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29 Jan 04,, 05:25
Pentagon Plans Afghan Spring Offensive

By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer

"WASHINGTON - The Pentagon (news - web sites) is planning a new offensive in the 2-year-old Afghanistan (news - web sites) campaign to stop remnants of the Taliban regime and the al-Qaida terror network, officials said Wednesday, even as a second suicide assault on foreign troops in Kabul in as many days killed one British soldier and injured four.

The attack on international peacekeepers in Kabul, the Afghan capital, drew new attention to a worsening security situation in a country where American and other Western troops have been stationed since the fall of the Taliban's leadership in early 2002.

Rebels' use of roadside explosives and car bombs in the recent wave of attacks has led to new comparisons with the insurgency in Iraq

At the Pentagon, orders have been issued to prepare equipment and supplies for the coming offensive, although the operation will not necessarily require additional troops in the region, a defense official said on condition of anonymity. The upcoming operation, first reported by the Chicago Tribune, has been dubbed the "spring offensive."

Another Pentagon official declined to discuss the possibility that troops would extend operations to the Pakistan side of the border, where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) and top lieutenants have long been said to be hiding. But the official said that might have to be the next step.

Defense Department officials believe current operations in Afghanistan are not having the effect they want on the terrorist network and they are determined to do more, the official said.

Officials already have said they hope to finally capture bin Laden this year, a development that could benefit President Bush (news - web sites) in the November election. About 11,000 U.S. troops are in the region.

One senior defense official said Pentagon leaders determined a couple of months ago that it is important to catch bin Laden, more for the symbolism than for his military value.

"I can say that Osama bin Laden and (and former Taliban leader) Mullah Omar represent a threat to the world, and they need to be destroyed, and we believe we will catch them in the next year," Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, a spokesman for military forces in the region, told CNN.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, said last month that hundreds of al-Qaida fighters still appear to be active in Khost and neighboring provinces on the long Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The area has seen a wave of attacks this year by insurgents believed to be a mix of Taliban, al-Qaida and fighters loyal to renegade Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

More than 140 people have been killed and injured since the Jan. 4 ratification of a new Afghan constitution that took effect this week, and which the Western-backed Afghan government hopes can unite the country after nearly a quarter-century of fighting.

Until now, the suicide attacks on foreign soldiers that have proven so deadly in Iraq have been relatively rare in Afghanistan. But last fall, the commander of the international force, German Lt. Gen. Goetz Gliemeroth, warned that a "new species" of terrorist had infiltrated the capital.

The suicide attack on Wednesday that killed a British soldier and injured four others came during a memorial ceremony for a Canadian soldier killed the day before. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both bombings.

The British soldier died after a yellow and white taxi carrying 200 pounds of explosives blew up near his open-topped Land Rover at about 11 a.m. in the eastern outskirts of Kabul, said Nayamatullah Jalili, intelligence chief at the Interior Ministry. He said an Afghan was also killed apparently the assailant.

"The preliminary investigation suggests it was a suicide attack," Jalili said.

Four other British soldiers were wounded, two of them seriously, Col. Mike Griffiths, commander of the 300-strong British contingent in the NATO (news - web sites)-led peacekeeping force, said at a news conference in its fortified headquarters. He declined to identify any of the British soldiers or their unit.

An Afghan translator also was wounded.

The Tribune said officials are particularly determined to hit al-Qaida hard in coming months partly because of concerns over two recent assassination attempts against Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, whose role as a major U.S. ally in the war on terror has angered Islamic extremists."

Been hearing rumors of this for a while now.

29 Jan 04,, 09:46
The 'controversial' part of this 'plan' is that the US will launch attacks into Pakistan itself.

This article kinda buries that part of it....but that's what i've been hearing for weeks on end now.

That we'll be launching a major attack into Pakistan.

29 Jan 04,, 14:53
You'd think that President Musharraf would give his blressing...and maybe lend some troops to help out after extremists have tried to kill him twice already.

Officer of Engineers
29 Jan 04,, 14:59
Originally posted by Lunatock
You'd think that President Musharraf would give his blressing...and maybe lend some troops to help out after extremists have tried to kill him twice already.


U.S. plans Al Qaeda offensive

The Bush administration, deeply concerned about recent assassination attempts against Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and a resurgence of Taliban forces in neighboring Afghanistan, is preparing a U.S. military offensive that would reach inside Pakistan with the goal of destroying Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, military sources said.

