The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post all lead with President Bush’s rejection of the Taliban’s offer to ship Osama Bin Laden off to a third country. The Taliban had said they would hand him over if two conditions were met. First, the U.S. had to halt its airstrikes. Second, the Taliban needed to be shown evidence that Bin Laden was guilty. President Bush didn’t bite: “They must have not heard: There’s no negotiations.” USA Today leads with Secretary of State Colin Powell’s impending visit to Pakistan. The Wall Street Journal tops its front-page worldwide news box with complaints from the head of the Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance that the U.S. isn’t doing enough to help his forces. The U.S. has held off striking Taliban troops arrayed against Northern Alliance forces because of concern that the latter are a different ethnicity than the majority of Afghans.
Aside from the headline (“Powell Goes to War Zone”), USAT’s lead focuses on an interview with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, in which he urged U.S. forces to “take out” Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s leader. Musharraf also clarified comments that he made a few weeks ago in which he stated that the war with the Taliban could be over in a day or two. “It could be over in one day if you take out Mullah Omar and his leadership,” Musharraf said. “Once you’ve done that, the campaign is over. That is what I meant to say.”
The NYT and USAT–citing interviews with different top Northern Alliance figures–both report that the group is trying to allay U.S. concerns and has promised to hold off attacking Kabul. The rebels’ leader, though, appears to have a different opinion. “We will go into Kabul when we want to go in,” he told the WSJ. “That is an internal matter.”
The Post off-leads–and the others front–the increasing size of anti-American protests in Pakistan. The story says that even moderates and pro-Western intellectuals are starting to feel less than friendly towards Uncle Sam. “If [President] Bush and his monkeys want to destroy Islam, we will chase them to their grave,” said one university student, who added, “I will abandon my MBA and go for martyrdom.”
The Post’s lead makes a potentially important observation: The administration appears to be backing away from any immediate plans to launch military strikes beyond the Afghan border. During a Sunday news show, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said: “The president made the decision that in this phase, we are concentrating on al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. If after solving this problem and resolving this problem, the coalition felt it was necessary to go after terrorist groups in other countries, this would be a matter for the coalition to discuss among themselves.”
The NYT fronts a piece about a possible misstep in the effort to cut off al-Qaida’s finances. According to the U.S. government, one of the groups providing money is “an Al Qaeda front” posing as a Saudi charity organization. But, according to the story, the foundation has been closed for five years. The allegations, says the Times, “are raising questions among Saudis about the investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks.”
The WP and LAT both front reports that some of the 700-odd men held in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks are having their civil liberties violated. The government is keeping almost all information about these men secret–including exactly how many of them there are. One FBI source told the Post that the arrests were “pushing the envelope” of civil liberties. Both papers report that some of the men have been denied legal representation for a week or longer.
The NYT goes above the fold with some positive news from the investigation. Authorities believe they have broken up several U.S.-based al-Qaida cells. They aren’t sure though whether the men arrested in the operation have any direct connection to the hijackings. It wasn’t all good news. Attorney General Ashcroft said during a Sunday news show that he doesn’t think all the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks have been apprehended.
A WP front pager reports that “Saudi Missteps Helped Bin Laden Gain Power.” The lead editorial in yesterday’s Times covered similar ground: “With Riyadh’s acquiescence, money and manpower from Saudi Arabia helped create and sustain Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization.”
The Post stuffs news that the wife of the editor of the anthrax-infested tabloid in Florida had an encounter with the hijackers. She’s a real-estate agent and has told authorities that two of the hijackers hired her to help find them an apartment. FBI officials believe the connection is just a coincidence.
The WSJ focuses on one result of the handful of anthrax cases popping up around the country: the torrent of calls to 911. “You have people call who have had a package sitting behind their house for three or four days. Now suddenly it’s a device,” said one dispatcher. “The president is saying ‘Be more vigilant.’ God, are they vigilant.”