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Broad New U.S. Strategy to Fight Terror Emerging By DOYLE McMANUS and ROBIN WRIGHT Times Staff Writers

September 16 2001

WASHINGTON -- The outlines of a new U.S. strategy to combat terrorism, born in the flames of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, are beginning to emerge--and capturing Osama bin Laden is only a small part of it.

Bush administration officials say they are resolved not only to put the Saudi terrorist out of business, but to destroy the sprawling network of Islamic terrorist organizations that he helped create, perhaps strike other terrorist groups, and to force countries that support terrorism to halt once and for all.

Earlier presidents of both parties sought to reduce terrorism to tolerable levels by using limited or "proportionate" responses. But hawks in the Bush administration instead are driving U.S. policy toward an ambitious global response that aims to dismantle terrorist networks wherever they may be.

The unanticipated result is that President Bush, who came to the White House focused on domestic issues, has now staked his place in history on victory in a daunting foreign war--a war that he has compared deliberately to the World War II challenge that faced his father's generation.

The new U.S. strategy is a tall order, and it will take a long time--much longer than a single airstrike or ground commando raid into Afghanistan.

"If it takes multiyear, we'll devote multiyear," a senior administration official said last week. "And I think it's probably a good thing to think that it probably will."

Many of the details are still being worked out. President Bush and his top aides spent Saturday at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, in what one official called "continuous discussions" of the next steps to take.

But in its broad outlines, the counter-terrorism crusade proclaimed in response to Tuesday's attacks on New York and Washington is sweeping in its goals and--at least in principle--unconstrained in its willingness to use force.

"Whatever it takes," Bush told reporters at Camp David on Saturday. Including ground troops? "The president has not ruled anything out," spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

The emerging strategy has four major components. One is a sustained attack on the perpetrators of Tuesday's attacks, presumably Bin Laden and his sprawling multinational network. Second is a stepped-up campaign against countries that harbor or support terrorists, to deny terrorists the bases they now enjoy. Third is a new worldwide coalition of anti-terrorist nations to carry on the fight. Fourth, new security measures at home to make terrorism more difficult to carry out.

The administration has not yet compiled conclusive proof that Bin Laden ordered Tuesday's attack, officials acknowledged. But they believe they are assembling a circumstantial case that will justify U.S. action to capture the terrorist chief, who has already been accused of masterminding a string of earlier attacks.

The U.N. Security Council has demanded that Afghanistan's Taliban regime expel Bin Laden since 1999, but the militant Islamic government has ignored the order. U.S. officials say they may go back to the U.N. and give the Taliban an ultimatum--a last chance to surrender Bin Laden and his followers--and then act.

What then? On the military side, officials are "thinking outside the box," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said--management jargon for breaking free of old assumptions. "One has to think about, if necessary, larger forces. One has to think about accepting casualties," Wolfowitz said in a television interview. "One has to think about sustained campaigns. One has to think about broad possibilities. And we're trying to present that full range of possibilities to the president."

The goals that the administration has set out "will almost certainly require an expeditionary force on the ground in Afghanistan," said L. Paul Bremer, a former State Department counter-terrorism chief. "It's going to be a hell of an operation."

Administration officials refuse to say what military options they are considering. But former officials--including some frequently consulted by the administration--say the options undoubtedly include not only airstrikes against Bin Laden's bases but also commando operations on the ground.

A longer-range option is to give money, weapons and even direct military support to the Taliban's main opposition, the Northern Alliance. But that course may no longer be available: the Alliance's charismatic leader, Ahmed Shah Masoud, died Saturday, the victim of suicide bombers who may have been sent by Bin Laden.

"What remains to be seen is whether and how military force can be applied in meaningful ways so that at the end of the day you're really better off rather than worse off," said Arnold Kanter, a high State Department official in the George Bush administration. "In Afghanistan, there are no good answers."

But even if the United States succeeds in capturing Bin Laden, that may not destroy the network of terrorist groups he helped organize. Indeed, some terrorism experts debate whether Bin Laden really "directs" the network, which includes large organizations in Egypt and Algeria and cells in at least 32 other countries, or merely acts as one of its main financiers.

