Walking a Beat May Prove as Potent as March to War

Street-level vigilance and savvy combine to ferret out suspects

UDAIRI DESERT, Kuwait – As the sun dips behind sand dunes

near the Kuwait-Iraq border, glowing red tracer bullets zing over
black barbed-wire coils.

U.S. Army Sgt. Lance Perkins lobs a smoke bomb that lands
just beyond the wire by a z-shaped trench. His fellow troops from
Fort Carson then hurl grappling hooks to tear back the wire. The
eight infantrymen creep through yellow smoke and take the trench,
opening fire in crackling bursts. “Light ’em up!” one shouts,
pumped up in this drill.

They’re preparing for action anywhere from Central Asia to
the Horn of Africa in America’s war to rid the world of terrorism.

But this is a new kind of war.

While Perkins and thousands of other highly trained,
extravagantly equipped U.S. troops are formidable, a shambling
Kuwait City policeman, assigned to a bazaar two hours south of
here, where he drowsily writes parking tickets, may be more
effective in cracking down on terrorists.

Police Sgt. Khalid Al-Saba, 44, perked up recently when he
spotted four South Asians, two from Pakistan, lingering in a
neighborhood where they didn’t live.

Al-Saba stopped them. They gave names that proved fake. He
arrested them for further investigation.

“We should not be forgiving. We have to stop terrorism,”
Al-Saba said. “Check everything. Fight the crime before it

The terrorists who attacked America lived and operated among
civilians in cities – not in open deserts.

Five months after the Sept. 11 attacks, Al-Saba’s sort of
street-level police vigilance, not dramatic military intervention,
emerges as the way the war on terrorism may be won or lost.

President Bush has wielded the U.S. military as America’s
primary force.

Almost all money devoted to the war on terrorism goes to the
military. In January, Bush called for a $48 billon boost for the
Pentagon’s $331 billion annual budget.

That total would be three times the combined military budgets
of China, Russia, India, Britain and France.

A White House inner circle, including Vice President Dick
Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, sent U.S. soldiers
to the Philippines, Somalia and Yemen.

“If we have to go into 15 countries, we ought to do it, to
deal with the problem of terrorism,” Rumsfeld said recently.

The Pentagon also is looking at the logistics of overthrowing
Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq. Analysts envision a
deployment of 100,000 or more U.S. ground troops (Iraqi forces
number 350,000, including 100,000 elite Republican Guards) that
could risk thousands of American lives.

Influential ally Israel urges America to consider action
against Iran as well.

Bush repeatedly has said the war on terrorism will be
different – not like the Gulf War that liberated territory, not
like the air war on Kosovo that involved few ground troops, not
like the quick war on Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

But just what it will be isn’t fully decided.

Meanwhile, local police are arresting terrorist suspects
throughout the world in Barcelona, Leicester, Hamburg, Manila,
Algiers, Singapore.

U.S. authorities often aren’t involved until after initial
interrogations. Especially in the large multicultural cities
that give terrorists anonymity and opportunities to plot, local
police working streets and airports often are the only force
tied-in enough to head off attacks on civilians.

“Even if we knew where terrorists were, they would be hard to
hit with a bomber,” said James Phillips, Middle East analyst for
the conservative Heritage Foundation. “A lot of times, we don’t
know where they are. They operate among civilians and attack

Military operations face growing resistance.

Turkey’s prime minister recently asked the United States to
refrain from attacking Iraq, warning that this could destabilize
the region. Rulers in Saudi Arabia, where many Muslims bristle at
the presence of 5,000 U.S. soldiers, said they wouldn’t support
use of those troops against Iraq or any other Arab or Muslim country.

“Please don’t rush. Think about it before you do bad things
to people all over the world,” pleaded Suad al-Walaiti, who lived
in Denver in the late 1980s and now directs an Islamist women’s
group in Kuwait.

“War is not a solution,” said al-Walaiti, “I don’t like
Saddam Hussein. But what about his poor people?”

Some analysts warn that too much military force could drive
away countries that the United States needs as partners.

“The problem is going to be that on issues like intelligence
cooperation and law enforcement cooperation, we are not going to
get anything. Countries will just start to walk away from us,”
said Jim Lindsay, the National Security Agency’s global issues
director under President Clinton. Lindsay now runs the Brookings
Institution program on terrorism and American foreign policy.

