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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 07:01 GMT 08:01 UK
Papers question Afghan mission
Many of Friday's papers question the nature of the US mission to capture Osama Bin Laden with concerns over the wider implications.

The Independent talks of a war "which may last for years, if not forever".

It worries that the US has embarked on "a mission into the unknown".

"Gung-ho rhetoric... was the easy bit," says an expert in The Times.

"The going now gets tougher."

Bankrolling charge

The Guardian fears that the American aim is not just to bring the terrrorists to justice - but to topple the Taleban regime.

The Financial Times cannot really see the difference - saying Osama Bin Laden seems to bankroll Afghanistan and to be, in effect, the country's defence minister.

The Telegraph too, is impatient of fine distinctions.

It says "judicial process" is not the point - "defeating the enemy" is the purpose.

But no paper is more in two minds than the Daily Star.

World War III

On one page, it packs off British troops with the headline, "Go and get 'em fellas".

On another, it says "it's still not too late to avoid World War Three... But the clock is ticking - FAST".

Elsewhere, the fears are focused on the risk that Britain could become a terrorist target.

The Mail is stark in its choice of words - its front page headline says "Britain is next".

The same story also fills the front of the Express.

UK threat

Both papers print a warning by the Metropolitan Police commissioner.

Sir John Stevens believes the next target after New York and Washington has "got to be here".

And both papers describe his comments as "chilling".

The Guardian calls for urgent debate - about what can be done to minimise the threat, and how much it would cost.

And the paper concludes that the case for spending more on hospital emergency units is unanswerable now.

New mood

In a cartoon on the front of The Times, a couple cower behind sandbags in their living room.

For a new mood has taken hold.

The man and woman in the drawing both wear tin hats - the husband points a remote control at the television and asks his wife, "Ready for the news, dear?".

After days of agonised reflection on the sufferings of New York and Washington, the papers turn their focus towards the coming conflict.

Pictures show soldiers running, in The Daily Telegraph, and warplanes taking off, in The Mirror.

Battlefield maps

And, in the Daily Star, servicemen bid farewell to their crying wives and anxious children.

The artists have been busy too - mapping the likely battlefield for readers of The Independent, and - a special treat for schoolboys - providing the Daily Mail with a splendid cutaway drawing, across two pages, of the USS Theodore Roosevelt cruising towards the enemy.

The same message is spelled out in the headlines.

"Bush brings out the Big Stick," says the Mail.

The Telegraph says the "US prepares for war on the ground".

British forces

While The Times highlights the British involvement - saying "Blair's finger" is "on the trigger".

The Independent expects "British forces" to be "in action within days".

If the night belongs to George Bush, and his speech to Congress - yesterday, according to The Sun, saw Mr Blair at his most impressive.

It says "New York will never forget" him.

The Mirror agrees - the paper thinks the disaster has brought out the best in him - and it describes Mr Blair as "the man for this crisis".

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