|After Afghanistan, Where, Who?|
The Taliban have fled Kandahar and Interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai told CNN, "The Taliban authority is effectively finished." If Osama bin Laden is hiding in the Tora Bora mountains as believed, he will be found. Then what? Where and who should the U.S. target next in the war against terrorism?
Saddam Hussein, America's defeated Gulf War enemy, yet still leader of Iraq, continues to defy President Bush's demand that United Nations inspectors be allowed to search for weapons of mass destruction. The White House contends that recent intelligence leaves little doubt that Iraq's biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs, known to have been underway at the start of the Gulf War, have now been "reinvigorated" by Hussein.
On December 6, the Washington Post reported that ten Congressional leaders had sent a letter to President Bush urging him to make Iraq and the Saddam Hussein regime the next target of the war on terrorism. "As we work to clean up Afghanistan and destroy al Qaeda, it is imperative that we plan to eliminate the threat from Iraq," stated the lawmakers' letter. Among Congress members signing the letter were Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.); Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.); the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms (N.C.); Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.); House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.); and the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard C. Shelby (Ala.).
"He [Saddam Hussein] is one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth, and I would not expect the slightest drop of the milk of human kindness to be flowing in his veins." - Secretary of State Colin Powell, Sept. 13, 2001
Infamous terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have recently ramped up their deadly suicide bombing attacks against Israel. The Israelis, for the first time not advised by the U.S. to "use restraint," have retaliated with airstrikes against Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's helicopters, headquarters and private guards in Gaza City and the West Bank.
Arafat has been told by President Bush to take "decisive action" against terrorists in his country, but finds himself walking a tightrope between beleaguered leader, struggling to fight terrorism and, well... a terrorist himself, in the eyes of the White House. Under pressure mainly from the U.S., Arafat has arrested terrorist leaders in the past only to release them later.
"Now more than ever, Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority must demonstrate through their actions, and not merely their words, their commitment to fight terror." - President Bush, Dec. 1, 2001
Anti-American sentiments run high in Pakistan where some 14 million Pakistanis (about 10 percent of the population) are reported to claim allegiance to the Taliban. In addition, many of the Taliban defenders of Kandahar in Afghanistan will return to Pakistan if allowed to do so under the terms of surrender.
Indian news services have reported finding evidence that funds from within the Pakistani government were diverted without the knowledge of President Musharraf to help pay for the 9-11-01 attacks on the U.S.
While Musharref has pledged to support the U.S., powerful dissident groups are struggling to topple his rule and split Pakistan into two distinct ethnic states. The result being a bloody civil war inside a country that possesses nuclear weapons and harbors many anti-American groups. Sound dangerous?
"Taleban [sic] supporters in western Pakistan have been holding rallies at which many have signed up for what they consider a new holy war against the US..." - BBC News, Oct. 24, 2001
Not over 'till it's over
On September 20, 2001 President Bush promised the American people, "Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated." [Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People]