The Washington Post leads with Uzbekistan’s agreement to allow American aircraft and troops to base operations in its territory. The agreement, announced during Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s visit to the country, currently only will allow the U.S. to use Uzbekistan to launch humanitarian and combat search-and-rescue missions. The New York Times wraps several developments in the campaign against terrorism into its lead: 1) Uzbekistan’s decision to host U.S. troops; 2) British Prime Minister Blair’s trip to Islamabad to reassure Pakistan that Osama Bin Laden, not Islam, is the enemy; and 3) the White House’s condemnation of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon’s recent warning that the U.S. should not sacrifice Israel to appease Arabs like the West sacrificed Czechoslovakia to Hitler before World War II. The Los Angeles Times lead examines how several 5-year-old initiatives to improve airport security have been bogged down in bureaucracy or weakened due to objections from the airlines.
The coverage reports that 1,000 U.S. ground troops are scheduled to arrive in Uzbekistan, and several thousand more will eventually be massed there. This development makes Uzbekistan America’s “most significant military ally in the volatile area bordering Afghanistan” according to the WP. The Uzbek president said that he is not ready to allow the U.S. to strike Afghanistan from Uzbek bases. The papers speculate on the likelihood of Uzbek-based military operations morphing into offensive missions. According to military officials cited by the WP, the line between the two types of operations “probably will blur quickly” since strikes might be necessary to ensure the safety of humanitarian missions. Furthermore, the NYT thinks the Uzbek president left open the possibility that he would allow America more leeway in using Uzbekistan for military operations in return for generous assistance.
The papers agree that the rare flap between the U.S. and Israel demonstrates how “delicate” (WP, LAT) anti-terror coalition-building can be. The NYT is more blunt, citing the U.S.-Israeli disagreement as evidence of “growing frictions” within the coalition. The White House called Sharon’s comments “unacceptable.” In response to the U.S. rebuke, Sharon noted the “deep friendship” between the U.S. and Israel during a phone conversation with Secretary of State Powell. The papers also report that Sharon, in spite of the fact that a U.S.-requested cease-fire has technically been declared, yesterday launched one of the largest military assaults of the year against the Palestinians after they recently killed three Israelis.
In 1996, a presidential commission recommended 31 steps to improve airline security, including better screening of mail that travels on commercial planes and security inspections at airports, reports the LAT. One of the recommendations–computerized profiling of passengers to find possible terrorists–could have prevented the Sept. 11 hijackings, a top airline industry official said. But most of the recommended changes have been modified or are still being developed or fought over by government agencies and industry representatives. One disconcerting example: The airlines talked their way out of being required to match 100 percent of checked bags with passengers and instead are allowed to only do spot checks.
Inside, the papers report that Blair is the first Western leader to visit a Muslim nation in order to emphasize that a campaign against terror is not a campaign against Islam. The prime minister also said that a broad-based government in Afghanistan should replace the Taliban. Blair’s visit is intended to shore up the Pakistani president in the face of protests from Islamic radicals who oppose Islamabad’s cooperation with the U.S.
The WP fronts the private opinions of Iranian government officials on U.S. efforts to fight terrorism. While publicly Iran blames the terrorist attacks on American militia groups, Israeli intelligence, or even former American military pilots, privately Iranian officials told Western diplomats that they believe Bin Laden is responsible, and they accept that America has the right to punish the perpetrators of such a crime. The Iranians also cautioned the diplomats not to “leave the job unfinished,” as the West did in Iraq. The story also reports that Islamic nations are planning to meet soon in Qatar to discuss an Islamic position on terrorism. The paper says that if the Islamic nations arrive at a definition of terrorism, their agreement could “destroy the chances for bringing the Islamic countries fully behind the United States” because they would likely label Israel a terrorist state and put the U.S. in a tough position.
The papers front the death of former Democratic Sen. Mike Mansfield, from Montana, at 98. He was the longest-serving Senate majority leader ever (16 years), as well as an ambassador to Japan.
The papers also front pictures of San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds breaking the single-season home run record by hitting his 71st and 72nd home runs.