by Selwyn Manning
As battles rage between Taliban and opposition forces, Islamic countries warn of major retaliation if the United States military initiates an anti-terrorism offensive upon Afghanistan.
Iran and Syria both warned that should the United States begin any unilateral "anti-terrorism" offensive, then it would have "grave ramifications".
The two countries want the United Nations to oversee any "war against terrorism", the official Iranian news agency said.
"If the United States attacks Afghanistan, the crisis will grow," Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was quoted as saying. Both he and Iranian President Mohammad Khatami discussed their shared stance via telephone on Monday [New Zealand time].
Meanwhile the Afghan Islamic Press has reported opposition forces capturing the town of Zari Bazar, some 60 miles south of the strategic city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
A day earlier the opposition Northern Alliance and the forces of an independent General Rashid Dostum claimed they had made advances toward the strategic town of Mazar-i-sharif and stated hopes of taking it "in the next few days".
The opposition forces seized Zari in Balkh province on Saturday night, Afghan Islamic Press [AIP] said.
Since then, Afghanistan's opposition forces have launched new attacks in three northern provinces and taken at least one district from the ruling Taliban movement.
An expansive view shows a global offensive is massing. United States Intelligence officials are suggesting that terrorist groups and networks are potentially active in 60 countries worldwide. This list includes Malaysia, Indonesia and the Phillipines. The warning comes as world leaders consider terrorist attacks against US supporting nations, not just across Europe, the Middle East and continental Africa, but also throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
To counter this, the United States has deployed military forces to strategic positions around the globe. The move is designed to counter-attack any retaliatory terrorist reprisals that may occur once the coalition of nations against terrorism go on the offensive.
Rumsfeld said on live American television Monday: “What we have been doing since the day of the attack is getting our forces positioned in various places around the world. This is not an Afghan problem. This is a worldwide problem of terrorist networks. And let there be no doubt about it the -- the al Qaeda network is in at least 60 countries, and they are just one of many networks.
"And what we've been doing is getting our capabilities for -- located, positioned, arranged around the world, so that at that point where the president decides that he has a set of things that he would like done, that we will be in a position to carry those things out,” Rumsfeld said.
Agencies report a large military build-up of US and British forces in and around the Meditteranian and Persian Gulf has Afghanistan on its likely strike-list, and other nations such as Iraq, Syria, and possibly Libya on its watch list.
Iran has denounced strongly the acts of terrorism against civilian targets in the United States but has urged for the world nations to discuss acts of retaliatory aggression within the forum of the United Nations. The United States is reluctant to do so, knowing that bureaucratic red tape will hinder its ability to act swiftly and decisively against those who attacked in on Tuesday September 12 [New Zealand time].
United States Secretary of State Colin Powell has said that NATO has given its support and that is enough to satisfy the United States that it is acting with the support of "like-thinking" nations.
Iran and Syria are both on the US Department of Defence's list of alleged state sponsors of terrorism. US Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld said Monday on CBS' Face the Nation that Iran, Iraq, and Syria were included in a list of nations that had harboured terrorists in the past.
Both Syria and Iran have condemned the terrorist attacks on the United States.