At the Pentagon it's known as GWOT, an acronym bearing the imprint of the president who came into office swearing off nation-building and refusing to meddle in the affairs of far-off nations. Now he finds both things central to Job No. 1: the Global War on Terrorism.
U.S. response began on the morning of Sept. 11 when officials shut North American airspace to block further incoming terror strikes. Historians will sift the details of what must become the most unconventional war to date but perhaps a suitable first war of the 21st century. They will note the financial freezes and manhunts and paper trails searched from Munich to Malaysia, the sudden fame of a Florida flight school, the mysterious deaths of a recreational hunter and postal workers, nasal swabs of bureaucrats and lawmakers, and how an earthquake-an earthquake!-shook New Yorkers back into the streets in the middle of an autumn night.
Pentagon officials now say they began to formulate a battle plan for Afghanistan Sept. 12 while the smell of jet fuel still permeated the halls at headquarters. That day orders went out to ship senior commanders to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. By Sept. 24, they say, they were ready to attack. On Oct. 5 the word came, and the first B-2 Stealth bomber took off from Diego Garcia bound for Afghanistan with two pilots only on board. During that 41-hour mission, the pilots took turns at the controls between naps in a discount-store lawn chair. The first Stealth bomber flew two complete missions-84 hours-without turning off its engines, dropped 16 bombs, and lost only one-half quart of oil.
Navy fighters flying from three aircraft carriers commenced a 95-a-day rate of sorties over Afghanistan that would continue through the opening days of the war. Unmanned Predators and Global Hawks, both crafts technically in testing phase, also took to the air over Afghanistan, bringing near-real-time images back to command posts. At the same time, Air Force cargo planes took off from Germany to drop thousands of food packets to Afghans. It was perhaps the first page of the epic in how U.S. forces go to war in the unipower, American Age.
The next page belongs to special forces, who became the yeomen of the war, fighting above altitudes for which they had trained, sometimes in three feet of snow, painting laser targets for the air forces above while penetrating cave strongholds below. Ground troops linked up with local forces, eventually crumbling the Taliban regime and setting al-Qaeda terrorists on the run. Twenty-four servicemen have died in the effort. Eight American journalists have been killed in Afghanistan, along with Daniel Pearl of The Wall Street Journal, who was killed in Pakistan while reporting on the war.
Now Pentagon officials are again at the drawing boards, tracing plans for other battlefields. They say they are planning not only for Iraq but also for Iran and sundry places where the United States may find itself challenged without advance warning. That includes, at present, India and Pakistan, where tensions along the border could quickly impinge on U.S. strategy and forces in the Afghan war.
And when war is over, reconstruction begins. Building lasting good government is the hard part. In Afghanistan tribal factions and infighting pose real threats to lasting peace. Tribal minorities still hold most of the power, which prohibits grassroots leadership from arising. U.S. officials are aware that today's interim government leaders are yesterday's warlords.
Relief worker Dan Cooper makes this analogy: "It's like the international community has taken a big old tree, cut it down then set it up in the middle of town. Everyone walks around the tree and says, 'Isn't it beautiful?' But when they walk away, the tree falls over."
Pakistan and India
America is either with us or with the terrorists," said Omar Abdullah, a member of India's parliament, after yet another attack across India's border in Kashmir by Islamic militants. Raids by armed extremists are keeping tensions high between the two. They force the United States to treat as a main event what should be a sideshow in the global war on terrorism.
India and Pakistan for 30 years have fought over Kashmir, a beautifully rugged and poor extremity of their shared 1,800-mile border. Since both countries tested nuclear weapons in 1998, an escalating conflict-as it is now playing out-poses risks beyond the remote area.
India began pouring troops along the border after Islamic militants attacked its parliament in December. Historically the militants conduct raids across the border and the better-armed Indian troops shell their Pakistan strongholds in return. Now both sides have nearly a million fighters stationed there and tension is high. Despite Pakistan's assistance in the war on terrorism, Islamic militants have not been removed from Pakistan's side of the border. President Pervez Musharraf has been tough on radical Islamic groups, but the Kashmir war of nerves displays just how entrenched are their roots in the country. When the militants storm an Indian camp, as they did on May 30, killing three policemen and wounding others, they threaten to turn the border standoff into a regional war. Daily casualties from the fighting are running up to several dozen killed and wounded.
The conflict tests the limits of the U.S. alliance with Pakistan in the GWOT. Pakistan helped create and foster the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and has long used radical Islamic groups as forward troops in its disputes with India. The clashes now test whether Mr. Musharraf can bring those groups to heel. It also throws into relief the difference between government systems: India has pursued a secular democracy while Pakistan continues to blend democracy with Islam. Both countries have problems with radical religious elements, but only Pakistan retains a blasphemy law that is tied to Muslim Shariah code. Under it the government charges with violations not only 60 Christians a year but also hundreds of Muslims.
