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U.S. Helps Other Nations Root Out Terrorists

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 13, 2002 – Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network found a safe haven in Afghanistan. But there will be no more safe havens for terrorists in Afghanistan or anywhere else if the United States can help it.

On March 11, six months after last year's Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush vowed he would not relent in the struggle for the freedom and security of America and the civilized world.

The second stage of the war on terrorism, the president said, calls for "a sustained campaign to deny sanctuary to terrorists who would threaten our citizens from anywhere in the world." Every terrorist, he said, must be forced to live as an international fugitive with "no place to settle or organize, no place to hide, no governments to hide behind, and not even a safe place to sleep."

To make that pledge a reality, defense officials are extending Uncle Sam's help to nations that are working to eliminate terrorists within their borders. Bush said the United States "encourages and expects governments everywhere to help remove the terrorist parasites that threaten their own countries and peace of the world."

U.S. defense leaders aim to train and equip forces in countries facing terrorist threats. U.S. officials are developing military-to-military relations and working with international counterparts to identify and disrupt terrorist networks. The ultimate goal, defense officials say, is to "pursue the nexus of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction" wherever it exists.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld says the al Qaeda network has terrorist cells in as many as 60 countries. "If we have to go into 15 more countries, we ought to do it to deal with the problem of terrorism so we don't allow this problem to damage and kill tens of thousands," he said in January when announcing the deployment of some U.S. troops to the Philippines.

About 500 U.S. service members are now in the Philippines training forces there to fight Abu Sayyaf, a radical Islamic separatist group affiliated with al Qaeda. The group allegedly is pushing to establish an Islamic Republic on islands in the southern Philippines.

State Department officials estimate Abu Sayyaf has about 200 hardcore fighters. The group engages in bombings, assassination, kidnapping and extortion. It is under attack by the Philippine army and police. U.S. forces are training Philippine soldiers, participating in exercises and providing logistics, intelligence and communication support.

At the request of the Republic of Georgia, U.S. defense officials plan to send up to 150 military trainers to prepare Georgian soldiers to control al Qaeda-linked terrorists in an area near the Russian border. U.S. European Command officials, working with Georgian counterparts, are in the early stages of the planning for the train-and-equip program.

In mid-October, the United States transferred 10 unarmed UH-1 Huey helicopters to help Georgia overcome its force mobility problems. A Defense Department team of one service member and seven contractors deployed to help with the transfer and maintenance of the helicopters.

At a Pentagon briefing late last month, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said such routine assistance is primarily intended to help governments improve internal security, but in the post- Sept. 11 world, it ultimately helps the global war on terrorism.

"Either you have terrorists or you don't," the vice chairman stressed. "If you don't, and you have a strong security environment, it is less likely that terrorists will come. If you have a weak security environment, it is more likely that terrorists will come.

Yemen, on the Arabian Peninsula, also concerns U.S. authorities. Many al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, including some in U.S. custody, are from Yemen. In 2000, al Qaeda terrorists killed 19 sailors in an attack on the destroyer USS Cole in Aden harbor. Yemeni authorities have already detained a number of al Qaeda operatives.

Defense officials are discussing cooperation between the United States and Yemen. About 20 U.S. service members from U.S. Central Command are now in Yemen to determine what assistance the United States will provide in response to Yemen's request for help, Pentagon spokesman Torie Clarke said March 12.

"The Yemen government has made it clear they want to work with us," Clarke said. "They want assistance in fighting the terrorism in their own back yard."

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