Bush Presses Worldwide War

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 8 Mar 2002 08:03:02 -0000

WASHINGTON (UPI) -- With only the barest whisper of public dissent,
America's military presence abroad has in just five months achieved
greater reach than at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union
and the end of the Gulf War. 

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Though the numbers of U.S. forces abroad is no where near the Cold War
totals, in the war on terrorism, the U.S. has deployed armed units in
places they have never been, in countries that were once enemies and
into several long standing civil wars. 

President Bush, who came to office wary of the number of troops we had
in Bosnia and other deployments, now finds himself a commander-in-chief
of small units operating from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia to
the Philippine Islands. 

Some 4,000 U.S. airmen, soldiers and sailors are currently in
Afghanistan, conducting joint operations against remnants of the
country's extremist Taliban regime and the al Qaida terrorist network of
Osama bin Laden, blamed by Washington for the Sept. 11 on New York and
Washington that cost nearly 3,000 lives. 

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of others are in neighboring Pakistan
providing support for Operation Enduring Freedom, and thousands more are
aboard about a dozen U.S. warships - including two carrier battle groups
-- nearby in the northern Arabian Sea. 

Troops of the 10th Mountain Division are north of Afghanistan in
Uzbekistan, and several hundred soldiers are in Kyrgyzstan, improving
airport facilities for handling U.S. aircraft. A U.S. military
assessment team visited Tajikistan late last year after it reportedly
offered the use of some air facilities, but the follow up has not been

Total U.S. forces in the region controlled by Central Command, including
the Gulf from where the United States enforces sanctions on Iraq, now
number more than 60,000, according to Pentagon figures. 

More are heading to Georgia, a geographically strategic former Soviet
republic in the Caucuses bordering Russia's troublesome Chechnya region,
to train troops to fight Islamic terrorists with al Qaida ties, and
hundreds of others are tipped for Yemen in the Gulf in a similar role. 

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, meanwhile, has said Special Forces
units travel in and out of northern Iraq, where Iraq's dissident Kurds
are arrayed against the forces of Saddam Hussein. 

Farther still, 600 soldiers are in the Philippines helping local forces
combat al Qaida-connected Muslim separatists. 

Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, ranking minority member of the
Senate Armed Services Committee, told United Press International that
although there is danger in sending U.S. forces to so many places, the
bigger danger was in not doing so. 

"I see far more danger by not doing it than in sending our trained
forces to train other forces in those countries to defend themselves
against terrorism," he said. 

The deployments for training other militaries, he stressed, were in
partnership with the host governments. 

In all, Operation Enduring Freedom is a giant and expensive undertaking,
The conflict abroad, combined with military efforts at home -- providing
air cover over major cities, detailing National Guard troops to airports
-- topped $10 billion at the end of January. Deputy Defense Secretary
Paul Wolfowitz says it will surpass $30 billion by the end of the fiscal

The operations tempo for involved units is grueling. Air Force's Air
Mobility Command, responsible for transporting cargo and troops to
Operation Enduring Freedom forces, reports hauling 127,000 tons of cargo
since the war began, plus some 65,000 passengers. The number of flights
of cargo aircraft: more than 4,700 for about 99,000 flight hours, and
the meter is still ticking. 

The Pentagon also reports a large mobilization of National Guard and
Reserve units -- the backbone of logistics and other support functions
in a downsized military -- in support of the war abroad and at home.
Army National Guard and Reserves activated as of Feb. 20 totaled 24,160;
the Navy activated 10,597 Reservists and the Marine Corps 4,388. 

The Air Force has activated 35,241 Air National Guard and Reserve
personnel, while the Coast Guard and called in 1,888 Reservists. 

If the Somalia peacekeeping operation, in which 18 U.S. soldiers died in
a Mogadishu firefight in October 1993 bred new hesitancy in committing
ground troops in far-flung places, Operation Enduring Freedom in
Afghanistan has done the opposite - it has stoked the fire for
pre-emptive engagement. 

The cost in human life this week began edging higher than the Somalia
debacle -- more than 40 U.S. military people killed in combat or
accidents, and more likely as fierce fighting continues in Eastern
Afghanistan against al Qaida and Taliban holdouts. 

More such battles can be anticipated. Heavy bombing, anti-Taliban
battlefield gains and the insertion of U.S. and allied troops may have
demolished the infrastructure of the two organizations and destroyed to
scattered its forces, but current fighting in the hills and mountains of
Eastern Afghanistan show the conflict there is far from won. 

"The local (Muslim) fundamentalists have called a jihad against the
Americans and their coalition partners, and they have been fueling,
infiltrating fighters into this area," said Army Maj. Gen. Franklin L.
Hagenback, in charge of the offensive south of the city of Gardez. 

President Bush is undeterred. While mourning the loss of U.S. service
personnel, he has made it clear the war against terrorism will continue
as long as necessary and wherever necessary. 

