US And Britain's Secret
Plans For 10-Year War
By Michael Evans
Defense Editor
The Times - London

Generals rule out 'D-Day invasion'

AMERICA and Britain are producing secret plans to launch a ten-year "war on terrorism" - Operation Noble Eagle - involving a completely new military and diplomatic strategy to eliminate terrorist networks and cells around the world.

Despite the mass build-up of American forces in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean, there will be no "D-Day invasion" of Afghanistan and no repeat of the US-led Operation Desert Storm against Iraq in 1991, defence sources say.

The notion that a US-led multinational coalition would attack Afghanistan from all sides for harbouring Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi dissident leader and prime suspect for the terrorist outrages in New York and Washington, has been rejected in Washington and London. The sources also say that the planned campaign is not being focused on just "bringing bin Laden to justice".

The build-up of firepower by the Americans in the region, notably the two aircraft carrier battle groups that are to be joined by a third carrier, USS Theodore Roosevelt, is seen as a major display of available military capability. While it is important for these assets to be in the right place in case of a political decision to launch a strike, there are no plans for a "short-term fix".

The dramatically different anti-terrorism campaign is being planned to meet what is now regarded as the most dangerous threat to global security, known as asymmetric warfare. "We're expecting it to last from five to ten years," one source said.

New ideas are needed to counter small groups armed with the minimum of weaponry, whether conventional or non-conventional. Such groups have the capability to attack a nation as powerful as the United States, which is equipped with the full range of modern weapons and professional Armed Forces.

Old doctrines for fighting wars, based on lining up tanks and artillery and layers of troops, are being thrown out and replaced by a more subtle and wide-ranging doctrine which seeks to defeat the enemy at its own game. "The aim is not to go for the enemy's strengths, but its weaknesses," one source said.

American and British planners are working on the basis that military strikes will take place only as part of a broader global counter-terrorist operation, embracing every other type of international action - diplomatic, economic and political.

Most of the focus of the ten-year campaign plan, the sources say, is on using military action as a potent back-up to all the other strands of Operation Noble Eagle.

However, President Bush, conscious of the demand for "revenge" from the American public, might sanction shorter-term military operation by special forces, or airstrikes, but only if there is sufficient intelligence to guarantee a sucessful outcome. "There's no point in firing a lot of missiles at bin Laden if they miss their target, or launching Tomahawks at bin Laden training camps if they are empty," one source said.

Donald Rumsfeld, the American Defence Secretary, also gave the strongest hint yesterday of what Operation Noble Eagle is all about. "I think what you will see evolve over the next six, eight, ten, 12 months, probably over a period of years, is a coalition to help battle terrorists," he told CNN.

He added: "This is a very new type of conflict or battle or campaign or war or effort, for the United States. We're moving in a measured manner. As we gather information, we're preparing appropriate courses of action, and they run across the political and economic and financial, military, intelligence spectrum."

British officials said the whole focus of the long-term American approach was being driven by Richard Cheney, the American Vice-President, and General Colin Powell, the Secretary of State. The combination of the two highly experienced men was guaranteeing a well-coordinated strategy. "Everyone now knows it's going to be a long haul, not a spectacular single strike," one official said.

The war on terrorism could be likened, they said, to the war on drugs or poverty, and the best way to undermine and eventually dismantle the terrorist structures around the world was to use the method of "hearts and minds" - encouraging foreign governments and people to join in the "war" so that terrorists would be isolated and identified.

Some of the most dramatic achievements, the sources say, might come, not from military action, but from political pressure on foreign governments to turn their backs on terrorism and to hand over the organisers of terrorist networks.

They point to the campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999. Although the airstrikes fitted more closely to the "old doctrine concept" of using massed firepower to target the enemy, which brought criticism from many parts of the world, Nato was also seen to be working as a humanitarian agency with its operation in Albania helping to build shelters for the thousands of refugees pouring out of Kosovo.

The eventual outcome, the political downfall of Slobodan Milosevic and the decision by the new Government to hand him over to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, is seen as a classic example of how military action can serve two purposes, defeating the enemy and effecting political change.

In the Gulf War, the American-led coalition achieved one objective, driving the Iraqis out of Kuwait, but not the other, the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein by his own people.

Already, the sources say, just over a week after the terrorist attacks in America, there have been positive developments: the Israeli and Palestinian leaders have agreed a new ceasefire and 1,000 clerics have been forced to gather in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, to discuss the fate of bin Laden.

Yesterday it was also announced that President Putin is to visit Nato headquarters in Brussels on October 3 and will meet Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, the Secretary- General, another positive sign that the Russian leader supports the campaign against terrorism.

Russia and Nato put out a joint statement last week condemning the terrorist attacks and vowing that they would not go unpunished.

Other coalitions against terrorism are also being rapidly formed and several countries, notably Pakistan yesterday, have offered bases for American military action.

However, sources in Washington say there are no plans to deploy huge numbers of US troops to Pakistan, which would only inflame Islamic fundamentalists opposed to the decision by President Musharraf to grant US access to two air bases in the country.


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