As the United States and other freedom loving nations prepare to commemorate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and western Pennsylvania, in which close to 3,000 innocents were killed, there is growing evidence that Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of world terrorism, is also gearing up for the anniversary.
And once again, it appears that bin Laden intends to direct his Al-Qaida terrorist network from inside Afghanistan. The news dispatches from that war-torn country point to increased activity by leaders of Al-Qaida and the Taliban, Islamic extremists who took control of Afghanistan shortly after the Soviet Union pulled out in 1989. The Taliban not only drove Afghanistan back to the stone age, but leaders embraced bin Laden and Al-Qaida. The Taliban government was ousted in December by a U.S.-led international military force that defined President George W. Bush's global war on terrorism.
Turn of events
But while an interim government led by President Hamid Karzai is now in place and the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom continues to target the remnants of Al-Qaida and the Taliban, the almost daily reports of violence, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries, point to a disturbing turn of events. While the Bush administration kept insisting that the capture or death of bin Laden and members of his inner circle were not essential to the success of the war on terrorism, it is now clear that the president and his military advisers were premature in declaring victory in Afghanistan.
The Christian Science Monitor story published on the front page of Friday's Vindicator contains the following assessment from Brig. Rahmatullah Rawand, chief of military intelligence for the Afghan Ministry of Defense in Kunar Province: "Al-Qaida has regrouped, together with the Taliban, Kashmiri militants and other radical Islamic parties, and they are just waiting for the command to start operations. Right now they are trying to find anti-aircraft missiles that are capable of hitting America's B-52 bombers. When they find those, they will bring them here."
It should be noted that the success of the initial campaign that resulted in the Taliban's ouster and bin Laden's fleeing to Pakistan was due to the sustained, heavy aerial bombing of terrorist training and camp sites. But if bin Laden is able to get missiles -- he is shopping in China -- then America's advantage would be greatly diminished.
For that reason -- and to ensure that next month's tribute to those killed last year is not overshadowed by another major terrorist attack -- the Bush administration should give U.S. troops and the intelligence community the green light to hunt down bin Laden, his lieutenants, and the Taliban leaders and bring them to justice "dead or alive." Those were the words the president used when he declared that bin Laden was America's No. 1 enemy.
The capture or death of bin Laden and his cohorts would certainly be a fitting tribute to those who perished in the cowardly terrorist attacks last September.