Archive for Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Other groups, including Philippines guerrillas, will be targeted

November 21, 2001


— Even as U.S. and British commandos pursue Osama bin Laden and the remnants of his inner circle, the second phase of the U.S.-led military campaign against the al-Qaida terrorist network has begun far from the mountains of Afghanistan.

The new phase, said senior administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, is aimed at eradicating al-Qaida cells, operations and allied terrorist groups elsewhere in Asia and in the Middle East, North Africa and perhaps even on the high seas.

Only after bin Laden's global network of Islamic extremists has been "torn up root and branch" is the United States likely to turn its attention to alleged state sponsors of terrorism, such as Iraq and Syria, said one official.

Planning for the second phase of the U.S.-led drive began weeks ago, when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld directed the chiefs of the U.S. military commands around the world to draw up counterterrorism strategies in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

As part of the effort, the officials said, the United States is to provide intelligence, equipment and training to help the Philippines crush Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic guerrilla group with links to al-Qaida.

President Bush and Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo discussed the issue Tuesday at the White House.

The United States will assist Arroyo "in any way she suggests," Bush said.

U.S. military planners have also drafted plans for possible direct action against training camps, bases, personnel and other targets belonging to al-Qaida and allied groups in other parts of the world, the officials said.

One plan calls for Navy commandos, known as SEALs, to board and seize small coastal freighters that U.S. intelligence officials believe al-Qaida is using to smuggle weapons from the Arabian Peninsula to Islamic militants in Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, they said.

U.S. officials have also been discussing possible joint military operations with officials from Germany, France and other countries.

At the same time, the officials said, U.S. intelligence, financial and law enforcement officials will continue pursuing al-Qaida members, communications and financing in the United States, Western Europe and elsewhere.

"Where the law can be an effective weapon, we're using it," said one senior official. "Where we can't count on the government to enforce the law, or where there isn't any law, we're prepared to act ourselves or with our friends."

Helping the Philippines crush the Abu Sayyaf is among the early priorities.

"There is no question but there has been a good deal of interaction between the terrorists in the Philippines and al-Qaida and people in Iraq and people in other terrorist-sponsoring states over the years," Rumsfeld said on Tuesday.

Abu Sayyaf is holding hostages, including an American missionary couple, Martin and Grace Burnham of Wichita, Kan.

Expanding the war against terrorism will require the United States to forge new or closer relations with countries and militaries with unsavory human rights records.

Closer ties with Algeria, Ethiopia or the Indonesian military, for instance, could fuel criticism of the United States in many parts of the world. But U.S. officials said those concerns are secondary to the fight against terrorism.

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