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Spies, not soldiers, as key to war's Phase 2

Counterterrorism chief says success now hinges on behind-the-scenes efforts involving many nations.

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– It's the bombing of Al Qaeda's caves that gets the attention.

But as the United States expands its commitment to the war on terror – to help "governments everywhere ... remove the terrorist parasites that threaten their own countries and peace of the world," as President Bush said this week – it's not just the high-profile military battles that will count.

As important as it may be to wipe out infrastructure like Al Qaeda's, the behind-the-scenes work of building up the global capacity to fight terrorism will determine the success of a war declared barely six months ago, US officials say.

"In many ways, our most important impact is going to be in helping to build the capability of nations around the world to confront this threat," says Frank Taylor, the State Department's head of counterterrorism. "We will close the seams in which these groups operate – and by that I don't just mean the physical places, but the cracks where intelligence isn't shared and [where] countries don't cooperate."

That means much of the work against terrorism will come through such less-telegenic campaigns as enhanced intelligence work, information sharing, and checks on financial operations.

The American show of military might has been important to restore national confidence, some officials and analysts say. But the focus on military operations has also been frustrating for officials who emphasize that military operations won't always be the most important component of this campaign. At the same time, some critics are concerned that the war itself is straying from its original goal, stated by Mr. Bush last September, to target organizations with global reach.

Looking back on the past six months, however, Ambassador Taylor sees steady progress toward this original goal. The retired Army general says one of the greatest accomplishments has been the sustaining of an international coalition – as demonstrated by the 179 countries that took part Monday in the White House's six-month commemoration of the September attacks. "Many people worried it wouldn't last," he says, "but cooperation has expanded with our key coalition partners."


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