How Many US Stinger Missiles Does Bin Laden Have? 

       We May Rue the Day We Fell For the Slogan "It's the
      Economy, Stupid!"

       By Mary Mostert, Analyst, Original

       In the suspicion following President
       Clinton's announcement of US missile attacks on a building in Khartoum, Sudan and
       on a target or targets in Afghanistan said to be the "terrorist camp" of Osama Bin
       Laden. We were told by the president that there was "convincing evidence" that
       there was a connection between the bombers of the US Embassies in Nairobi and
       Dar Es Salaam and Bin Laden. The attacks were by missile, not by aircraft, "for the
       safety of our pilots" it was announced. 

       Whatever people's view of the US strikes, making sure we sent missiles, not our
       airplanes was wise. The people that we have now labeled "terrorists" were our
       clients in the Russia-Afghanistan war a few years ago that is credited by some as
       wrecking the finances of the old USSR. 

       Osama Bin Laden went to Afghanistan in 1979 to fight against the Russians and was
       credited with recruiting 15,000 dedicated fighters. He was one of the so-called
       "freedom fighters" we furnished with Stinger Missiles that turned the tide in that war.
       In fact, the Afghan rebels got really good at blasting Russian aircraft out of the sky
       with the shoulder fired Stingers supplied by the USA. Since the end of that war, it is
       reported that a large number of the Stingers supplied by the USA are now
       unaccounted for and in the hands of the Afghans we now dub "terrorists" not

       During the Clinton Administration, efforts by concerned members of the security
       community to reclaim the Stingers have been ignored. A State Department document
       on security practices. entitled Terrorist Tactics and Security Practices, was released
       in February 1994 by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The document, prepared by
       the bureau's Office of Intelligence and Threat Analysis, warned of the danger of the
       Stinger missiles in the hands of Afghan rebels. 

       The report said "there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the threat to civil
       aircraft emanating from terrorist groups, rebel militias and even criminal enterprises
       possessing MANPADS is an increasing possibility." 

       "MANPADS were widely proliferated during the 1970s and 1980s. Now, after 20
       years of reported instances of SAMs in the hands of rebel militias, narco-criminals,
       and terrorist groups, the potential for increased SAM threats to civil aircraft have
       become a serious reality. Recent terrorism events such as the World Trade Center
       bombing, and those that were prevented, underscore the fact that fanatical elements
       were not deterred by the potential implications of mass casualties that could occur if
       a man-portable SAM were used against a commercial airliner." 

       According to the State Department security report "another worldwide trend having
       implications for the safe passage of civil airliners is the growing instance of ethnic,
       religious, and civil unrest. Although the risk of a world war as at least temporarily
       passed, the ethnic and regional conflicts found in the four corners of the world
       indicate that perhaps our situation is more unstable than at any time in recent history.
       With this instability has come the risk of terrorism in new and more dangerous forms.
       Hundreds of MANPADs have fallen into the hands of ethnic militias that are battling
       against established governments." 

       "MANPADS were widely used against Soviet military aircraft-- and at least five
       civilian aircraft--in Afghanistan. Many people from Moslem countries elsewhere
       around the world came to Afghanistan to 'fight the infidel.' They became imbued with
       a religious fundamentalist spirit in their years there. Since the end of the war many
       have spread out across the globe to carry out attacks against more secular
       governments, from Cairo to Manila. Some of the suspects in the alleged terror ring
       that targeted the World Trade Center, as well as other landmarks and transportation
       targets, reportedly had links with the 'Afghans' as the insurgents of diverse
       nationalities are known to security agencies. 

       "Stingers will be used against U.S. aircraft, at U.S. airports, sooner rather than later.
       Like the World Trade Center an airliner-- any airliner anywhere in the United
       States--represents a high- value, low risk target. The experience of the 'Afghans' in
       knocking down planes--including commercial jets--as well as their training place
       them among the most likely to use MANPAD technology against Western,
       particularly American, aircraft. These are well-trained and experienced men of war.
       They probably have the means--access to hundreds of 'Stinger'-type missiles are
       unaccounted for in the war- -as well as the motive and opportunity." 

       It perhaps is significant that members of congress who have been closest to security
       concerns were also the first to question the timing and the style of Clinton's unilateral
       attack on targets in Afghanistan and Sudan. Sen. Spector, (R-PA) as Chairman of
       the Select Intelligence Committee, and the recipient of a letter of alarm about the
       Clinton Justice Department turning down the offer of the return of over 100 of the
       Stingers has questioned the timing. 

       "It is well known what the president's collateral problems are. It's on the front page
       of the New York Times today that the president was considering doing something
       presidential to try to focus attention away from his own personal problems." 

       Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) who is on the Armed Services Committee was even more
       blunt: "I am questioning was the president' role was in this decision and whether or
       not he was in a position to make a sound judgment call and whether he should have
       considered the speculation that would arise worldwide and the consequences of that
       in calling for this strike literally a day and a half after his speech." 

       It would appear that perhaps Clinton's sudden interest in finding something
       "presidential" to do may have prompted him to do something that should have been
       done two years ago when Bin Laden led attacks on US personnel in Saudi Arabia
       and wasn't. 

       It was the United States proliferation of weapons through Pakistan, to the Afghans
       that enabled the "rebels" to win the war in Afghanistan. Now one of the key figures
       among the rebels has become a fierce enemy of the United States and has the
       capacity to use our own weapons against us. So, perhaps the missiles were needed -
       but what is the next step? The Russians, thinking they would settle the problem in a
       couple of weeks, sent a huge number of troops into Afghanistan. It became their
       Vietnam. America may very well pay a bitter price for twice electing a president with
       no interest in foreign affairs. 

       If we find some of Bin Laden's Stinger sharpshooters taking down some of our
       airplanes (some believe it was a Stinger that brought down TWA 800) we may rue
       the day that we fell for the myth "it's the economy, stupid." Reagan-Bush policies had
       already created the base for economic expansion. What we needed six years ago
       was a president who probably would have stopped the terrorism several years ago. 

       To comment: