Whereas the Pakistani President, General Pervez Musharraf, announced Monday (Sep.17) that a delegation of Pakistani officials flied to the Taliban’s headquarters in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar to renew demands that the militia surrender Mr. Osama Bin Laden, a Pakistani newspaper (: The Dawn) reported that the Taliban border-guards have installed 12.7 mm anti-aircraft guns close to the border with Pakistan. Commenting this move, a Pakistani official says: ” The light anti-aircraft guns may not mean much in military terms, but this is something very symbolic… The guns have been positioned in the direction of Pakistan and this means something.”
For the external observers, expecting a result from the Pakistani meddling with the Taliban, the aforementioned move means only one thing: the militia will not yield. Moreover, Pakistan has already put its army on alert ahead of a possible US attack on neighboring Afghanistan. General Musharraf turned towards China, which has supplied Pakistan with military hardware and other support in recent years, in an attempt to obtain some backing for his decision to offer airspace and intelligence to the USA.
A regional configuration is thus to be set up, where we would find several players, with sometimes opposed interests, while the USA would have the main part. And while trying to find allies and support for its martial build-up, Washington would perhaps discover new priorities for its defense policy.
For example, while Iran is said to have sealed off its long border with Afghanistan, some American officials declared to the New York Times (Sep.17) that ” they do not exclude cooperating with Iran, a supporter of the anti-Taliban insurgents”. But the religious Iranian leader Ali Khameinei, who rejected any American intervention in Afghanistan, has quickly turned down this American opening. Nevertheless, the Iranian position means a lot to America, but it is unlikely that President Khatami could overstep the supreme spiritual leader of this country, as to allow some kind of help to the Americans. His Foreign minister, Kamal Kharazi told CNN: ” We do not believe just in order to punish a bunch of terrorists it is legitimate to attack a country”. And obviously, the Iranians are not alone to hold such a position.
Most striking is the fact that Washington is today discovering – unfortunately over a distressing tragedy – that Iraq is perhaps not the most important of its enemies. Mr. Dick Cheney made sure that there is no indication of any Iraqi involvement in New York and Washington terrorist attacks: ” Saddam Hussein’s bottled up at this point “, he said. The same remarks were pointed out also by Mr. Colin Powel. Yet, the complexity of the terrorist problem is perhaps leading the Americans to the statement that there are more dangerous and less vulnerable enemies than the exhausted Iraq. The followers of Bin Laden are deemed to be among those obstreperous foes.
However, if the latter seem to the American officials more dangerous and less vulnerable, it is because of the volatile aspect of the terrorism. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld explained this point of view on the Fox News Channel, when he said: ” The terrorist organizations themselves and the terrorists don’t have targets of high value “. This may lead us to think that a modern army, like the US, can perhaps not be as efficient on this ground as it may be while fighting against another army. For what would the US army find in Afghanistan?
There are two kinds of answers to this question. Nikolai Kovaliov, former head of the Russian Federal Security Service, a successor agency to the KGB, gave the first. He declared in an interview in Moscow:
“We must learn from the lessons of history. We have not been able to solve the problems of terrorism by large-scale bombing”. And he adds:
” The first mistake would be large scale land operations… In the mountains there, it is impossible to determine where or what to destroy.” (The Washington Post. Sep.17).
The second answer may be found in an article written by an Afghan-American: Mr. Tamim Ansary, who says: ” I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age…Trouble is, that’s been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the Afghans suffer? They’re already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and healthcare? Too late…” (Salon.com).
As to Bin Laden himself, reports say that he has already abandoned his main base near Kandahar and took refuge in the mountains. Worst: Mr. Cheney declared on Monday that the US was not even sure that Mr. Bin Laden is still in Afghanistan!
So, whom are they going to bomb?
It is utterly astonishing to read these days such sentences as: “Terrorist organizations lack the intelligence-gathering capacity that nations possess”! For after the attacks in the heart of America, there are still people who believe in “Papa Noel!” They would be much more inspired if they ask themselves about that monstrous failure of the Nations’ intelligence. I am not speaking only of the CIA, the FBI, and the rest of the American agencies, but also of the Europeans and the allies’ intelligence institutions. Where were they? How come that they saw and heard nothing, despite all the means in their hands?
Now, it is said that the Pentagon is drawing up ” high end” and “low end” options for military action.
The “high end” options include air strikes against countries that support terrorists, while “low end” plans include the use of Special Forces to capture or kill terrorist leaders, such as Osama Bin Laden.
About the “low end” plans, I have no comment. But for God’s sake, just tell us which countries the “high end” means!
What if Iran, for instance, changes its mind and at last accepts to help the US in Afghanistan? Would the Bush administration dismiss completely its grievances against Teheran? Would it wipe it off the black list of the “terrorist” states?
Then, let’s be more matter-of-fact. You know that it is well the CIA that armed and trained the fighters who have joined Osama Bin Laden, to drive the Russians out of Afghanistan. These are not dozens or hundreds, but likely thousands of militiamen who formed the organization called Al-Qaeda (: The base). According to a Jane’s Security report (: 26 July 2001), Al-Qaeda is a conglomerate of groups spread throughout the world operating as a network. It has a global reach, ” with a presence in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Jordan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Syria, Xinjiang in China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Mindanao in the Philippines, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Dagestan, Kashmir, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Azerbaijan, Eritrea, Uganda, Ethiopia, and in the West Bank and Gaza.”
If the information of this report is accurate, what would be the point behind striking Afghanistan, if the head of the network is not located, and moreover, if the network itself is so wide spread? Would the US strike every country aforementioned, because of the presence of Bin Laden’s followers? Or would it seek long-term cooperation to suppress – or at least to contain – this cancer of modern times, which is terrorism?
Whether the Taliban would surrender Bin Laden or not seems almost pointless, as we know two key- elements of the answer:
1) Giving him up could be military suicide for the Taliban. The latter still have several front lines north of Kabul, where thousands of their Arab allies and Islamic guerillas from countries such as Uzbekistan, Pakistan and the breakaway republic of Chechnya are battling an anti-Taliban alliance. It is believed that the foreign militants might abandon their fight if the Taliban give in to the demands for Bin Laden’s surrender.
2) The American administration may think that either way, the Taliban are condemned to cooperation or to suicide. And it is indubitable that even without the last blast in America, they are no longer tolerable. Apart from the destruction of the world’s tallest standing statues of Buddha, the Taliban perpetrated another unforgivable outrage. Eight foreign employees – from international aid groups- including two Americans, are still held in custody under the charges of proselytizing.
Thus, if the Bush administration is going to wage war against Afghanistan, nobody can hinder it. Yet, one must not omit that a single country does not shelter all the terrorism. Many others, among them allies of the USA, give the terrorists a ground for their criminal activity, without even knowing it. The failure of the entire Western intelligence network is merely shameful, because of all the money it pumps out of the taxpayers. And when we know that the terrorists have lived quietly among ordinary folk in Europe and in the USA, without being detected, we can’t help but wonder about the utility of all the complicated security system in these countries. And more to the point, maybe it is time to ask the inevitable question:
What if the nations’ intelligence agencies are infiltrated?
Hichem Karoui is a writer and journalist living in Paris, France.