As the final Taliban-controlled city of Kandahar comes under assault by Afghan rebels and U.S. ground troops, experts are calling the war a success and urging the Bush administration to maintain the coalition.
“So far (the war) has gone more successfully than anyone dared hope in terms of the ease with which the Northern Alliance backed by U.S. air power was able to turn the tables and dislodge the Taliban,” former National Security Adviser Leon Fuerth said.
Fuerth, who advised Vice President Al Gore and served on the Principals’ Committee of the National Security Council, said the U.S. objective should continue to be the destruction of Osama bin Laden’s operational base in and his eventual capture.
Elliot School of International Affairs professor and member of the International Intelligence Council George Fidas said American forces and policy makers will face their greatest challenges in coming weeks.
“Tough times are ahead with U.S. troops on the ground in pursuit of the terrorists . where caves and places like that will be most difficult,” Fidas said.
The administration is currently setting its sights on other regional targets in the ongoing war on terrorism.
“Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there,” President George W. Bush said to a joint session of Congress Sept. 20. “It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”
Last week, Bush called for Saddam Hussein to let weapons inspectors back into Iraq. The call comes three years after United Nations inspectors searching for weapons of mass destruction in Baghdad were forced to leave the country.
Iraq, annually listed by the State Department as sponsor of terrorism, is suspected of stockpiling chemical and biological weapons. The State Department list also includes Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.
Beyond Iraq, recent press reports include Iran, Syria, Somalia and Lebanon as other possible targets in the U.S. war on terrorism.
Iraq will be one of most difficult issues the United States faces because some Arab and European countries are protesting continued sanctions on the Gulf state and the possible use of force if Iraq does not allow weapons inspectors back in, Fidas said.
“It presents a dilemma because you need to maintain the coalition,” Fidas said. “Beyond military retaliation, the U.S. could exert pressure and generate unity with a strong inspection regime.”
Fuerth said the United States has the physical power to act unilaterally but maintaining a coalition will allow it to gain moral, logistical and political support.
“The government has to define the problem in its ability to reach us,” he said. “I don’t know whether you can limit (terrorism) entirely, but one has to try.”