Bush says "time is running out" as US forces move into place

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Bush Says 'Time Is Running Out,' as U.S. Forces Move Into Place


Assured of support from several partners in the region, President Bush warned the Taliban today that "full warning has been given, and time is running out."

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 Assured of logistical and political support from several partners in the region, President Bush warned the Taliban government of Afghanistan today that "full warning has been given, and time is running out."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld returned to Washington early this morning from military consultations with five of the region's friendly nations in as many days, and immediately went to confer with the president and senior advisers. Mr. Bush repeated his call for all nations to "stand with the terrorists, or stand with the civilized world."

The mobilization of American forces continued as elements of the 10th Mountain Division moved into Uzbekistan under a new agreement that allows them to protect American operations there, but not to cross the border to attack Afghanistan. By air and sea, other forces advanced on the region.

Nor did any other country Mr. Rumsfeld visited grant permission to carry out strikes directly from its soil, at least not publicly. Still, the administration sounded confident that it has obtained enough of the essentials overflight rights, limited basing rights and open political support to wage what it concedes will be a difficult war against Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network and its hosts in Afghanistan.

As antiaircraft fire was reported over the Afghan capital, Kabul, possibly aimed at an unmanned reconnaissance drone, the Taliban offered to free eight foreign aid workers, including two Americans, it has jailed but only if the United States backed down from its threats of a military strike. [Page B5.]

The Bush administration rejected the offer and restated its insistence that its demand that Mr. bin Laden be handed over was not negotiable. In the leadup to a possible military strike, senior administration and allied officials said Mr. Rumsfeld's approach this week had underscored that the United States intends to make this as much as possible an all- American campaign, with only logistical aid and political support from most other nations.

One reason, they said, is that the Pentagon is intent on avoiding the kind of limitations on its targets and methods that were imposed by NATO allies during the 1999 war in Kosovo, or the kind of hesitance to topple a leader that some members of the gulf war coalition felt.

"Coalition is a bad word, because it makes people think of alliances," said Robert Oakley, former head of the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism and former ambassador to Pakistan. A senior administration official put it more bluntly: "The fewer people you have to rely on, the fewer permissions you have to get."

After meeting Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, Mr. Rumsfeld even denied in Cairo on Thursday "that there is a singular coalition, which of course is not the case. Well no, there are many coalitions. We recognize that each country has a distinctive situation and a different perspective and we want to cooperate with countries in ways that they want to cooperate with us."

But he expressed not a word of disappointment, instead adopting an approach that could almost be summed up in the phrase: Don't ask, don't tell. At least publicly, he did not ask the leaders of Oman, Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Uzbekistan for anything but what he knew they would offer, and he studiously avoided telling much of anything about their pledges of military support.

Even in Turkey, a NATO partner where United States planes have routinely launched strikes against Iraq, he was careful not to speak for his host. "We do not make demands," he said in Ankara on Friday after meeting with Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and members of the cabinet. "We do not have any view other than that each country should decide for itself how it can best help. Some help in one way; others help in another way." "Some will do it publicly; some will do it privately; each will do it in his own way, and all of it will be helpful," he said.

While Mr. Bush's remarks today were hardly an ultimatum, the urgency of the diplomacy and the pace of mobilization seemed driven by the calendar and the weather. Winter is about to set in, the holy month of Ramadan begins in mid-November, and the skies over Afghanistan are expected to be clear under a bright moon for the next few days.

One by one, in public statements and private meetings, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Oman and Uzbekistan signaled that their airfields are basically open for supporting military operations rather than offensive American strikes.

Oman, though, which has long ties with Britain, agreed to allow refueling by American tankers and reconnaissance aircraft, while Uzbekistan will allow things like search and rescue missions from their territory. The former Soviet republic of Georgia also offered its facilities and airspace.

"The support they will provide is all of the backup and logistics so they can say that nothing is being launched from their territory that hits Afghanistan," said one senior administration official involved in the administration's delicate negotiations in the region. "It's just as far as they're willing to go for now."

