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US Military Official: Somalia Among Possible Targets - 2001-12-19

America's top military officer said Wednesday that Somalia is a potential target in Washington's war on terrorism but that action there would not necessarily be military. General Richard Myers also is calling for coordination between U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the planned multinational peacekeeping force.

Speaking to reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, General Myers, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Somalia is only one potential target for U.S. action in the war on terrorism. But he said there are others, though he was unwilling to name them.

At Tuesday's meeting of NATO defense ministers, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld mentioned Yemen and Sudan as countries suspected of supporting terrorism. Mr. Rumsfeld said Somalia had hosted leaders of al-Qaida in the past.

U.S. officials have expressed concern that Somalia's lack of central authority makes it an attractive base for terrorists.

General Myers said Washington's targets are terrorists and those who support them, as well as those who conduct research or produce weapons of mass destruction that could fall into terrorists' hands. But he emphasized that any action taken against terrorist targets will not be solely military. He said it could include diplomatic, law enforcement, intelligence and financial measures.

As Britain gears up to lead a multinational peacekeeping force to Afghanistan, General Myers called for close coordination between the force and the U.S. armed forces to ensure that the two do not get in each other's way, an idea London supports. The general said one reason for such coordination is to avoid friendly fire incidents. The other, he said, is not to inhibit the war against terrorism that continues inside Afghanistan. General Myers says the war on terrorism must have priority.