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Iran & Russia may join U.S. against Bin Laden
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posted June 02, 2001 11:05
NYPost (US): Iran & Russia may join U.S. against Bin Laden
May 31, 2001 -- WASHINGTON - The Bush administration may join forces with old enemies Russia and Iran to strong-arm Afghanistan's leaders into abandoning terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, The Post has learned. U.S. diplomatic and counterterrorism officials said the three countries are discussing plans to provide arms and other military aid to Afghan rebels, who are waging a civil war against the fanatic ruling Taliban, which has imposed harsh Islamic rule.
Strategists hope the pressure could persuade the Taliban to force the terror chief to flee his safe haven in Afghanistan, making him easier to capture, or force him to be brought to trial.
U.S. officials say no final decisions have been made by the White House on the plan, which was posed by Russian diplomats as a way to curtail bin Laden's growing support for rebels in Chechnya.
Bush administration officials, who are reviewing U.S. policies, are concluding that current diplomatic and economic sanctions against the Taliban are not working. And they believe a commando operation to capture bin Laden, the accused mastermind of the U.S. embassy bombings in east Africa and the chief suspect in the bombing of the USS Cole, would be too risky. "It's pretty clear that economic sanctions on a primitive country ruled by religious zealots is not effective," said Vincent Cannistrarro, former CIA counterterrorism chief.
Sources also say that, despite intensive training by U.S. Special Forces Delta teams, plans to launch a commando raid inside Afghanistan to snatch bin Laden have been ruled out for now as too dangerous. "The Delta team has been on standby for a while now," Cannistrarro said. As a result, talks about the new approach have intensified, and a high-level meeting about the Russian proposal took place at the State Department last week, sources said. The plan under discussion calls for stepped-up delivery of arms and other logistical support to three main opposition armies inside Afghanistan to make them more aggressive in challenging the Taliban, sources said. Iran is already aiding the rebels. "There is evidence that these groups are becoming bolder in recent months and are taking steps to better coordinate their activities," said Kenneth Katzman, a former CIA analyst now with the Congressional Research Service. "It's clear that helping them pressure the Taliban may be the best strategy to get at bin Laden, and it's conceivable they could deal the Taliban some serious setbacks that would either force bin Laden to flee, or force the Taliban to the negotiating table." The Taliban remains defiantly opposed to turning over bin Laden, who runs his global terror empire from a series of mountain hideouts in Afghanistan. Abdul Anan Himat, a Taliban spokesman, yesterday called bin Laden a "great holy warrior of Islam," and said "we won't hand him over to America under any circumstances."
All times are PT (US)
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