U.S. Central Command is assembling a team of military intelligence officers that would be posted in Pakistan ahead of the operation, according to sources familiar with details of the plan and internal military communications. The sources spoke on the condition they not be identified.

As now envisioned, the offensive would involve Special Operations forces, Army Rangers and Army ground troops, sources said. A Navy aircraft carrier would be deployed in the Arabian Sea.

Referred to in internal Pentagon messages as the "spring offensive," the operation would be driven by certain undisclosed events in Pakistan and across the region, sources said. A source familiar with details of the plan said this is "not like a contingency plan for North Korea, something that sits on a shelf. This planning is like planning for Iraq. They want this plan to be executable, now."

The Defense Department declined to comment on the planned offensive or its details.

Such an operation almost certainly would demand the cooperation of Musharraf, who previously has allowed only a small number of U.S. Special Operations forces to work alongside Pakistani troops in the semi-autonomous tribal areas. A military source in Washington said last week, "We are told we're going into Pakistan with Musharraf's help."

Yet a large-scale offensive by U.S. forces within the nuclear-armed Islamic republic could be political dynamite for Musharraf.

The army general, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999, has come under growing political pressure from Islamic parties, and his cooperation with U.S. anti-terrorism efforts is widely unpopular among average Pakistanis. Nor can Musharraf count on the loyalty of all of Pakistan's armed forces or its intelligence agency, members of which helped set up and maintain the Taliban in Afghanistan and are suspected of ties to militant Islamic groups.

Speaking on Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Musharraf again rejected the need for U.S. forces to enter Pakistan to search for bin Laden.

"That is not a possibility at all," Musharraf said. "It's a very sensitive issue."

The U.S. military is operating under the belief that, despite his recent statements, Musharraf's thinking has changed, sources said. Musharraf said last week that bin Laden and his followers likely were hiding in the mountains along the Afghan border. He also said "we are reasonably sure that it is Al Qaeda" who was behind the two attempts on his life.

An offensive into Pakistan to pursue Al Qaeda would be in keeping with President Bush's vow to strike wherever and whenever the United States feels threatened and to pursue terrorist elements to the end.

"The best way to defend America . . . is to stay on the offensive and find these killers, one by one," Bush said last week. "We're going to stay on the hunt, which requires good intelligence, good cooperation, good participation with friends and allies around the world."

Musharraf's vulnerability is of deep concern to U.S. officials. If he were killed, Bush administration officials say, it is unlikely that any successor would be as willing to work toward U.S. goals to eliminate Islamic extremists.

The U.S. military plan is characterized within the Pentagon as "a big effort" in the next year. Military analysts had previously judged that a bold move against Islamic extremists and bin Laden, in particular, was more likely to happen in spring 2005.

A series of planning orders--referred to in military jargon as warning orders--for the offensive were issued in recent weeks. The deadline for key planning factors to be detailed by the U.S. military was Jan. 21.

Sources said the plan against Al Qaeda would be driven by events in the region rather than set deadlines and that delays could occur. But military sources said the push for this spring appeared to be triggered by the assassination attempts on Musharraf, both of which came in December, and, to some extent, the capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Hussein was captured after eight months of an intense military and intelligence effort on the ground in Iraq. Pentagon and administration officials, buoyed by that success, believe a similar determined effort could work in Pakistan and lead to the capture or killing of bin Laden, said sources familiar with the planning.

Thousands of U.S. forces would be involved, as well as Pakistani troops, planners said. Some of the 10,600 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan would be shifted to the border region as part of regular troop movements; some would be deployed within Pakistan.

"Before we were constrained by the border. Musharraf did not want that. Now we are told we're going into Pakistan with Musharraf's help," a well-placed military source said.

Internal Pentagon communications indicate the U.S. offensive would rely on several areas of operation, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in the region.

The U.S. also is weighing how and if Iran can be persuaded, through direct or indirect channels, to lend help, according to internal Pentagon communications. The U.S. is eager to avoid a repeat of the Afghan war in 2001, when some Al Qaeda fighters were believed to have escaped into Iran.

Military planners said the offensive would not require a significant increase in U.S. troops in South Asia. But Special Operations forces that shifted from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2003 will return.

"We don't have enough forces but we can rely on proxy forces in that area," said a military source, referring to Pakistani troops. "This is designed to go after the Taliban and everybody connected with it."