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The challenge to crush bin Laden



By David Ensor
CNN Washington
Joe Havely
CNN Hong Kong

WASHINGTON D.C. (CNN) -- With an angry nation calling for retribution following Tuesday's terrorist attacks, many Americans are seeking swift and decisive action against alleged mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Officials say there is growing evidence pointing to the Saudi dissident and his shadowy group of followers known as Al Qaeda -- although they add this group may just be one part of a conspiracy involving a consortium of terrorists.

IN DEPTH
Osama bin Laden  
 

With that in mind, the Bush Administration is talking tough.

On Thursday Secretary of State Colin Powell confirmed that the administration viewed the exiled Saudi dissident as a leading suspect for the suicide attacks

"We will go after that group, that network and those who have harbored, supported and aided that network, to rip that network up," he said.

"And when we are through with that network, we will continue with a global assault against terrorism in general."

But if it is bin Laden, the problem remains: how to get at him and his top lieutenants?

Face bombardment

Some argue for giving Afghanistan's Taliban government an ultimatum -- turn him over or face an overwhelming aerial bombardment.

But most analysts -- both in and out of government -- say that if you want to crush bin Laden and his followers, it is going to take more than bombs.

Former Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain says it will take ground troops to carry out the task.

"In order for us to preserve America and our way of life," he says, "we're going to have to sacrifice American treasure and unfortunately in some cases, perhaps American blood."

If and when an operation begins it will not be just a question of grabbing or killing one man -- or even 20.

U.S. intelligence officials say bin Laden runs a dozen or more training camps, producing many terrorists dedicated to carrying out his war against America.

Revenge 'no answer'

To remove the threat, analysts say, they will all have to be taken out.

"Revenge alone is not the answer," says security & terrorism analyst M.J. Gohel. "There has to be a complete eradication, an elimination of all the training camps."

On top of that much of bin Laden's support base lies in neighboring Pakistan -- through which money from around the Arab world is funneled to the Al Qaeda coffers.

It is a treacherous and dangerous area indeed.

Former National Security Agency Director General William Odom says that if troops are deployed, Pentagon planners are well aware how that changes the equation.

"If you start moving in ground troops and you are willing to occupy countries for long periods of time, you do change things rather significantly for terrorists," he says.

"I'm not sure this country is ready to do that, even it if does have a fit of passion right now, and it may or may not make sense for the us to do that in its larger interests."

Despite the desire for revenge, U.S. officials are saying they will do nothing in a rush, knowing whatever action they take will have far reaching consequences.

The bottom line is that even if U.S. forces are able to get bin Laden -- it would take much more than that to stop the terror.







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