All together, it will help meet the practical needs of the American military in carrying out its mission, which the administration has said will be long and unpredictable. The patchwork of supportive pledges should be sufficient for a sustained campaign, as long as the Pentagon continues to avoid conventional ground operations.

One sign of Washington's insistence that its hands not be tied was its rejection of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan's entreaties that any American military action be subject to Security Council approval, administration officials said.

At first, the Pentagon was even reluctant for NATO to invoke the alliance's mutual defense clause requiring members to defend each other against an armed attack, senior administration and European officials said. "The allies were desperately trying to give us political cover and the Pentagon was resisting it," said one senior administration official. "It was insane. Eventually Rumsfeld understood it was a plus, not a minus, and was able to accept it."

Since last month's attacks on New York and Washington, Saudi officials have clarified the terms for using the Saudi air base where American, British and French forces operate, limiting the foreigners to enforcing Security Council resolutions against Iraq. "The Americans, French and British are there to implement the U.N. resolution regarding the southern no- fly zone," a Saudi official said. "We did not invite them to our bases in Saudi Arabia so they can go every other week and bomb Iraq. There are sensitivities."

Now, Saudi Arabia has imposed similar constraints on the expected military campaign against the Taliban. It allows the United States to keep 40 to 50 aircraft at Prince Sultan Air Base, including F-16CG's, which are fighters carrying antiradar HARM missiles, as well as F-15C fighters meant for air-to-air combat. Strike aircraft like F-15E's and F-117 stealth jets are not to be launched from Saudi territory.

"The greatest political success in this crisis has been the ability to rally 100 countries to say, `Yes, we are with you in a coalition against terrorism,' " said Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, in an interview. "But here is the frustrating part. Surely you don't need 100 countries to go after the Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan you barely need one bomb for those."

Appearing with Mr. Rumsfeld on Wednesday, Prince Sultan, the Saudi defense minister, was more circumspect about possible attacks on the Taliban. "We did not actually discuss this matter with His Excellency because we do not feel there are any specific strikes that are going to be taken against the Taliban," he said, referring to Mr. Rumsfeld with the honorific. "At the same time, we believe that we cannot ask for things that are beyond the things we can ask for."

A senior administration official said that in fact the Saudis, who themselves fear terrorist attacks, wanted assurances that any strike would go beyond the symbolic and would be designed to uproot the network of Mr. bin Laden from Afghanistan. "They were concerned that we'd come with a couple of Tomahawk missiles that would leave them still at risk that Al Qaeda could turn against them," the senior administration official said. "They needed to be calmed down and stroked."

For its part, Oman has become a critical staging ground for American aircraft and support forces massing in the region almost everything except combat aircraft, defense officials said. A senior military official said that dozens of KC-135 refueling tankers and Awacs reconnaissance aircraft have been based there, many of them at the air base on the island of Masirah.

Because of Oman's strategic location on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, those aircraft will be ideally positioned to service roughly two dozen B-52 and B-1 bombers as they fly toward Afghanistan. The bombers themselves are based at Diego Garcia, 2,888 miles south of Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, well within their strike range.

Oman has also been a depot for war matériel stocked by the United States for unanticipated emergencies in the Persian Gulf. As Mr. Rumsfeld left, the Pentagon announced a $1.1 billion arms sale of jets and missiles to Oman, saying it would strengthen the coalition.

Uzbekistan, where the Pentagon announced that it would send about 1,000 troops from the 10th Mountain Division, has actually wanted more troops in a semipermanent deployment, but not as an offensive strike force, United States officials said. The last hurdles to sending the division seem to have been ironed out on Mr. Rumsfeld's trip. "The forces we were planning to put there are still not there," a senior military officer said, referring to search and rescue and special forces reconnaissance aircraft, which could included unmanned drones.

One official who closely follows the region said the Uzbeks wanted a "status of forces agreement," a formal document cementing the American nascent relationship with the United States as a bulwark against the Taliban and their own Islamic extremists. The State Department this week included what it called the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan on an expanded list of groups affiliated with Mr. bin Laden's network.

"They were pushing harder for a larger, semipermanent commitment not only to deal with security, but also to solidly anchor them in an American military relationship," the official said.

As for Pakistan, the United States has backed off the idea of using bases there. "The Pakistani people people are highly politicized," said a senior Pakistani official. "They're not as placid as the gulf. They would react violently if they saw a large number of foreign troops." Mr. Rumsfeld did not visit Pakistan during his trip, but on Friday, during a visit by Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, said his military government had agreed to "cooperate in the field of information exchange and intelligence, and we have also agreed to give the utilization of our airspace to move against terrorism in Afghanistan, and also provide logistic support. These are the assurances that we've given, and the modalities are yet to be worked out."

-- Swissrose (cellier3@mindspring.com), October 06, 2001


Time is running out, all right . . .

Hyperlink: http://www.debka.com

China Moves Forces into Afghanistan

6 October: Before even the launching of the major US military offensive in Afghanistan, long Chinese convoys were carrying armed Chinese Muslim servicemen through northwest China into Afghanistan, according to DEBKAfile’s intelligence experts. They were sent in to fight alongside the ruling Taliban and Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. Their number is estimated roughly between 5000 and 15,000. Our sources report another three convoys are behind the first 3000, who crossed the frontier Friday, October 5. They are entering Afghanistan along the ancient Krakoram Road to the Afghan-Pakistani border, through the Kulik Pass of Little Pamir, which is situated in one of the highest and most remote regions of the world.

Beijing is deploying this force in two places:

A. Whakyir, the Kirgyz tribal encampment near the Little Pamir- Tadjik frontier, opposite the swelling concentration of US and Russian Special Forces and air strength. The Chinese have brought with them Kirgyz fundamentalist militants from the Ferghana Valley of Central Asia, as interpreters. From Whakyir, the Chinese generals believe, with Bin Laden’s and the Taliban’s tacticians, they will be able to block off the movement of the US-led force from its rallying point in Dzhartygumbez, Tadjikistan, no more than 35 miles from Little Pamir, into the mountains of Hindu Kush.

B. Jalalabad in north Afghanistan, at the foot of the Hindu Kush range.

DEBKAfile ’s Chinese sources reveal that, immediately after the terrorist strikes in the United States on September 11, the Chinese intelligence service, MSS, handed in to the defense ministry in Beijing their estimation that the United States would go to war to overthrow the Taliban regime, for the sake of which it would sign a pact with Russia. The Chinese leadership viewed this eventuality as the most significant shift in the global balance since the 1962 Chinese-Russian feud, with dangerous implications for China’s world standing and its interests in Central and Southwest Asia. They decided it must be counteracted.

The only satisfactory outcome of the Bin Laden crisis in Chinese eyes is the redeployment of Japanese-based US troops to the Persian Gulf, when the Kitty Hawk carrier moved the 3rd Marines Division out of Okinawa last week. Chinese intelligence did not miss the absence of fighters and reconnaissance craft on her decks. The planes stayed behind, but the very fact that the Kitty Hawk is no longer within operational range of the Straits of Taiwan leaves the disputed island with diminished protection. Beijing also took note of additional US military movements, including the Army’s 10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum, New York and that of another formerly Pacific-based unit, the 25th Infantry Division, out of Hawaii to the Persian Gulf. According to DEBKAfile’s Far East experts, the removal of substantial US military strength from the Pacific Rim opened the way for Chinese intervention in Afghanistan and its effort to slow down the US- Russian advance.

Copyright © 2001 Debkafile, Fair Use for Education and Research Purposes Only

-- Robert Riggs (rxr.999@worldnet.att.net), October 07, 2001.

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