“Their governments are going to say: “Look, you have become
so unpopular with our public that we are not going to work with
you. You have become sort of radioactive.'”

U.S. troops deployed since Sept. 11 are among the first to
grasp the new challenges a sustained war on terrorism presents.

Plainclothes officers can “Go in, flush ’em out’

Camped in Kuwait, in a sandy training area dubbed “the kabal,”
Fort Carson infantrymen recently motivated themselves setting up
mock tombs for Hussein and Osama bin Laden. But “it’s difficult”
to catch terrorists, said Sgt. Lawrence Montoya, 31, in his tent,
clasping three letters from his children near Colorado Springs.
“Because they wear no uniform. This is where police would probably
be more effective. They can plainclothes it. Go in and flush ’em out.”

Standing in a chow line, Sgt. Joey Mushinski, 25, figured
“intelligence needs to be beefed up a lot” to make progress.

“We’re not very much use until they find a specific country
or city. We need CIA, or something. We’re definitely a broad
sword. America could do a lot more than we are now. It’s seeming
to slow down. Boost the CIA. Get it back to Cold War levels.”

U.S. commanders also recognize limitations.

“If we think that the military is the single answer, we’ve
got that about wrong,” says Col. Mike Weimer, 52, assistant chief
of operations for Army Central Command, speaking at a Mideast base
that he asked not be identified for security reasons.

Rather, Weimer said, expect a multidimensional campaign in
several countries at once.

“What we can do is maintain very close cooperation with the
military and law enforcement operations in a particular country,”
he said. “Ultimately there has got to be some linking and some

The State Department already has a police program to combat
terrorism. It is built on Cold War contacts the United States
developed to fight communism. Since 1983, this Anti-Terrorism
Assistance program has trained more than 25,000 law enforcement
officials in 117 countries.

The advantage for U.S. taxpayers: The cost is a small
fraction of what military mobilization costs. The annual budget is
$38 million, with $45 million in supplemental funds available.

Police from other countries come to the United States for
training. They learn the latest techniques for border security,
bomb detection, dignitary protection, dealing with weapons of mass
destruction. And they begin to view America as a partner.

“We need cooperation and the ability to exchange information
rapidly” so that local police in one country “can pick up and call
their counterparts anywhere in the world,” said Ambassador Francis
Taylor, the U.S. government’s counterterrorism coordinator.

Strengthening a global police dragnet would require
“relationship-building in places that we have not traditionally
had law enforcement relations,” Taylor said. “The problem of law
enforcement worldwide is pretty simple. A cop wants to know
everything he can so that he can make a judgment.

“That means you’ve got to move intelligence. We don’t do that
across the world very well. We don’t do that in some of our own
cities very well. Law enforcement is how we basically protect our
societies. We’ve got to enable every law enforcement officer to be
a sentinel in this fight against terrorism.”

In support of police cooperation, U.S. diplomats are pressing
for extradition treaties to bring suspects across borders for
trials. They’ve developed informal hand-over procedures –
diplomatic security officers refer to “rendering” suspects abroad
– that can hasten roundups with less hassle for governments
fearing publicity.

Before the Sept. 11 attacks, police cooperation worked.

In December 1999, terrorists in Amman, Jordan, plotted
attacks on a hotel and at tourist sites. Policemen who had worked
with U.S. authorities before broke up the plot, then notified U.S.

“They think bin Laden’s people, a local cell there, was
involved,” said Mike Kraft, a State Department official familiar
with the case. “It was just basic police work.”

U.S. officials want to build a new police training center
outside Washington, D.C. Currently, foreign police candidates for
anti-terrorism training must wait up to a year before courses and
relationship-building can begin. “This is a major constraint,”
Kraft said.

Close cooperation builds more than security

Authorities abroad often are enthusiastic because U.S. support
strengthens their domestic position.

“We welcome any kind of cooperation between the police
agencies in Egypt and the police agencies in the United States,”
said Gen. Sherif Galal, first deputy in Egypt’s Interior Ministry.
“Our wish would be all the developmental and technical assistance
we can get.”

