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Thursday, 20 September, 2001, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
US plans wide-ranging response
USS Enterprise
Formidable US firepower is heading for the region
By Defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus

While the United States' manoeuvres in the Gulf look like a predictable response to last week's suicide attacks, America's campaign will go much further than military strikes.

Air power is the preferred long-range weapon in the US arsenal and so it is no surprise the initial reinforcements heading to the Gulf region are warplanes.

Much of the real war will be taking place in the shadows

It all looks terribly familiar; there were apparently similar build-ups prior to the Gulf War and before major operations in the Balkans.

But appearances can be deceptive.

Air power will undoubtedly play a key role in the coming struggle, but alongside a whole variety of other measures - both military and civil.

Special forces will also have an important role to play - there could be significant deployments of such units - signalling that for the Americans this is indeed a new sort of war where there is no reluctance to place US soldiers in harm's way.

Long-term campaign

US military planners are putting forces into place to cover a wide variety of contingencies.

But all the signals are that this will be a lengthy campaign extending over years, not just a short-term military riposte.

Tomahawk missile
Missile strikes are only one of the options
And the military dimension will be only part of a much broader effort to disrupt and destroy the shadowy networks behind the US hijackings.

Intelligence agencies and law-enforcement organisations in several countries will have a part to play.

The diplomatic coalition being forged to back Washington has a practical side as well as the purely rhetorical.

Information exchanges will have to be stepped up and computer and financial experts deployed to track terrorist funds.

It is easy to concentrate on the movement of military hardware - aircraft carriers leaving port cannot be hidden.

But much of the real war will be taking place in the shadows and it will not be talked about in the press briefings either.

The BBC's Gavin Hewitt in New York
"The first planes are on the way to the Gulf"
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