"This is a new kind of war," President Bush said recently. "... The best
way to secure the homeland is to chase down those that would harm us and
bring them to justice, and that is precisely what the United States of
America is going to do. It doesn't matter how long it takes, it doesn't
matter where we have to go." 

The exact number of Afghanis killed is not known, but it is believed in
the thousands. 

"Instead of concentrating on completing our operations in Afghanistan,
the Pentagon seems to be looking for opportunities to stay longer and
expand our presence in the region," Democrat West Virginia Sen. Robert
Byrd said last week. "We seem to be good at developing entrance
strategies but not on developing exit strategies." 

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., later chimed, saying more
congressional oversight of the conflict was required. 

"I think the Democrats feel that morally, as well as for other reasons,
there needs to be a dialogue on the war," said Celinda Lake, a
Democratic pollster. "I think we've seen in focus groups that the voters
themselves are becoming more critical, asking why we are sending people
aboard, why are we spending so much money ..." 

Lake said she believes a long-term dialogue on the war and its expansion
would continue up to and possibly through next November's crucial
elections in which the House and Senate majorities hang in the balance. 

Warner, a military veteran and former secretary of the Navy, is up for
re-election in November. He said consultations between Congress and a
president on conflicts varies with each administration. 

"Speaking for myself," he said, "I am satisfied with the level of
content of the consultations" we've had. 

Oversight was also a non-issue, he said. As an example, he pointed out
to committee hearings Thursday with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On
Tuesday, senators held a one-and-a-half hour in the White House with the
president during which the war was discussed. 

"They (the Democrats) are free to bring up anything they want in an
election," Warner added. "I'm perfectly" prepared to argue the war and
its conduct with them. 

A Washington Post poll recently indicated issues such as a faltering
economy, the Enron Corp. energy story and campaign financing -- issues
the Democrats could have used against Republicans -- has failed to stoke
anger or enthusiasm among the U.S. public. 

President Bush, derided during the 2000 campaign for apparent lack of
world knowledge and foreign policy experience, meanwhile commands high
ratings from the public in his conduct of the war, which he has
repeatedly warned will be long-term and without achievement milestones
associated with more traditional conflicts. And he never fails to speak
to the public about the reason American troops are in harm's way.
Indeed, it's the grist of lead-in and exit lines in any speech, whether
the subject is welfare reform or educational initiatives. 

Helping him is his experienced foreign affairs team -- Rumsfeld,
Secretary of State Colin Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza
Rice, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Vice President Dick
Cheney -- whose knowledge issues and skills in troop management from
earlier conflicts offset any deficits in the president's resume. 

A Gallup poll taken March 1-3 for CNN and USA Today showed 78 percent of
Americans rated Bush favorably on foreign affairs, while 64 percent
approved his handling of the economy. The foreign affairs rating was
"the sixth highest Gallup has recorded since it began asking the public
to rate the president on this item in 1971, and is well above the
average foreign affairs approval score of 51percent," Gallup said.
"While Bush's 64 percent economic approval rating is not among the
highest Gallup has obtained since 1971, it is well above the average of
47 percent." 

"I think the least of our problems is to ensure that Congress maintains
its oversight role, but it will certainly emerge and rightly so," said
Jack Spencer, a defense and national security analyst with the
conservative Heritage Foundation. "But Congress has to be careful about
is not to use its oversight function as illegitimate criticism of the
president during wartime." 

Spencer said comparing the war against terrorism to earlier U.S.
military action in the Balkans, in which Republicans demanded a clear
exit strategy, was disingenuous or misinformed. 

"Its not even apples and oranges," he said. "In Bosnia, they were there
to support a humanitarian mission -- nothing more, nothing less -- that
arguably had no bearing on vital national interests. What we are doing
in Afghanistan and the wear on terrorism is reaction to a direct assault
on our country and in protecting quite literally the American way of
life as we know it." 

Other than muted askance and grumbling on Capitol Hill, the only other
noticeable protest against the war, or its conduct, has come from a
student and youth coalition of disparate groups, which announced this
week a mass demonstration against the war. 

Organizers of the April 20 demonstration, complain the climate in the
country has resulted in little news coverage of dissent. 

Spencer and others argue that the biggest challenge for President Bush
domestically in the war is to keep the public from slipping into

"The longer we go without an attack, the more likely that complacency
will occur," he said. "The problem that presents itself to the president
is how do you keep Americans dedicated to the war on terrorism and
supportive of the war on terrorism without scaring them to death. 

"There is a delicate balancing act that needs to be done to educate the
American public to understand the threat so they know we have to remain
committed to this over the long term." 

Earlier this week, seven flag-draped coffins were offloaded from an Air
Force cargo plane in Dover, Del. They contained the bodies of U.S.
troops killed in the past few days in bloody fighting in Eastern
Afghanistan. As the war continues and more body bags are filled,
complacency may not remain a concern. 

Source:  United Press International

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