US Continues Military Buildup in Mid East and Horn of Africa

As Al Qaeda and Taliban chiefs continue to elude US pursuit in Afghanistan, American and other Western forces continue to pour into Washington’s next theatre, the Middle East and Horn of Africa. debkafile‘s military sources report that at week’s end the US sent a second wave of fighter planes and bomber squadrons winging to air bases in Kuwait and the Sinai Peninsula, along with their air crews, air force intelligence personnel and technicians, altogether around 10,000 men, who were quietly called up in early December. This second wave follows the transfer of the Third Army command from its headquarters in McPherson, Georgia, to Kuwait.
According to debkafile ‘s military sources, a corresponding military buildup is going ahead opposite the Horn of Africa.
Last week, three German warships carrying 1600 German marines passed through the Suez Canal and are anchored off Djibouti where the Red Sea flows out to the Indian Ocean. A flotilla of British vessels with a similar complement of British marines has reached Mombassa, Kenya.
In Afghanistan, US military forces have taken custody from Pakistan of the high-ranking paramilitary training director of the al Qaeda Khaldan camp, Ibn al-Shayk al-Libi (named for his Libyan nationality), the most senior member of the terrorist network captured in the three-month war. Among those trained at Khaldan were Ahmed Ressam, the Algerian Millenium Bomber, and at least one of the 1998 East African Embassy assailants
Pakistan also handed over Mullah Zaeef, Taliban’s former ambassador to Pakistan, who appeared often to TV audiences and the media.
debkafile‘s intelligence sources strongly doubt that the Americans will get much information out of al-Libi on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and other al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. As a Libyan, he would not have been taken into bin Laden’s charmed circle, which is limited to Saudis, Egyptians and Chechens. The Taliban leader took care to keep no one but loyalist Pashtuns close to him.
The two new handovers join the 273 al Qaeda and Taliban captives in US forces’ hands. But the top leaders remain as elusive as ever. Few credit the latest reports claiming that Omar has just broken through the American blockade and escaped on a motorbike.
While much is made of the search for bin Laden and Omar, debkafile‘s terror experts stress that three additional key figures are just as important to catch. One is the Egyptian Jhad Islami chief, Dr Ayman Zuheiri, al Qaeda’s ace global terrorist strategist, responsible for many of the terrorist actions attributed to bin Laden and possibly the more dangerous of the two. Two of Zuheiri’s most striking “exploits” were the East African embassy bombings and the crippling of the USS “Cole” in Aden harbor in October 2000. Many of al Qaeda’s most deadly terrorist cells around the world belong to the Egyptian radical group and operate under its chief’s direct command.
The second key figure is Imad Mughniyeh, former operations chief of the Lebanese Hizballah, currently the live wire conjoining Iranian state-sponsored terrorism and the Lebanese Hizballah with the Egyptian Jihad, al Qaeda and the Palestinian terrorist movement. Mughniyeh runs most al Qaeda terror affiliates outside Afghanistan and Pakistan. The chance discovery of Richard Reid the shoe bomber when he failed to blow up an American airliner three days before Christmas and the interception of the Palestinian arms freighter Karine-A last Thursday (read two articles on this page) gave away Mughniyeh’s hidden reach and connecting hand.
The third missing arch terrorist, known only as “Abu Zubeideh al Falestini”, is head of the Algerian GIA (Armed Islamic Group) in Europe. He was also the controller of Ahmed Ressam, the Algerian bomber captured on his way to blow up Los Angeles.Airport on the first day of 2000.
Until at least one of those five top global terrorists is taken, the United States cannot be said to have chalked up a clear victory in the first round of its war against terror. As long as they are at large, international terrorism is alive and menacing. The five have lost one front line of operation in Afghanistan, but have been able to pull back to their second line and can carry on from there.
In the picture: Since the $25 m bounty offered by the US government failed to bring Osama bin Laden in, the US Department of Defense is attempting another lure: Circulation of a photo of a shaven al Qaeda leader in a western suit alleging that he has deserted his followers.

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