- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 8, 2002

When hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagons southwest wing, one of the first on the scene was a 69-year-old ex-Navy pilot in a business suit who had just recently left a long stint in the corporate world.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfelds symbolic show of bravery on September 11, 2001, gave him little time to ponder then what the gaping hole in his building meant to his troops. A year later, Mr. Rumsfeld regards President Bushs war on international terrorism as — like World War II — a fight for national survival. Whether it succeeds will depend not only on the stamina and determination of the commander in chief, but on his field generals, fleet admirals and the nations 21st secretary of defense.
Less than a month of intensive war planning preceded the first counterattack, on Oct. 7, a Sunday, when American warplanes bombed Taliban targets in Afghanistan. A stern Mr. Rumsfeld appeared in the Pentagon press room to explain what was at stake — in the short-term and beyond.
"While our raids today focus on the Taliban and the foreign terrorists in Afghanistan, our aim remains much broader," he said then, flanked by Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Our objective is to defeat those who use terrorism and those who house or support them. We share the belief that terrorism is a cancer on the human condition and we intend to oppose it wherever it is."
As the nation prepares for the observance on Wednesday, the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Bush administration officials say that most of what Mr. Rumsfeld said that day has come true, or is coming true. They cite achievements in a war that is largely geared toward destroying Osama bin Ladens al Qaeda network, which carried out the attacks in New York and on the Pentagon as well as crashing the plane in Pennsylvania.
Americans have been reminded there is a cost to those victories. In hostile fire and by accident, 51 American soldiers have died while fighting terrorists, 41 in the Afghan theater and 10 in the Philippines.
With the first big job of ousting the Taliban regime completed, the U.S. military has entered a new, grittier phase in the war on terrorism. It must find and eliminate small pockets of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, attacking them in villages, caves or on mountain passes. The enemy is smart, elusive and deadly. Some blend in with the common folk, waiting for the right moment to fire a rocket-propelled grenade.
"Our operations today consist mainly of smaller operations, cave-by-cave searches, sweeps for arms, intelligence, small pockets of terrorists as they have dispersed - understandably," Mr. Rumsfeld says.

Tracking down terrorists
The U.S. air and ground assault likely killed hundreds of al Qaeda fighters, depleting an original force of about 4,000 men. U.S. commanders estimate there may be as many as 2,000 al Qaeda guerrillas left to be dealt with in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater. Globally, the network operates cells in 50 to 60 countries, including several in the United States.
In some cases, the job of finding them falls on the CIA and law enforcement authorities. In other places, like Afghanistan and the Philippines, the task goes to special-operations forces, such as the Armys Green Berets and the crack counterterrorist unit Delta Force.'
"If you look at what the war aims were laid out by President Bush before committing military force to Afghanistan, they are not accomplished yet," says Jack Spencer, a military analyst at the Heritage Foundation. "Its an ongoing mission. However, we are far along in that mission. We have disrupted al Qaeda, we have destroyed the al Qaeda network in Afghanistan and the Taliban is no longer in power."
Indeed, bin Laden no longer enjoys the base of operations he once had in the poor, landlocked country of Afghanistan. A growing number of military analysts believe that he is either dead or boxed in. The CIA has not collected a confirmed intelligence report on bin Laden since December. His top aide, Egyptian Ayman al Zawahiri, is also unaccounted for.
A U.S.-friendly government, led by Hamid Karzai, has been established in the capital, Kabul. Instead of hosting al Qaeda terror training bases and Taliban extremists, Afghanistan is home to more than 7,000 U.S. troops who are hunting down remaining enemy forces.
"I suspect it would be accurate to say that the security situation in Afghanistan is the best its been probably in close to a quarter of a century," Mr. Rumsfeld recently told reporters. "Afghanistan has a transition government with a popular mandate. Its no longer a safe haven for terrorists. Humanitarian aid is flowing. Women are able to work. Children are back in school. And executions in soccer stadiums have stopped. The country has been liberated."

