- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2002

The Bush administration's global anti-terrorism strategy is unfolding even as the fighting in Afghanistan continues.
The United States is deploying troops to the Philippines, increasing surveillance over Somalia and pushing Yemen to eradicate al Qaeda terrorist cells.
On a larger scale, President Bush is preparing the public for what could be major military conflicts, or diplomatic confrontations, with what he called the "Axis of evil" Iraq, Iran and North Korea Tuesday night in his State of the Union address. All three rogue states seek weapons of mass destruction, and all are on the State Department's list of sponors of international terrorism.
"We know that those countries and others have been on the terrorist list," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday, following up on the president's warning. "We know that the United States has had a preference that the regime in Iraq not be there."
Mr. Bush repeatedly has singled out Saddam Hussein's Iraq for possible military action. U.S. officials said yesterday that Baghdad still remains high on the "what's next" list. The two newer targets for the president's saber rattling, North Korea and Iran, will face renewed diplomatic pressure to get out of the international terrorist business, the officials said.
In his State of the Union address, Mr. Bush sent the clearest signal yet that some type of action would be taken to prevent the three rogue nations from deploying nuclear, biological and chemical weapons capable of striking the United States. "I will not wait on events while dangers gather," he told Congress. "I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer."
Pentagon officials privately concede that the military's readiness problems of the late 1990s, and a dwindling supply of precision guided munitions, makes it unlikely the U.S. armed forces can attack Iraq anytime soon. The military is structured to be able to fight two regional conflicts at once. Some military analysts contend the force, at 1.4 million active personnel, is too small and stretched out globally to meet that goal.
But Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon, "You can be sure that the United States, if it gets involved in additional activities in connection with the war on terror, that we'll have sufficient men and women to do the job."
For now, the administration's global anti-terror strategy is playing out for all to see.
"We are seeing 'what's next' is the Philippines and Yemen and what are considered some of the not-as-challenging places," an administration official said. "I think Iraq is very much going to be part of this. It's just a matter of how we're going about it."
War costs are beginning to mount as the White House revealed plans last week to fund potential wars as they happen in 2003, rather than through emergency budget bills. The administration said it wants Congress to set up a special $10 billion war-contingency fund for that purpose.
This contingency fund would be in addition to both the $20 billion Congress provided in emergency arms money after the September 11 attacks, and an expected Pentagon request for $10 billion more this year to replenish munition stocks, buy intelligence assets and provide for homeland security.
The U.S.-friendly Philippines has become the next boots-on-the-ground stop. More than 500 U.S. troops, including the same type of special operations soldiers who proved to be decisive in Afghanistan, are arriving in the Pacific island nation.
Their objective is to train, advise and equip the Philippine military in its ongoing battle with a radical Muslim terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
The Philippine government declined an offer by Mr. Bush to have U.S. soldiers fight alongside the local army, saying it violated the country's constitution.
A second administration official in an interview said the Philippines was chosen as the next front-line battleground in the war on terrorism for several reasons.
For one, Abu Sayyaf has ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network, which carried out the September 11 attacks on America.
Abu Sayyaf also has planned attacks in the Philippines on Americans and American assets, including the embassy in Manila, the official said.
As U.S. troops arrived last week, the Philippine military engaged in what has become a series of sporadic firefights with Muslim guerrillas on the southern island of Basilan.
The Bush administration has a different approach to two other al Qaeda-linked locations, Somalia and Yemen.
The United States has stepped up surveillance flights over Somalia, on the Horn of Africa across the Arabian Sea from the Afghan theater, with two goals in mind. First, Americans seek to locate and identify suspected al Qaeda training camps like those being destroyed in Afghanistan.
U.S. Central Command, which is overseeing the war in Afghanistan, also is looking for any al Qaeda members who might try to make it by ship to warlord-dominated Somalia.
Administration officials say that if direct military action is taken, the missions would strongly resemble those in Afghanistan: air strikes and commandos on the ground attacking pockets of terrorists.
Across the Gulf of Aden in Yemen, the Bush administration has had success in persuading President Ali Abdallah Salih to launch attacks on al Qaeda cells operating in a remote, lawless region on the Saudi Arabian border.
Regarding Iraq, several administration sources say Mr. Bush plans to move against Saddam. The only questions remaining are timing and the method that will be used.
The CIA is said to advocate a coup; Pentagon policy-makers are examining using the Afghan war as a model to oust Saddam from power. Generals and admirals are said to be in disagreement over whether a war in Iraq would require huge numbers of American ground troops. The State Department is wary of another war with Iraq's forces.
Amid the internal debate, some in the Pentagon are trying to bolster the case for a war against Iraq by finding links between the Middle East terrorist groups that Saddam supports and bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
"States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an Axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world," Mr. Bush said Tuesday night. "By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger."
Any attack on Iraq would only come after Mr. Bush gave a warning to Saddam to re-admit United Nations weapons inspectors into the country or face U.S. military strikes. The ultimatum would also give the White House time to build a broad international coalition against Iraq if that is possible.
"We've got to think up an Iraq strategy in which we won't have the kind of international support we might like to have," one policy-maker said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide