Tags: New | Terror | Targets: | Somalia | Yemen | Indonesia | Philippines

New Terror Targets: Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, Philippines

Wednesday, 09 January 2002 12:00 AM

The United States has intelligence operations in those four nations, selected because they expressed willingness to cooperate. Their countries have vast lawless areas where al-Qaeda and other terrorist cells are known to have operated, well-placed administration and congressional sources tell United Press International.

Between the somewhat unexpected difficulties in bringing the Afghanistan operation to a close and the tense Indian-Pakistan confrontation over Kashmir, U.S. military action against Iraq is on a back burner, sources say.

It's more important to keep the coalition of European and Muslim nations together that have supported the Afghanistan campaign than to go after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, they say.

Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense and one of the major supporters of taking on Hussein, acknowledged in an interview published by the New York Times Tuesday that a move on Iraq might be put off.

Asked about U.S. operations in Somalia Friday, Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of the U.S. Central Command, countered with a rhetorical question: "So what will be next? What we're interested in doing is looking at all places where we believe we may see terrorist organizations of the type we're interested in, that being those with a global reach, being harbored.

"As we identify that, we go to work with intelligence, surveillance reconnaissance and so forth," the general said.

The war on terrorism is expanding far beyond the boundaries of Afghanistan to stretch around the globe.

Defense sources have identified al-Qaeda cells in the United States and Canada and in 50 other countries spanning parts of the globe that fall under the watch of different U.S. military commanders.

The spotlight has been on Franks, who oversees U.S. military involvement in Pakistan, Afghanistan and west through the Horn of Africa region, which includes Somalia and Yemen.

But U.S. military leaders are now hunting terrorists through five traditional regions: Central and South America and the Caribbean; Europe and most of Africa; most of the Middle East and Red Sea nations; the Pacific; and North America and the North Atlantic.

For the first time since World War II, the secretary of defense and his staff are saddled with the enormous task of serving as overall commanders for a world war on terrorism.

While each separate commander will have a separate plan, it will be up to Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense, and ultimately President Bush to coordinate the overall campaign, establish priorities, and provide daily command and control functions at a level never before tested under a unified command plan established by the National Security Act of 1947.

Hussein Mohammed Aidid, a member of an Ethiopian-backed Somali reconciliation and restoration council, has requested American support to eliminate al-Qaeda in Somalia, according to reports in Monday's Washington Times. Not only does this provide an opening to go after al-Qaeda camps, but it also gives the United States an opportunity to finish work started nine years ago.

U.S. forces were bloodied in an attempt to capture a warlord in a campaign in 1992 and 1993 to make economic relief programs secure. That chaos among warring factions was not dissimilar to what is going on in Afghanistan.

The Philippines and Indonesia have long-standing violent insurrections led by Islamic militants. Wolfowitz told the Times that the United States was studying what actions it can take in those areas.

Recently, Yemen began operations with its own special forces in a lawless area along the Saudi Arabian border, which is reported to have harbored al-Qaeda terrorists.

Though Franks strongly argued that the United States is on schedule in its struggle in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, congressional sources said the administration has been caught off guard by the enormous task of controlling warlords who are back in power.

"It is not just the India/Pakistan situation which changed the timetable," a source said. "Restoring stability to Afghanistan turned out to be a bigger job than anyone imagined." The administration also has been slowed down by bin Laden's disappearance. But Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney personalized the chase of bin Laden months ago. Bush said he wanted the terrorist leader captured "dead or alive" as in the old Wild West wanted posters, and Cheney wanted his "head on a platter."

Army professionals knew that snaring one man in a country of 275,000 square miles filled with wild mountains, porous borders and thousands of his followers would be hard if not impossible. But as the months have gone forward, bin Laden's capture has become synonymous with victory.

Though Franks said the U.S. mission in Afghanistan was not completed after 90 days, "I will tell you that our assessment, based on numbers killed, captured, and so forth, is that the Taliban is certainly out of business as a coherent government."

Franks says elements of al-Qaeda have been destroyed, "and we believe the al-Qaeda which is in Afghanistan is on the run."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The United States has intelligence operations in those four nations, selected because they expressed willingness to cooperate. Their countries have vast lawless areas where al-Qaeda and other terrorist cells are known to have operated, well-placed administration and...
Wednesday, 09 January 2002 12:00 AM
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