NATO's top military commander says casualties will be inevitable as part of a military response to last week's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The warning from U.S. Air Force General Joseph Ralston comes as the Bush Administration is seeking to build an international coalition for a war on terrorism.
Speaking in neutral Austria, where he was observing a military exercise as part of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, General Ralston says a single strike against the perpetrators of last week's attacks will not accomplish the job.
General Ralston says what is needed is a sustained effort over a long period of time by the entire international community, one that involves economic, diplomatic and political measures as well as military operations.
But the general, echoing President Bush's remark Monday that the war on terrorism will be won but at a cost, says the coming weeks, perhaps months, will be painful. "We must all recognize that this is not a risk-free operation that we are embarking upon," he said. "There will be casualties."
Washington's NATO allies have reaffirmed support for a war on terrorism, but many are nervous about strikes against countries like Afghanistan, which the United States accuses of harboring terrorists.
Germany, for instance, has called on the United States to tone down its rhetoric and react to the attacks with what Foreign Minister Joschka Fisher describes as "a cool head." Many Europeans fear that a U.S.-led war on terrorism that relies primarily on military power will send the global economy into a recession.
But British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, whose country sees itself as Washington's most reliable ally, says Britain will stand by the United States and contribute to any military operation if it is asked to do so. "These attacks were not simply an attack against the United States," he said. "They were an attack against the values that underpin our society. We are all involved in this: Britain, the United States and the wider international community."
In an interview with London's Financial Times, NATO Secretary General George Robertson says the alliance has a moral obligation to assist the United States in responding to the terrorist attacks. He says Washington has still not decided whether to call on NATO for help and may act alone or with its closest allies instead of asking for help from the alliance as a whole.