircraft from Alaska to South Korea.
Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, who commands NATO and all U.S. troops in Europe, echoed Adm. Blair's warning. Gen. Ralston said his theater is short on surveillance aircraft and has lacked a Marine amphibious ready group and carrier since the war in Afghanistan began Oct. 7. "We do not have forces to do the missions you have outlined," Gen. Ralston testified in response to a question from Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
Army Gen. William Kernan, who heads Norfolk-based U.S. Joint Forces Command, told Congress of an "overstretched military." Stocks of precision-guided munitions have dropped to "unacceptably low levels."
He testified the Army needs 40,000 more troops, the Air Force 6,000, the Navy 3,000 and the Marine Corps 2,400.
Navy Adm. Robert Natter, who commands the Atlantic Fleet, revealed to reporters a not-too-well-kept secret: Navy air wings bombing Afghanistan nearly ran out of kits that turn a "dumb" bomb into a satellite or laser-guided munition. "We damn near ran out in Afghanistan," he said.
The Pentagon is rushing production of more kits, particularly the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) that finds its targets via the global position system.
The dwindling stocks have spurred some military analysts to fear the United States will not be ready to fight a war in Iraq.
Alarmed, the Pentagon is asking Congress for an immediate authorization of $377 million in the current budget to increase the JDAM production rate to 1,500 a month by June, and 2,800 per month by August 2003, an 87 percent boost.
"During Operation Enduring Freedom, the department expended JDAMs at a faster rate than current production was capable of replacing," the White House told Congress.

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