Another Pearl Harbor- Sixty years after Japanese aircraft bombed Pearl Harbor and killed over two thousand Americans, terrorists hijacked airliners and rammed them into the two World Trade Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington. The death toll was far higher than Pearl Harbor. Within hours of the Japanese attack, Japan declared war. But in the style of 21st century terrorism, no one immediately took credit for the September 11, 2001 attacks. There have been attacks like this before. It was known which terrorist organizations were eager to make such attacks, and in the months following the attacks the culprits were discovered and many of them eventually captured, tried and sent to prison. There has never been a Pearl Harbor class attack before, so no one knows how this will play out. The original Pearl Harbor galvanized the nation and led to a war effort that crushed Japan 45 months later. But what do you do when you dont know who attacked you? The most likely suspect is the Osama Bin Laden organization operating out of Afghanistan. There is no recognized government in Afghanistan. The Taliban, a radical Islamic organization, controls most of Afghanistan, but an anti-Taliban organization, the Northern Alliance, controls the rest and is waging a low level civil war with the Taliban. To further complicate the situation, Ahmed Shah Masood, the leader of the Northern Alliance, was the victim of an assassination attempt on September 9th.
The Taliban have consistently refused to surrender Osama Bin Laden. To go in and get Bin Laden, and break up the headquarters of his organization, is complicated by the fact that Afghanistan is in Central Asia, with no access to the ocean. The most likely nation to allow access to American troops is Tajikistan, to the north. But to get to Tajikistan would require the cooperation of Russia. Two other neighbors of Afghanistan represent interesting situations. Pakistan, to the east, is the only major nation to recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan. Pakistan is beset by radical Islamic groups and is unlikely to allow American troops in. To the west is Iran, where Islamic radicals have veto power over government decisions. While Iran is fighting a low level war with Afghan drug gangs on the border, and many Iranians would like to see a less fanatic government in Afghanistan, its unlikely American troops would be allowed to pass through on their way to Afghanistan. So this leaves Tajikistan, and Russia.
Russia and America have already been working together to contain the Bin Laden organization for over a year. Russia might not mind going into Afghanistan with American troops, as long we did most of the heavy lifting. Viewing the September 11th attack, most Russians would be eager to see something done to prevent anyone from taking a shot at Russian targets. Russian president Putin condemned the attack in strong terms and grounded some commercial flights and put some military units on alert.
Militarily, fighting in Afghanistan is a basically light infantry warfare. There are no railroads and few hard surfaced roads. American troops would have to fly in most of their supplies, or truck them in from Russian built railroads in Tajikistan. .The Armys new medium brigades are the most likely forces that could be flown to Tajikistan quickly. These brigades could go into Afghanistan, but lacking an agreement with the Northern Alliance, US troops would be operating under a big disadvantage. The Taliban are formidable opponents on their own ground. They have been fighting for two decades. They know how to operate in the hills and valleys of Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance could provide guides and expert advice on how to fight the Taliban. But if Northern Alliance leader Masood dies, the alliance could come apart. Masood was the kind of larger than life leader that personally overcame factional animosities and kept the organization going.
The Taliban rule most of Afghanistan not because they are ruthless tyrants, but because they brought a measure of peace to a nation torn by war since the 1970s. The Taliban base their power on strict adherence to Islamic (Sharia) law. Many, probably a majority, of Afghans support the Taliban. This is particularly true for the rural population, which has always been more conservative and religious. Afghans have long fought each other, usually clans or regional groups engaging in feuds. Traditionally, most Afghans will unite in opposing foreign invaders. Americans coming in looking for Osama Bin Laden will not find a lot of friendly Afghans.
Shutting down the Bin Laden organization will reduce world terrorism, but it wont eliminate it. The growth of Islamic terrorism over the last half century springs from two sources. First, there is the lack of good government in most Islamic nations. Corruption and tyranny has turned many Moslems to terror. But rather than blaming their own inept leaders, the radicals blame the West. Turning their search for social justice into a holy war on the non-Islamic world, the radicals seek to make flashy, but pointless, attacks on symbols of Western imperialism. Feeding into this is the dispute between Israel and Palestinians. The Palestinian situation is seen as a prime example of Western oppression of Islamic peoples. Westerners dont realize how intense feelings are in the Arab world on this issue. As the killings go on in Israel, people line up in Islamic nations to volunteer to be suicide bombers. Bin Laden has plugged into these feelings, using excellent management and technical skills organize these intense feelings into spectacular terror attacks. Eliminate Bin Laden, and there still remains the raw material for another Bin Laden to come along and organize. Dealing with Japan and the
much can be carried on) as well as increased use of profiling.