Demonstrating military might
The Afghan war provided all U.S. military branches with a chance to test new ways to combat terrorists. The Navy provided most of the tactical air strikes, as the Air Force was denied basing rights in areas close to Afghanistan. The Air Force, however, did innovative war fighting, using lumbering B-52 bombers and satellite-guided munitions for "on-call" raids when signaled by ground troops.
The Army provided Green Beret "A-Teams," who quickly organized resistance fighters and turned the tide of battle against the Taliban regime.
"The Army stands ready to defend everything the terrorists would destroy, whatever the price and however long it takes," says Army Secretary Thomas White. "We wont stop until everyone who would harm us is either dead, disabled or discouraged. Simply put, our will to win over evil defines us as a nation. The Army gives expression to the will of our people because we are truly the peoples army."
Outside of Afghanistan, the Bush administration can point to other achievements. It early on persuaded Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to cut ties with the Taliban regime, support the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and crack down on militants and al Qaeda followers in his own country.
Every week, there is evidence that Gen. Musharraf is slowly chipping away at al Qaedas infrastructure inside of Pakistan. In one recent example, Pakistani authorities in late August raided homes in Peshawar and arrested 11 militants and confiscated evidence of terrorist operations. It was in Pakistan that the CIA got its hands on one of the top prizes in the war, bin Laden aide Abu Zubaydah, who continues today to provide valuable information to interrogators.
Another top bin Laden aide, operations chief Mohammed Atef, is dead, killed in a December bombing raid on a house south of Kabul.

Critics of the war
Despite these successes, critics of the campaign exist within and outside the Pentagon.
Bin Laden, and scores of al Qaeda followers, may have escaped from Afghanistans Tora Bora region in December during the last major battle of 2001. Some fault Gen. Tommy Franks, who as head of the U.S. Central Command is running the war, for relying too much on local Afghan guerrillas and not putting more American soldiers on the ground to block escape routes.
Mark Burgess, a military analyst at the Center for Defense Information, says it was impossible to seal off all escape routes there, or during another major battle, Operation Anaconda in March. "But it seems more could have been done than was done," he says.
More disturbing, he says, is that after-action inspection of caves in Tora Bora and the Anaconda battlefield in eastern Afghanistan did not appear to confirm the U.S. estimate of hundreds of enemy dead.
But Mr. Burgess argues the best way to measure success in a war on terrorism is not the number of enemy dead, but how many attacks have been foiled.
"That is hard to quantify," he says. "You probably will never know how many operations you have prevented."Mr. Spencer says its difficult to fault Gen. Franks. The U.S. military was still trying to figure out how to fight a ground war against terrorists when bin Laden made his stand at Tora Bora.
"I have no problem using indigenous forces," Mr. Spencer says. "These missions were largely new to our military. It would be nice to have Osama bin Laden dead or in a jail cell. But short of that, where we have him now is OK."One of Gen. Franks guiding principles has been not to repeat the mistakes of the Soviet Red Army during its failed occupation of Afghanistan. They put a large ground force in Afghanistan in the 1980s, only to see Islamic rebels launch numerous guerrilla assaults that forced Moscow eventually to retreat.
"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," Gen. Franks says. "And I think the results of that particular approach to the Afghan problem are recorded well in history."