Egypt offers an example of close cooperation. Authorities
here have cracked down against Islamist militants over the past
two decades. Groups linked to the 1981 assassination of President
Anwar Sadat also wanted to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak, and
eventually resorted to attacking tourists. In 1997, 58 visitors
from Japan and Europe were gunned down near a temple at Luxor.

In Cairo, Egypt’s capital, U.S. regional security attache
Gentry Smith, a former police officer in North Carolina, recently
headed out from the embassy with Maj. Helmy Ghazy, an Egyptian
Central State Security officer.

Ghazy is a veteran of Egypt’s anti-terrorism campaign, in
which police infiltrated groups and jailed an estimated 15,000
people. Now he works as a liaison officer on the U.S. payroll out
of an office in the U.S. Embassy.

“You can’t find Osama bin Laden. You are finding his small
soldiers,” Ghazy said of America’s war on terrorism so far.
“Military-wise, you won’t succeed as you will if we cooperate with

“The world is now like one big country. If you don’t have
agencies united, this problem will come back to you. Intelligence
cooperation can solve this problem faster than military work.”

He and Smith park their sport utility vehicle at Cairo
International Airport and check in at the office of Gen. Abdel
Mohamed, who directs airport police operations. Smith asks amiably
about the framed photo on Mohamed’s wall showing him with other
Egyptian officials on a training visit to Oklahoma City in 1990.

Mohamed assures Smith that bomb-sniffing dogs, raised in the
U.S. and then trained in Egypt as part of the cooperative program,
check all luggage and aircraft for every flight from Cairo to the
United States.

Egyptian police now use more than 200 dogs. They house and
train them at a new 5,000-acre police academy, running them
through obstacle courses of explosives hidden in suitcases,
televisions and computer keyboards.

“OK, show me again,” Mohamed Anter says to his Labrador,
Gloria, after she locates a pouch of C-4 stuffed behind the left
front headlight of a Fiat. “Good dog.”

But military or police operations face growing resistance.
Initial sympathetic goodwill toward the United States is waning.

Many around the Middle East oppose U.S. support of Israel.
Many object that U.S. efforts to isolate Iraq hurt civilians. Many
resent U.S. troops based in the region. And police are widely
seen, in low-income sectors and among intellectuals, as
heavy-handed. “America is becoming like our regime here,” said
Darwish Salama, 32, a bedouin displaced from the ancient stone
city at Petra, Jordan, now selling souvenirs.

He supports stopping terrorism. “You have to do something,”
he said. “But soldiers will not do anything. You have to find out:
What makes terrorists? Here it is the Palestinian issue. Elsewhere
it is something else. You have to help solve these problems.

“You could say to your allies: “We are not giving you money
to kill people.’ Because that makes people hate America. And then
people will continue to attack America in many countries. America
must use her power for good things, things that are good for

A group of retired Jordanian generals, reviewing the war on
terrorism in Amman recently, concluded that Bush is going about it
all wrong.

Americans seem reflexively to rely on brute force, instead of
diplomacy and aid programs, to resolve problems rooted in poverty
and despair, they lament.

“Look, you have lost the love of 70 percent of the people in the
world,” said Gen. Midhyib Alaur. “Instead of your military fighter
jets and guns, why not spend some money to help people out of
poverty? This is a real cause of terrorism.

“The United States must fix its foreign policy. Otherwise it
will meet the fate of Rome. And we will be sorry to see America

Key terms

Islam – A monotheistic religion based on submission to Allah
(the Arabic word for God) and the chief prophet, Mohammed. Their
holy book is the Koran.

Muslim – One who practices Islam.

Islamist – Someone who seeks a society run on Islamic
principles. The movement is called Islamism – essentially,
political Islam – to distinguish it from the religion.

Defining terrorism

The State Department uses the definition of terrorism adopted
by the government in 1983 for statistical and analytical purposes.

It derives from Title 22 of the United States Code, Section

“Terrorism’ means premeditated, politically motivated
violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational
groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an
audience. Noncombatant is defined as civilians, or military
personnel who are unarmed or off duty.

The term “international terrorism’ means terrorism involving
citizens or the territory of more than one country.

The term “terrorist group’ means any group practicing, or
that has significant subgroups that practice, international