U.S. pressures Pakistan as part of a larger effort

International help sought to destroy terror network

Terrorism Strikes America

The Response

September 14, 2001|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- The United States brought heavy pressure on Pakistan yesterday as part of a broad campaign for international help in destroying Osama bin Laden's terror network and any groups that helped him.

Holding out the carrot of easing stiff U.S. sanctions imposed against Pakistan in recent years, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell pressed its military leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, to agree to a series of concrete steps that would help prepare for an anticipated military assault against bin Laden and perhaps against the Taliban, his militant Islamic hosts in Afghanistan.

The full list of demands wasn't revealed, but it was believed to include letting U.S. aircraft fly over the country, halting support for the Taliban, closing Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, and providing intelligence and logistical help to the United States.

Powell's deputy, Richard L. Armitage, held his second meeting in two days with the Pakistani ambassador and intelligence chief, Mahmoud Ahmad, and officials said President Bush might soon be in touch with Musharraf.

"We're going to have a responsible, sober discussion with the Pakistani government," Powell said. Pakistan has emerged as a pivotal player in American plans to retaliate for Tuesday's terror attacks, in which jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon and killed perhaps thousands of people.

If Bush decides to launch military attacks against the bin Laden organization and its hideouts, and against the Taliban leaders who give the terrorists shelter, Pakistan's help -- or refusal to help -- could be crucial to the mission's success.

The United States will need all the information on both groups that Pakistan can supply, as well as logistical support and possibly permission to station American forces on its soil.

As well as the carrot of easing sanctions, the administration is holding out the threat of labeling Pakistan as a backer of terrorism, forcing the country to prove its innocence.

Briefing reporters yesterday, Powell identified bin Laden by name as a prime suspect in Tuesday's hijackings. "So without waiting for the whole body of evidence to be ready for us to make a judgment and a presentation to you, I think we're acting in a prudent way by talking to those governments in the region," he said.

Once the group responsible for the attacks is identified, "we will go after that group, that network, to rip the network up. And when we're through with that network, we will continue with a global assault against terrorism in general," Powell said.

Later, a senior U.S. official said "multiple organizations" might have been involved. If so, the U.S. campaign for support would have to be broader, involving close cooperation from numerous countries besides Pakistan. The senior official said the U.S. would be seeking intelligence as well as help in cutting off the terror groups' money supply.

The Cold War ties between Washington and Islamabad have chilled markedly in recent years.

Meanwhile, the United States has developed warmer ties with Pakistan's South Asian rival, India, a Cold War friend of the Soviet Union that is emerging as a major economic power in Asia.

Musharraf publicly pledged "unstinted cooperation" yesterday in the war against terrorism, but Bush indicated that he was waiting for Pakistan's response to the specific American requests.

"I appreciate that statement, and now we'll just find out what that means, won't we?" Bush told reporters.

Powell held out the possibility of easing sanctions against Pakistan if it cooperates. "I think that we have been exploring with the Pakistani government many ways that we can move forward in the relationship."

Tempting as this might be, Musharraf faces powerful domestic opposition to cooperating with the American campaign from Islamic militants inside his country.

"That's why he's in a very difficult situation now," said Robert Oakley, a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan.

Powell, while upbeat on the international support the United States has won to combat terror, presented the new campaign as a daunting challenge.

"You're dealing with a very, very skilled, knowledgeable, thinking enemy. And we just have to think better than them, think faster than them and be cleverer than them in order to respond in a sensible way with all of the weapons at our disposal, and one of those weapons is military force used in an appropriate way," Powell said.

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