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America mobilizes reserves By Janine Zacharia
WASHINGTON (September 16) - US President George W. Bush promised yesterday the US will hunt down terrorists and "smoke them out of their holes" in a prolonged response to Tuesday's attacks in New York, Washington, and outside Pittsburgh. Americans, he said, must brace themselves for great sacrifices "because the conflict will not be easy."
"We're at war," he said simply.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld activated 35,000 reservists out of 50,000 authorized by Bush to provide "strike-alert" jet-fighter protection and perform other duties at domestic military bases.
Bush spoke to reporters as he huddled with his national security team at Camp David in Maryland to hammer out possible responses and ways of building a broad coalition against terrorism worldwide. Most of the immediate focus appears to be on a possible offensive in Afghanistan to root out Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect, his network and the Taliban regime that shelters him.
Bush warned bin Laden and his backers they would not be able to hide from America's wrath.
"We will find those who did it, we will smoke them out of their holes, we will get them running, and we will bring them to justice," Bush told reporters before meeting his national security advisers at Camp David, the secluded presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains.
Fearful Afghans began fleeing the country. Their hard-line Taliban rulers threatened jihad against anyone helping Washington launch attacks on their country.
Washington's message to other nations, including Arab and Islamic states, is that they must choose sides. In the coming storm, they are being told they must either back the United States or risk diplomatic and economic isolation.
Bush and senior American officials have spoken of an attack on all state sponsorship of terrorism and a war on terrorism in general. The US is eager to portray the war as one between the civilized world and terrorism and not let it be perceived as one between the West vs Islam.
The US will consider incorporating states like Syria and Iran - both of which expressed their condolences - in its coalition. Both are listed on the US state sponsors of terrorism list and sponsor terrorism against Israel.
Some wondered if the US will solicit help from these states in fighting bin Laden, while allowing Israel-directed terrorism to proliferate, or compel them to crack down on all terrorist groups inside their borders before they are allowed to join the coalition.
On Friday, more than a dozen Arab ambassadors were summoned by the State Department for a meeting with Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, in which Burns outlined broad measures that Arab states would be expected to take against terrorist groups, including dismantling fundraising networks and making arrests. But some Arab envoys, like Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmy, were cited as saying that for a broad coalition to hold, the goal should be more narrow - to eliminate those responsible for Tuesday's attacks. Burns did not single out terrorist groups by name.
"My understanding is it's everybody. It's much larger than Osama bin Laden," said one diplomat who participated. "We are not talking about a Western alliance against the East; we are talking about everybody against terrorism.
"They are talking about Hamas. They are talking about Osama Bin Laden. They are talking about Hizbullah. This is an effort to stem terrorism internationally," the diplomat added.
Diplomats said they expect any coalition to be much larger than the one assembled for the Gulf War, as countries will find it difficult to argue why they are not a member.
Burns made clear to the Arab diplomats that the US understands the need to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict at some stage, but for now in the short-term the focus would be on fighting terrorism.
"The United States is aware of the need to address the issues that create a climate for violence [between Israel and the Palestinians]. We did not go into great detail, but I think it was on the minds of everyone there," said PLO Ambassador to the US Hassan Abdel Rahman, who attended the meeting.
Rahman said he understands the US wants the war on terrorism to be comprehensive and added: "We consider Israeli executions as acts of terrorism. We hope that will be included."
The United States has sought from Pakistan permission for military overflights and a closing of its border with Afghanistan, among other requests.
"We put before the Pakistan government a specific list of things we would like cooperation on and they have agreed to all those items," said Secretary of State Colin Powell.
For its part, Pakistan said it would comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions on the terror attacks. "The government will discharge its responsibilities under international law," Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said, adding that he does not expect Pakistan to take part in military operations outside its borders.
India signaled it is ready to let the United States use its military facilities and could provide a large base for any military strike at Afghanistan. But US jets would still have to cross Pakistani air space to reach Afghanistan.
Russia and France voiced caution. Russian President Vladimir Putin said: "We must weigh up our decisions and make them on the basis of proven facts." Bin Laden, speaking through aides, this week denied involvement in the carnage, but described it as "punishment from almighty Allah."
(Reuters contributed to this report.)
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), September 15, 2001