Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Spotlight On Afghanistan And Terror Threat

There are many warnings of a spring offensive by the Taliban out of what has become a privileged sanctuary in the North Waziristan border areas of Pakistan, and both the United States and Britain have increased their forces in Afghanistan to deal with it.

An American brigade of the 10th Mountain Division has been extended in Afghanistan, bringing American strength there to 27,000, one of the largest, if not the largest, American contingent there since the Taliban was ousted in 2001. The British are sending 1,400 more troops, bringing the total of Brits to 7,700. Dutch and Canadian troops are also present in Afghanistan as part of the NATO force, and there are small French, German and Italian contingents which are presently being withheld from combat operations in the south.

This morning, there are headlines about a Taliban suicide attack against the big Bagram AFB north of Kabul at a moment when Vice President Cheney was on the base visiting. Cheney was not hurt, but as many as 23 persons were killed in the attack at the base gate.

There is little question that there is more support in American public opinion for the anti-terror operations in Afghanistan than in Iraq. Even such a devoted war critic as columnist Frank Rich in the New York Times warned in a column Sunday that we must not stint in our efforts against both the Taliban and its Al Qaeda associates, which apparently have set up training camps in Pakistan and where Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda command may be hiding. Democrats in Congress and in the 2008 Presidential race are, in contrast to Iraq, not opposing U.S. operations in Afghanistan, because they realize the threat there exists.

Rich quotes former CIA bin Laden task force head, Michael Scheuer, as predicting on MSNBC that Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders "are going to detonate a nuclear device inside the United States."

There is as yet no evidence that they have such a device to detonate, but it does seem clear that the terrorists are making every attempt to obtain weapons of mass destruction that they can use against America. This would be the ultimate catastrophe in the War on Terror, and undoubtedly would lead to an American nuclear response against Arab and Taliban targets. It would surely turn the present conflict into a world war.

Before he went to Afghanistan, Cheney visited Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and reportedly delivered a strong American warning against further coddling of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The Bush Administration has been alarmed since Musharraf entered into an agreement with the terrorists to withdraw the Pakistani army from the border regions in exchange for a pledge, since proved worthless, to desist from organizing further attacks in Afghanistan.

The duplicity of Muslim extremists is unlimited. They simply cannot be trusted to abandon attacks because of conciliatory moves. We see this also recently in Thailand, where the new military government tried conciliating Muslim separatists in the south, only to see their attacks expanded. The New York Times had an article Monday on an expanding number of murders of Buddhists living in the south of Thailand by the Muslim fanatics. Two thousand have already died in this conflict, which many Americans are unaware of.

Rich is not the only commentator alarmed by the present prospects in Afghanistan, nor the only one to accuse President Bush of fighting the wrong war by concentrating on Iraq, when, as Rich puts it, the headquarters of America's enemies are in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Five years after 9/11, the terrorists would seem to have us just where they want us -- asleep -- even as the system is blinking red once again," he writes.

I'm sure the President is not asleep to the danger. American aid is being stepped up to the Afghan regime of Hamid Karzai.

At the same time, the U.S. must consider an assault by heavy bombing against Al Qaeda and Taliban installations in Pakistan. The problem is this could destabilize the Musharraf regime, and we have to be aware that Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons which we want, at all costs, to prevent falling into terrorist hands. Already suicide bombings have been stepped up against the Pakistan government, an ominous warning.

The only policy to follow with bin Laden and the rest of the terrorist leadership is to find them and kill them. We cannot afford to spare any effort in this regard.



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