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Powell battles Pentagon over response strategy

By Andrea Koppel
CNN State Department Correspondent
and Elise Labott
State Department Producer

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration is engaged in an internal tug-of-war about the scope and breadth of its campaign against international terrorism, first and foremost a self-declared war against Osama bin Laden, his terrorist network and the Taliban, senior State Department officials tell CNN.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is pushing for a limited military component in this self-declared war against terrorism and instead wants to place more emphasis on less traditional "tools" in the United States arsenal -- financial, political, diplomatic and legal, according to several senior State Department officials familiar with the department's planning.

That is why, officials point out, the Treasury Department is in the midst of setting up task forces to deal with the financial aspect of this campaign.

One official said the military is a "blunt instrument" and should be kept to a "minimum" in order to maintain the idea that "this is not a war against Islam."

"If collateral damage is extensive it could wind up in a matter of weeks or months in a holy war," said this official.

In addition, this official said to use the word "war" in this campaign will be a misnomer as this will likely be a drawn-out, multi-faceted campaign lasting years.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and others, on the other hand, are pushing to broaden this campaign in the short term, to target so-called state sponsors of terrorism like Iraq, State Department officials and diplomatic sources tell CNN.

In fact, one official described the debate over Iraq as the "most contentious issue in inter-agency discussions."

If Powell's strategy prevails, one senior State Department official confided, Iraq will be dealt with like an elephant -- and the U.S. and its international coalition will "eat this elephant one bite at a time," rather than swallow it whole.

Phase one of this campaign is expected to include action against bin Laden, his al-Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban.

In order to implement this campaign, Powell and President Bush have been courting leaders around the world to join a global partnership, an international coalition against terrorism. To accomplish their mission -- to close down terrorist cells or "nodes" linked to the bin Laden network in their own countries -- they will also cut off financial flows, arrest terrorists, shut down their offices and help to "dry up the swamp" of terrorism, in the words of one official.

The diplomatic campaign to build an international coalition is the "centerpiece" of what the administration is trying to do.

On an ominous note, State Department officials say Powell is deeply concerned about the condition of the world economy and its potential impact on sustaining momentum and public support around the world for this war on terrorism.

"When you have (thousands of) workers at National Airport unable to go to work," said one senior State Department official, "these people are going to be more concerned with how they're gonna get food on the table, rather than fighting this war."






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