After Afghanistan

Media commentators aren't the only ones speculating about where the Bush administration may take its assault on terrorism, once things are wrapped up in Afghanistan.

In particular, governments in various countries that have been tagged by Washington as friendly to terrorists, and have witnessed the US-led rout of the Taliban, are busily trying to get out of the bomb sights.

Iraq, with Saddam Hussein's determined defiance of the US and the UN, is the exception, despite the desire of some in the Bush administration to put it next on the antiterrorism agenda. But consider some other countries believed to have terrorist connections:

• Somalia's fledgling government, which controls only pockets of the country, is virtually pleading with the US to renew ties and help it achieve stability. But some among Somalia's Islamic fundamentalists are strongly suspected of having Al Qaeda connections. Bases thought to be used by Osama bin Laden's followers could be targeted by the US, and neighboring Ethiopia is more than willing to join such an effort. Ethiopian troops are reported to have crossed into the Somalian province of Puntland to track down Al Qaeda-related terrorists.

Even if military action is contemplated, Washington would be unwise to ignore the pleas for aid in rebuilding Somalia, to plant seeds of democracy and religious tolerance and make it less of a potential breeding ground for terrorists. That, after all, was part of the lesson of Afghanistan.

• Sudan's government, still embroiled in a tragic civil war, has turned over the names of suspected Al Qaeda associates to Washington and has allowed a special US delegation to visit the rebellious, largely Christian south. Sudan, which is trying to emerge from the shadow of once having been a refuge for Mr. bin Laden. Here, too, the US would be wise to gain what it can from diplomatic engagement. Religious intolerance - specifically efforts to force all Sudanese to live under Islamic law - has been a direct cause of the country's conflict.

• Yemen, scene of the Al Qaeda-backed attack on the USS Cole, has been scurrying to get into the US corner in the fight against terrorism. Bin Laden financial connections in Yemen have been investigated, suspects in the Cole bombing have been arrested, and the government vows to closely check visitors who may be headed for secret Al Qaeda training camps thought to exist in the Yemeni hinterland. Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is in Washington this week to cement the new-found friendship with the US and to reap economic and military aid for his very poor nation.

Such aid should move beyond the traditional handouts to encouragement of democratic reform and religious freedom. The mood in these three countries reflects a growing world awareness that the terror attack on America will have long and profound repercussions. Allies willing to help combat terrorism could emerge from unlikely corners of the globe.

Working with them could open the way for wider political change down the road - change that might help eliminate some of the root causes of terrorism.

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