[OUTLOOK]End the war and build the peace

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[OUTLOOK]End the war and build the peace

The United States is refusing to declare the end of the war in Afghanistan even though it has effectively come to an end. The Taliban regime was crushed on Nov. 13 when Northern Alliance forces entered Kabul.

The Qaida network lost its ability as a fighting force last weekend when its last stronghold, Tora Bora, was bombarded by U.S. fighter jets. The war is drawing to a close without the ritual of the defeated signing a document of surrender in front of the victor.

The U.S. government settled the grudge held by the American people by striking a clear and decisive blow against a terrorist organization that is strongly suspected of waging the first-ever direct attack on the mainland United States since the War of 1812. In the words of Francis Fukuyama, history confirmed once again the victory of capitalism and liberal democracy.

The question is why does the United States not declare the war over? On the surface, it is because the United States has failed to either kill or capture Mr. bin Laden. The whereabouts of the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar also are unknown.

Although he has won the war, President Bush seems to regret the fact that he cannot display Mr. bin Laden either handcuffed or in a coffin to the American people.

The motive behind omitting the declaration of victory is the desire of the Bush administration to expand the war. The hawks at the Pentagon have masterminded the war against terrorism. The opinion of the doves, led by Secretary of State Colin Powell, was scarcely reflected.

The group that extends from the president himself to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz does not want to end the U.S. offensive merely with the victory in Afghanistan.

The most obvious target if the war is expanded would be Iraq. George W. Bush wants to overthrow Saddam Hussein, whom his father failed to topple 10 years ago. Aides to President Bush believe Mr. bin Laden received support from Iraq. They think a terror attack the size of the Sept. 11 incidents could not have taken place without support at a state level.

They also think a war against terrorism without attacking Iraq is meaningless since the country is suspected of either being in the process of developing chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons or having already completed such development. A covert operation by CIA agents against Mr. Hussein may be in the works inside Iraq.

The second target may be Somalia. On the map, the country juts out like a horn from the African continent into the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Somalia is like a guardpost at the Gulf of Aden, a strategic point between the Suez Canal and the Arabian Sea. Ethiopia is to the west of Somalia, and Kenya and Tanzania are to its south.

In the late 1990s, the Qaida network had its headquarters in Somalia and devised there the plan to bomb two American embassies in Africa.

Somalia is a perfect location for Mr. bin Laden's base. The country lacks a government in the true sense of the word because of continual tribal fighting. U.S. troops hurriedly withdrew from Somalia in 1993 after incurring 18 casualties largely because of offensives reportedly masterminded by Mr. bin Laden. Mr. Bush wants to take revenge and subdue the Horn of Africa so as to eliminate terrorist threats in the region.

The problem is prevailing world opinion. Countries that sent forces to the U.S.-led war, as well as Russia, are vociferously opposing an expansion of the anti-terror war.

The United States, regarding the meddling of other countries as bothersome, minimized their participation and conducted the war in Afghanistan primarily with Northern Alliance forces. French troops spent many idle days in Uzbekistan.

Mr. Bush needs to make a choice. He could attack either Iraq or Somalia or both despite opposition from U.S. allies. He could also put his efforts into consolidating the peace in Afghanistan.

Expanding the war in the face of opposition from U.S. allies could turn it into an American-only war. The world, though, wants a stable government in Afghanistan.

Next week, an interim administration for an initial six-month transition period will take office. That will be followed by another two-year transitional government before a national government is inaugurated.

Whether Afghanistan, a country ravaged by continued civil war since 1973, can become a viable nation-state is very much up to Mr. Bush. Instead of expanding the war, the United States should support the activities of peacekeepers in Afghanistan and nation-building there to prevent another civil war from erupting.


The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-hie

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