Pentagon takes first steps toward retaliation with ‘Operation Infinite Justice’

By Robert Burns

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Air Force laid the groundwork Wednesday for dispatching dozens of warplanes to the Persian Gulf area, setting in motion “Operation Infinite Justice” for the promised war on terrorism.

“The United States is repositioning some of its forces to support the president’s goal,” National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said without elaborating.

Combat aircraft, including F-16 Fighting Falcons and F-15 Eagles, will be preceded by Air Force airlift control teams from bases in California and New Jersey, senior defense officials said.

The airlift control teams will establish what the Air Force calls an “air bridge,” coordinating ground communications to match up refueling aircraft with fighters and bombers crossing the Atlantic.

It probably will take about a week to get the combat planes in position, one official said.

Asked whether Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had signed a deployment order, his chief deputy, Paul Wolfowitz said Wednesday, “There are movements and we will see more movements.” He would not elaborate.

Separate from the order to send Air Force planes to the Persian Gulf area, the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and the ships in its battle group left their home port at Norfolk, Va., on Wednesday for a scheduled six-month deployment to the Mediterranean.

Just before the carrier left Norfolk Naval Station, the Navy secretary, Gordon England, gave the sailors a pep talk.

“We’re learning once again that freedom and liberty and the American way of life are not a birthright,” he said. “It is time for us to pick up the mantle to destroy terrorism and remove this cancer.”

The loudspeaker played “New York, New York” as the carrier pulled away from the pier.

The deployment from Norfolk includes more than 15,000 sailors and Marines, including 2,100 Marines aboard a battle-ready unit known as an Amphibious Ready Group, led by the assault ship USS Bataan.

The Theodore Roosevelt battle group includes two attack submarines, the USS Hartford and the USS Springfield, both capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The Navy already has one carrier battle group in the Gulf – the USS Carl Vinson – and a second, the USS Enterprise, is in the Arabian Sea to the south.

Sending land-based Air Force jet fighters to the Gulf would give the Pentagon leeway to move the Carl Vinson into the Arabian Sea, closer to Afghanistan, while maintaining enough aircraft to continue enforcing the “no fly” zone over southern Iraq. Airplanes aboard the Vinson have been making those patrols.

The defense officials who discussed Wednesday’s aircraft deployment order said no planes had yet moved.

U.S. officials continued to seek arrangements for access to military bases near Afghanistan. According to diplomatic sources in Pakistan, the United States has already begun meeting with leaders of the factions opposing the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan.

At Kharan, a city in southwest Pakistan, a small number of U.S. military personnel have been spotted moving satellite and radar equipment at an isolated air base that has a long runway, according to a Western military official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Kharan is about 100 miles from the Afghan border.

The United States already has a sizable and well-developed military presence in the Persian Gulf, with combat aircraft stationed in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and elsewhere. It appeared likely that many of the extra combat aircraft to be deployed in the next several days would go to Kuwait and Bahrain, one official said.

Earlier Wednesday, Rumsfeld said America’s war on terrorism must go beyond terrorism suspect Osama bin Laden.

“This is not a problem of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. It is a problem of a number of networks of terrorists that have been active across the globe,” Rumsfeld said. Bin Laden, considered by the Bush administration to be the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and his associates have activities in 50 or 60 countries, including the United States, the secretary said.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

Mike Bredstrand, who is trying to get back his job with Lake Stevens Public Works, stands in front of the department’s building on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Bredstrand believes his firing in July was an unwarranted act of revenge by the city. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens worker was fired after getting court order against boss

The city has reportedly spent nearly $60,000 on attorney and arbitration fees related to Mike Bredstrand, who wants his job back.

Chap Grubb, founder and CEO of second-hand outdoor gear store Rerouted, stands inside his new storefront on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Gold Bar, Washington. Rerouted began as an entirely online shop that connected buyers and sellers of used gear.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Used outdoor gear shop Rerouted finds a niche in Gold Bar

Seeking to keep good outdoor gear out of landfills, an online reselling business has put down roots in Gold Bar.

Naval Station Everett. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)
Everett man sentenced to 6 years for cyberstalking ex-wife

Christopher Crawford, 42, was found guilty of sending intimate photos of his ex-wife to adult websites and to colleagues in the Navy.

Most Read