As a result, U.S. strategy gives equal priority to destroying Bin Laden's financial network, which may be no easier than finding his followers. Al Qaeda's assets are not limited to the estimated $300 million that was Bin Laden's initial personal share of his family's fortune. Since the anti-Soviet crusade by militant Muslims in the 1980s, wealthy Saudis and others in the oil-rich Persian Gulf sheikdoms have also contributed hundreds of millions more, according to U.S. intelligence.

Much of the money has been channeled through Pakistan, where the banking system is porous and corrupt and where funds can easily be laundered through dummy firms and "humanitarian" groups. The U.S. has asked Pakistan to help it track the money.

"As long as there are funds out there somewhere, the danger remains. It's what makes all else possible, from positioning followers in foreign countries to paying for flight instruction," a senior counter-terrorism official said.

Those tasks will take years of painstaking intelligence and police work, the experts say--the same kind of police work the United States and its allies have been performing for years, only now with greater intensity.

That's one reason the administration wants to hold countries that harbor or support terrorists responsible for their acts, officials say. If the United States can bring diplomatic, economic and military pressure to bear on those governments, the terrorists will have less freedom to move--and, presumably, be easier to find.

But that campaign raises a key issue, Kanter warned: "Against whom or what is this war? Is it a war against those who perpetrated these attacks . . . or a war on terrorism in general? I don't think that's settled yet."

As part of the broader war on terrorism, the U.S. hopes to strike at some old enemies who came long before Bin Laden. At the top of the list, according to counter-terrorism sources, are Lebanese extremists such as Imad Mughniyah, whom U.S. officials hold responsible for kidnapping American hostages in Beirut between 1984 and 1991.

The United States officially considers seven countries (in addition to the Taliban) to be sponsors of terrorism: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea and Cuba.

"Are we going to consider using large-scale military force to change those regimes?" Kanter asked.

Some administration officials--most notably Wolfowitz--have long argued that the U.S. should be seeking to overthrow the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein--and the war against terrorism may bolster their case in internal debates.

But those ambitions may be curbed by another important piece of the strategy: its goal of building a broad global coalition to join the United States in the struggle. The U.S. would like to have the vast majority of countries on board, but it is aiming for active participation by more than 100 nations--almost three times the size of the 38-nation coalition that Bush's father built for the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

But that is forcing the administration, criticized in its early months for acting "unilaterally" around the world, to be newly sensitive to others' needs. "We have to be careful as we go forward, and we intend to be," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said last week.

The administration especially hopes to enlist Arab and Muslim countries. Short-term, the two Arab governments with the most leverage are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Both have diplomatic relations with the Taliban, and both have been sources of funds for Bin Laden.

Long term, U.S. officials say they would even welcome cooperation from Iran, even though its militant Islamic regime has long been on the official U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism.

Other potential allies include two other countries that, like Iran, are Afghanistan's neighbors: Pakistan and Russia. Pakistan could be a key base for any U.S. military operations against Bin Laden, but its Islamic government has swung increasingly close to the Afghans. Nevertheless, after a full-court press from the Bush administration, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has pledged complete support, U.S. officials said.

Russia had a long, disastrous experience in Afghanistan, defeated by CIA-backed Islamic warriors. But officials say they will welcome Moscow's cooperation, and Powell is scheduled to discuss the issue with Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov in Washington on Wednesday.

The U.S. will also rely heavily on its traditional allies in Europe.

The administration's drive for new allies extended to the official service of remembrance Friday. The State Department held receptions for foreign ambassadors immediately afterward--and senior officials confronted them with the question: Were they or were they not on board?

A fourth major piece of U.S. strategy will occur at home: A new emphasis on domestic security to make it more difficult for terrorists to operate inside the United States--as they did with surprising ease in preparing for the attack.

Officials said no immediate decisions have been made as to whether new legislation is needed to tighten U.S. borders and make airports more secure. But the FAA has already ordered an initial tightening of airport security, and officials suggested more is on the way.

-- Martin Thompson (, September 16, 2001


I Really do hate to say this, but, i wonder if their would be volunteers for SUICIDE ANTI-TERRORIST MISSIONS. They seem to have no shortage of people willing to blow their brains out. Just a thought.

-- jimmie the weed (, September 16, 2001.

All I can say is they had better succeed in wiping these creeps out, or chemical and biological weapons will be next.

-- Uncle Fred (, September 16, 2001.

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