- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2002

The man who has held three key appointments in past administrations secretary of state, White House chief of staff, and NATO supreme commander said today Syria, not Iraq, should be the next target in the war against terrorism.
Gen. Alexander M. Haig Jr. said Syria's "footprints" are much clearer than Iraq's.
"This doesn't mean that Iraq isn't a more venal threat. There's a great deal of culpability in Iraq for the past 10 years, but not necessarily as a branch of Global Terror Inc.," he said in an interview.
"Syria," Gen. Haig said, "is a terrorist state by any definition and is so classified by the State Department. I happen to think Iran is, too."
The defeat of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network in Afghanistan "did not neutralize the venality of other [terrorist] tentacles, such as Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hezbollah," organizations that would not hesitate to provide "aid and succor" to al Qaeda fighters, he explained. Syria and Iran are the sponsors of these terrorist groups, not Iraq.
For the United States to take on Iraq, Gen. Haig said it would require about 100,000 combat troops. "We have to recognize that we had far more people over there the first time than we ever needed," he continued. "The Gulf war itself was fought essentially by two units."
"So far, what we know is that Saddam Hussein's problem is very independent of al Qaeda that organized and executed the monstrous crime of 9-11," Gen. Haig said, but "Saddam is not part of a transnational terrorist network. Which is not to say he is not a threat to the entire Gulf region with his growing arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Because he is."
"First and foremost we must go after hydra-headed al Qaeda's global tentacles. These Islamist terrorists look upon their defeat in Afghanistan as the loss of a piece of real estate on the larger canvas of Islamist fundamentalist extremism that has developed roots in some 40 Muslim countries and which has cells all over the Western world, including the United States," the retired general said.
But "Iraq doesn't belong on this canvas. International terrorism continues to be the mission. So Iraq is not an immediate priority," he said.
Gen. Haig also hinted that we do not have sufficient troops on the ground in Afghanistan, "given the magnitude of the problems we now face [there].
"A major U.S. force on the ground would convince the world we were in for the long haul recovery of a country devastated by 21 years of warfare," he said. "We lost interest in Afghanistan and left it in the lurch after the Soviets pulled out in 1989 and paid a terrible price for our shortsightedness; witness the emergence of Taliban and al Qaeda."
Distributed by United Press International, for whom Arnaud de Borchgrave is an editor at large.

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