But what's thus far kept the peace-such as it is-may be both sides' nuclear weapons. Violence overall in Kashmir has dropped since the 1988 nuclear tests, and both sides know it's in their best interest to find a solution before sporadic fighting goes nuclear. And the United States would like to include the two enemies as its own allies in the war on terrorism.
African wars are not politically correct news. It is no news that they seldom make headlines in the United States, especially when Central Asian battlefields are hot. Civil war in Congo continues to include forces located in Angola and Uganda. A recent upsurge of fighting in Liberia threatens the government of Charles Taylor and could spill into Sierra Leone, only now breathing again after a civil war that began in 1991.
In Sudan, once the base of operations for Osama bin Laden, officials of the Islamic government in Khartoum have used the cover of war on terrorism, and a flawed ceasefire plan negotiated with U.S. Special Envoy John Danforth, to terrorize southern Sudan again.
An attack on the town of Rier in Western Upper Nile took place on May 22, just as U.S. Agency for International Development director Andrew Natsios, who is also the president's Special Humanitarian Coordinator on Sudan, was set to visit the area hours later. Early reports confirmed 15 dead, at least 35 critically wounded, and more than 60 others hurt. Attacks on civilians are common, particularly in this oil-rich region where Khartoum's forces would like to clear the land of habitation.
Earlier, in February, a Sudanese army helicopter gunship attacked the town of Bieh in Western Upper Nile, killing 17 and injuring dozens, nearly all women and children. The attack came just as villagers gathered to accept a food delivery from the UN World Food Program. UN officials had obtained permission from the government in Khartoum to make the food drop.
As fighting between rebels in the south, which is predominantly Christian, and the Islamic government in the north passes its 19th year, attack sites by the government have focused on lands slated for oil development. Those areas have been the focus of Sudanese government pogroms, with forces using the sporadic gunship attacks to scatter villagers. Then oil developers-Canadian, European, and Chinese-can move in. After the strikes, Khartoum went one step further: restricting UN humanitarian flights, which carry 80 percent of U.S. aid into southern Sudan.
Despite those setbacks, former Sen. Danforth has recommended renewing diplomatic relations with Khartoum, which ended six years ago. The State Department complied, naming Jeffrey Millington the first resident diplomat. He began meetings with Khartoum leaders May 30.
Christians do not speak with one voice on Middle East conflicts. On the one hand are Christian organizations and churches who view the return of modern Jews to the state of Israel as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Since they believe modern Israel should enjoy divine status in the region, these organizations align themselves with Jewish groups in the United States to lobby for a pro-Israeli policy-earning the designation "Christian Zionists."
International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is one such group. It began in 1980 "to bless and comfort Zion" after 13 nations, under threat of an Arab oil embargo, moved their embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. Today the organization has nine overseas branches of support, although its staff is mostly American. The group publishes, online and in print, the Middle East Digest (icej.org) with brisk analysis of the current intifada. It sides with Israelis who believe that establishing a Palestinian state within Israel's borders would compromise national security.
When Palestinians took refuge this spring inside Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, Christian Embassy director Malcolm Hedding condemned their act as "a premeditated offense by militant outlaws."
Christians living in Bethlehem at the same time condemned Israel for ordering forces into the city. They said that by sending tanks and troops into Manger Square, Israel provoked the confrontation and turned it into an international incident. They also condemn Israeli forces for denying food deliveries to those who remained inside the church 19 days. "The appropriate response from Israel is not to retaliate with worse war scenes to be shared, but by withdrawing, and ending the occupation," said Riah Abu El-Assal, the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem.
An Arab Christian but Israeli citizen, Mr. Riah told WORLD he encountered 14 checkpoints between Nazareth and Jerusalem on his way to a meeting with church leaders during the height of the confrontation in April. The delays by Israeli authorities caused him to miss the meeting. Mr. Riah told WORLD he condemns the suicide bombings carried out by Palestinian terrorists, "but I want to make it clear that I do support Mr. Arafat in his struggle for independence, and see that peace can only be based on justice, when the Palestinians under occupation are liberated from all their sufferings." (WORLD earlier reported that Mr. Riah did not support the Palestinian Authority leader.)
Many Arab Christians are discriminated against along with Arab Muslims in Israel and side with the Palestinians politically. Their position receives support from a wide range of Christian organizations-from the World Council of Churches to conservative churches and parachurch groups in the United States, like the Assemblies of God, who sponsor workers among Palestinians and identify with their hard plight. They see providing justice to Palestinians as the priority. Many also believe the prophecies concerning Israel were fulfilled in the New Testament coming of Jesus Christ.
Debates between those two sides over the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians obscure another troublesome plight: the slow extinction of Christians in the Middle East. Once a majority in places like Bethlehem and Nazareth and in countries like Lebanon, Christians number less than 14 million in a population of 200 million. Millions emigrate because of individual persecution and political oppression, largely at the hands of Muslim neighbors.
While 1.5 million Christians remain in Lebanon, more than 6 million live abroad. Jerusalem had 28,000 Christian residents at the time of modern Israel's formation in 1947; now they number well under 10,000.