Looking for al Qaeda
The hunt for al Qaeda pockets inside the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater has been slow. Mr. Rumsfeld has become so impatient with the capture-kill rate that he has ordered Gen. Charles Holland, who heads the U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., to draw up a new war plan for using covert warriors. He wants plans in place to move special operations soldiers to targets on a moments notice, get them into the country to kill or capture the enemy and then get out.
"Its a matter of finding them," the defense secretary says, "interrogating them, stopping them, killing them if you have to, capturing if you must, and seeing if we cant put so much pressure on these terrorist networks that were able to defend the American people and our friends and allies across the globe."
This new phase in the war is not assured of success. A new report from the Rand Corp., a research and analysis organization often relied on by the government, says the war to wipe out the al Qaeda network could take decades, bringing added risks.
"The greatest challenge in the second phase of the campaign against terrorism is that as military operations move beyond a single theater, the more complex tasks will be dispersed among numerous departments, agencies and officers," writes terrorism expert Brian Michael Jenkins, "and the focus on the overall U.S. strategy will be lost, along with the nations ability to coordinate operations."
Mr. Jenkins argues that Washingtons ability to detect a planned attack is "limited," while the al Qaeda network is showing an ability to adapt while on the run.
"It is possible that al Qaeda will adapt to the more difficult post-September 11 operational environment by morphing into an even looser network, developing more initiative and resources to local operatives."
Still, the Bush administration can point to a number of successes around the globe.
* The Philippines. The Pentagon inserted 600 Army Green Berets into the Philippines to train the local army in how to hunt down members of the al Qaeda-linked terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. Under U.S. guidance, the locals have killed scores of terrorists, including an important terrorist leader, Abu Sabaya.
* Yemen. This countrys border with Saudi Arabia along the Persian Gulf was once a safe haven for al Qaeda operations. It was from this tribal region that terrorists planned and launched the attack on the destroyer USS Cole in 2000.
But Yemen has been receptive to U.S. Special Forces soldiers coming in and training the army in counterterrorism. Yemens military has attacked several militant strongholds. The result is that Yemen is disappearing as a sanctuary for bin Ladens operatives.
* Somalia. The United States feared that al Qaeda members flushed from Afghanistan and Pakistan would set up new bases in Somalia. But so far, any such migration has been prevented by Navy interception of ships in the Arabian Sea and constant surveillance by Navy P-3 Orion spy planes.
* International. The administration estimates that the United States and its allies have arrested or detained more than 2,000 al Qaeda members and followers, some of whom were about to launch terrorist attacks. In one such arrest, intelligence information gained through searches of al Qaeda compounds in Afghanistan enabled law enforcement officials in Singapore to foil a planned attack on Americans.

Importance of nation-building
The Pentagon is slightly adjusting Phase 2 in its mission in Afghanistan. Hunting down al Qaeda and Taliban fighters is still a top goal. But the American commander in the country, Lt. Gen. Dan McNeill, is focusing more of his attention on nation-building activities.
"I do think increasingly our focus is shifting to training the Afghan National Army, supporting [peacekeepers], supporting reconstruction efforts, those kinds of things that contribute to long-term stability," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the London Daily Telegraph recently. "But I suspect were going to find for some time to come people there, both some Afghans and more importantly non-Afghans, who still regard us as the enemy."
The U.S. militarys role in rebuilding Afghanistan rests heavily on the Armys civil affairs soldiers, a branch of special operations headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C.
There are about 200 such soldiers in Afghanistan. Gen. McNeill has asked for even more as he attempts to win the hearts of villagers and farmers who were once beholden to strict Taliban Islamic rule.
Among the construction priorities: schools, water wells, roads and bridges. Already, workers are nearing completion of a bridge linking Baghram, site of a large coalition air base in the north, to Kabul.
Hospitals are now being operated by members of the international community.
"Prior to October of last year," Gen. Franks says, "26 million people in Afghanistan had not had much medical capability, and women for sure had no medical capability, because of the specific practices in that country. Women were not permitted to see physicians, because women were not permitted to be treated by men, and men were the only qualified doctors in the country."
Says Mr. Burgess: "If you look at Afghanistan a year ago in terms of the Afghan people, their lot in life is certainly a lot happier than it was."
Administration hawks, led by Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Wolfowitz and Vice President Richard B. Cheney, believe the war on terror cannot be won while Saddam Hussein rules Iraq. The dictator will likely attain his goal of owning nuclear weapons, Bush officials argue, and those weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists who would use them to blackmail or attack the United States.
The wars second year may well be marked more by military operations in Iraq than the Afghanistan mission. The president is said to be close to a decision on an option to prevent Baghdad from building atomic weapons. "It seems to me force of arms is going to be the only way to solve the Iraq problem," Mr. Spencer says. "Unfortunately, a decade of diplomacy has only exacerbated the threat that Iraq poses."


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