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US may opt for localised attacks


TIMES NEWS NETWORK ASHINGTON: Unimpressed by the move by the Taliban to ease Osama bin Laden out of Afghanistan, the United States is continuing its military build-up now apparently aimed at specific terrorist targets rather than pulverising whole areas and regimes.

Officials here repeated the administration view that it is now time for action, not words, while insisting that the Taliban expel bin Laden. But they made a small concession in saying he could be handed over to "responsible authorities," without defining who that could be.

The edict by the Taliban clerics urging bin Laden to leave Afghanistan voluntarily "doesn't meet America's requirements," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

President George W. Bush "has demanded that ... Osama bin Laden be turned over to responsible authorities and that the Taliban close terrorist camps in Afghanistan, and the president stands by these demands," he added.

Officials also suggested that the Taliban may be playing for time and setting the stage for bin Laden to get away. "This is about much more than one man being allowed to leave voluntarily, presumably from one safe harbour to another safe harbour," Fleischer said.

However, the past 48 hours has seen a sobering realisation that decimating Afghanistan and its Taliban regime will not solve the problem of terrorism and may be counter-productive in the long run. The talk now is veering around to specific, localised action aimed at flushing out terrorists from their fox holes in the mountains and destroying the remains of the camps, which in any case have been abandoned immediately after the carnage in America.

President Bush is expected to address a joint session of Congress later tonight (Friday 6.30 a.m IST) in which he will counsel patience as the US military machine moves its muscle into place for what has now been termed "Operation Infinite Justice." Implicit in the rubric is the suggestion that it will not be a one-off strike but a sustained campaign against terrorism.

There has been no hint here at all the administration had taken any cognisance of India's own long-time problem with terrorism or terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir despite all the rhetoric about combating the "global menace."

US officials have uniformly praised Gen. Musharraf's fearful address to his country despite the fact that he unambiguously said he was supporting the US due to pressure and not out of any faith in fighting the scourge of terrorism.

The US media has been a little more sceptical. In an editorial headlined "Fear and Trembling in Pakistan", the conservative Washington Times wrote, "Pakistan must now decide whose side it is on the Taliban's or the rest of the world's. Mr. Musharraf did little yesterday to suggest that choice had been made."

The paper also warned that it would be "wholly unreasonable" to grant any favours such as lifting sanctions against Pakistan if it continued to align itself with the Taliban. The paper noted that Musharraf had continued to express warm feelings towards the Taliban.

-- Martin Thompson (, September 20, 2001

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