- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

More than six months after the September attacks, the U.S.-led war against terrorism is turning toward pursuit of a battered yet elusive foe.
The fierce fighting of the recent Operation Anaconda demonstrated that Washington will be satisfied with nothing less than total victory over al Qaeda, say administration officials. That means denying the terrorist network any haven whether it be in the caves of eastern Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, or anywhere else.
Thus, talking about "phases" of the war, with its implication of an effort in one place ending and focus on another beginning, may be misleading.
Iraq, or some other nation with little in the way of ties to al Qaeda, could eventually become a main target. But for now it seems the military campaign will be less a jump from place to place and more a smooth transition involving diverse efforts.
"They are using this terminology 'phase,' but it seems to me more like a wave," said Andrew Bacevich, a Boston University professor of international relations. "It's more the big effort made in Afghanistan now ripples outward with a proliferating number of commitments and obligations."
President Bush, in his speech on the White House lawn this month marking the six-month anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, defined the U.S. effort as a "sustained campaign to deny sanctuary" to terrorists of global reach.
Toward that end, there are likely to be more battles in Afghanistan, said Mr. Bush.
[The United States flew A-10 Thunderbolt ground-attack warplanes into Afghanistan over the weekend in apparent preparation for further strikes on al Qaeda and Taliban remnants, Reuters news agency reported.
[U.S. military spokesman Maj. Bryan Hilferty said yesterday fewer than 10 of the planes would operate out of Bagram an air base just north of Kabul and the launching pad for ground and helicopter forces. The A-10s flew in before the arrival of 1,700 British commandos, who are due to be on the ground and operational by mid-April in the next phase of U.S.-led operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban, Reuters said.]
President Bush also cited the provision of Special Force trainers to the Philippines, where they are helping in the pursuit of the small but committed Abu Sayyaf organization, which has al Qaeda ties.
The United States has promised to provide similar help to the Republic of Georgia to hunt down Islamic militants hiding in a mountain gorge near the border with Chechnya.
American diplomats are also working with Yemen, to help avert the chance of it becoming another Afghanistan, said Mr. Bush. Many al Qaeda fighters came from the area of the Yemeni-Saudi border, and U.S. military planners have long worried that the terrorist group might try to reconstitute its leadership in that remote area.
Overall, the U.S. effort now is not directed against nations, but against a network, said Mr. Bush.
"Every terrorist must be made to live as an international fugitive," he told a wind-whipped audience on a crisp, clear day.
The precision of the president's speech might carry a dual message, say some analysts.
The first is about the nature of the administration's resolve to carry on the fight. By insisting on total U.S. victory over al Qaeda in Afghanistan and after committing substantial numbers of U.S. ground forces toward that aim in Operation Anaconda the White House may be warning future foes such as Iraq that this time the United States means to finish what it starts.
This is not the Gulf war, when American forces stopped short of toppling Saddam Hussein, nor is it Somalia, where one brutal firefight led to the reduction of the U.S. peacekeeping effort.
The second message may be for America's acquaintances and allies: Calm down. We're not invading Iraq tomorrow.
In the speech this month, Mr. Bush did not repeat his "axis of evil" remark. Indeed, he did not mention Iran, Iraq, or North Korea by name at all.
Many allies were unsettled by the president's original use of the "axis" phrase, and worried that the Bush administration was going to plunge into a premature attempt to unseat Saddam.
That said, Washington is clearly laying the foundation for a possible, eventual move against Iraq.
Vice president Richard B. Cheney's recent 12-country trip to the Middle East focused on that topic, for instance.
In London after the end of his flight's first leg, Mr. Cheney said he would be discussing the Iraq problem with America's "friends and allies" in the region. The point was reaching a consensus, he said, not handing out orders.


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