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WWT: World War On Terrorism, Part II

Posted December 21, 2001 11:44 a.m. EST

— Things have been going very well for the American-led coalition on the war against terrorism. Recent events in Afghanistan would signal there is much reason for optimism.

First, the Taliban-controlled city of Mazar-e Sharif in the northern sector of Afghanistan fell. Then like a series of dominoes, Herat in the west, Konduz in the North and the capital city of Kabul also fell to the anti-Taliban and American-led coalition forces. All along the way the Taliban forces in Afghanistan were losing their grip and their power.

It took a few more weeks of intense bombing in Kandahar province before the Taliban's last refuge -- and most important city -- Kandahar was taken by anti-Taliban forces under the leadership of the prime minister-in-waiting Hamid Karzai. But what happened to the Taliban leadership?

Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban, escaped capture with the fall of the city. Although he may still be in a secret redoubt within the city, he may also have fled to the tunnels and caves in the Tora Bora region ... and maybe even to Pakistan. There is also speculation that he "cut a deal" with the Pashtun anti-Taliban forces as the city was about to fall.

Where is Omar? I don't know. I am confident however that he will be found. I am equally confident that when found, if alive, he will face justice, American style. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has made it abundantly clear that the United States wants Mullah Omar. We also have other objectives.

Shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America, President George W. Bush stated three objectives of the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan -- destroy the Taliban hold on Afghanistan, destroy the al-Qaida network worldwide, and capture or kill Osama bin Laden.

In the first 100 days, one of the objectives has been met. The Taliban as an effective organized entity has been destroyed. No longer are their "laws" and edicts being promulgated throughout Afghanistan. No longer do they possess any real estate or quasi-governmental functions. Any semblance of their governing has been eliminated.

Although they can no longer function as an organized entity, there is still much to fear in the days, weeks and months ahead. We must remain vigilant and concerned. The Taliban ideology and many who would espouse it further, in spite of their defeats to date, have not been eliminated.

There will always be some extreme believers in any ideology who will not succumb to more rational thinking. I sense this is a concern in Afghanistan, as well as bordering Pakistan and Iran where Taliban believers may have fled. They can continue to harass governments and people, and use terrorist tactics on a somewhat smaller scale. We must insure there is no "state support" for their activities.

In recent days we have also learned of some success in the pursuit of the second objective, i.e. destroying the al-Qaida network. Apparently, the al-Qaida members, mostly of non-Afghan origin, have retreated to the caves and tunnels in the mountains in eastern Afghanistan nearby the Pakistan border.

Some have been killed by around-the-clock bombing in the Tora Bora and White Mountain areas. Others will suffer the same demise in days to come. Some will surrender to the anti-Taliban Afghan forces in the region. Some, I suspect, have successfully fled to Pakistan across a border that is virtually impossible to defend.

Those al-Qaida members who have fled Afghanistan will carry their ideology and their loyalty to Osama bin Laden with them. They may very well choose to fight another day in some other country where they can find a safe haven for their terrorist activities. This remains a major concern! Even if bin Laden is captured or killed, I am confident his most loyal followers who do survive will seek to do us harm.

Already pundits and politicians alike are looking to the next step in this world war on terrorism. They are visualizing success in Afghanistan in less that 100 days. They recall the 100 hour ground war in the Persian Gulf a decade ago and sense this war will be over quickly also. I don't agree. There remains much to be done.

The coalition working with the Afghan natives must destroy all of al-Quaida's cells within Afghanistan. Whether they are killed or captured, they must be destroyed as an effective terrorist organization. They cannot be permitted to melt into the towns and villages from where they can project terrorist acts. They cannot be permitted to flee to adjacent countries.

Similarily, bin Laden must be captured or killed. It is now clear that he not only approved of the Sept. 11 attacks on America, he planned them. As long as he is neither dead nor in custody, he will plan other dastardly terror attacks. I suspect he already has some on the books waiting to be executed.

The war on terrorism is not over ... it has barely started.