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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 13:07 GMT
Analysis: The war ahead
US marines in Afghanistan
Washington says the war is far from over
Jonathan Marcus

Large-scale military operations against the Taleban may be largely over, but US planners are looking to where the next battle against al-Qaeda will be fought.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has warned the battle in Afghanistan itself is by no means over.

US marines in Somalia in the early 1990s
Will US troops return to Somalia?
But President Bush is likely to want to move to the next stage of the campaign against "terrorism with a global reach" as quickly as possible.

The manhunt for key Taleban and al-Qaeda leaders could continue for months if not years ahead.

And that is going to require a long-term US military presence in Afghanistan, together with some skilful handling of Washington's Afghan allies.

Many front-lines

It is going to be a difficult task.

The United States deployment will involve Special Forces units and elements of the Central Intelligence Agency rather than large combat formations.

1. Somalia: Suspected al-Qaeda base
2. Yemen: Bin Laden's ancestral home
3. Sudan: Attacked by US missiles in 98
4.Iraq: Threatened by President Bush

See also:
Detailed clickable map

Up until now, local allies have largely been marching in step with Washington.

But with the war against the Taleban won, it is increasingly likely that some Afghan factions will not take kindly to protracted US operations on Afghan soil.

But the front-line struggle against terrorism could extend elsewhere.

A number of countries have been identified by US officials as harbouring al-Qaeda groups or other organisations linked in some way with Osama Bin Laden.

Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Indonesia and the Philippines have all been mentioned.

Diverse strategies

But the diversity of these different countries underlines that the US Administration is likely to pursue a variety of strategies to tackle al-Qaeda and its off-shoots beyond Afghanistan.

In some cases there may be increased military support to legitimate governments battling local insurgents.

But it is the failed states like Somalia with no single unchallenged authority that pose the greatest problems.

In some cases the United States may well pursue military action against training camps or other installations.

Washington has a battery of legal, financial diplomatic and military tools at its disposal.

But the wider struggle against terrorism cannot just be a unilateral battle by Washington.

Allies will be needed.

And that is going to force the Bush team to weigh its next steps carefully.

See also:

14 Dec 01 | South Asia
Marines take Kandahar airport
15 Dec 01 | South Asia
UK team lobbies for Afghan force
20 Sep 01 | Americas
Profile: Donald Rumsfeld
16 Dec 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden's voice 'heard in Tora Bora'
16 Dec 01 | South Asia
Afghans told of US war aims
17 Dec 01 | South Asia
US raises flag in Kabul
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